Remembering Henry Abels

Henry Abels was a life-long collector of farm collectibles

| October 1999

After a long battle with heart trouble and complications, Henry L. Abels, Clay Center, Kan., a life-long collector of farm collectibles, passed away on Aug. 3. 

Born in Clay Center in 1910, he followed a boyhood dream of being an airplane mechanic, and after high school, studied at Parks Air College in St. Louis. After one year there, however, he returned to Clay Center to farm with his father. In 1932, he and his bride of one year, Rosie, settled on a farm of their own southwest of town, where they would live for the next 60 years.

Henry was an accomplished mechanic and builder. In 1942, he completed construction of a new two story home on the farm for a total of $1,000. His next project was a full machine shop, including a forge and lathe. His shop was later featured in Kansas Farmer Magazine, and was the site of visits by college students and faculty.

Henry was always available to help with repair of a neighbor's combine, baler or other equipment. If he needed a piece of machinery in his farm operation, and the price was too high, he'd build it himself, often ending up with a better piece. After World War II, he taught welding to returning veterans.

In the early 1960s, he began collecting antique farm machinery and gas engines. Later, that collection expanded to include windmills, animal traps and anything unusual. He and his brother, Wilfred, built a "Krazy Kar" constructed from two 1939 Chevrolet front ends. Painted red, white and blue by Rosie, it could be maneuvered in both directions and sideways.

He had other interests, as well. He was a member of the Clay County Historical Society and the First Presbyterian Church, where he was an elder. And he was a dedicated family man: Henry and Rosie were the parents of one son and two daughters, two grandsons and four great-grandchildren.