Some of us would have a tough time baking just one apple pie. In the first year after Leo Keller’s wife passed away, he baked 144.
The 98-year-old simply found solace in his kitchen.
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"After I lost my wife, I didn't know what to do. So I said, ‘Well, I can bake,’ so I started baking,” he told KHGI Nebraska TV of his 72-year marriage.
"I love eating. Let’s put it that way. I love sweets.”
That may be an understatement. After all, Keller now bakes every single day — pies, cakes, and more. And everything he bakes, he gives away for free. He whips up baked goods for the sick, for fellow widowers and widows, and even provides baked goods for funeral receptions.
Keller even customizes his pies and cakes to make sure their recipient can enjoy every bite. He works to change up his recipe when he bakes pies for diabetics, filling them with fruit and removing the sugar.
"To see the smile on their face. That's worth all the money in the world. Nobody can buy that,” Keller, whose caregiver occasionally helps make the baked goods, commented. “That smile means so much to me.”
While his passion for baking is indeed newfound, it does have its roots in childhood. Keller was the baby in his family for 13 years, and he remembers watching his mother bake in the kitchen. Now, measuring, pouring, and whisking is one-part hobby and one-part distraction method. Baking simply helps him stay busy.
"If I don't do something every day, I don't feel right," he said.
It seems Keller couldn’t possibly have thought up a more beautiful way to honor his late wife than by baking hundreds of pies and selflessly giving them away to those in need. But one of the most touching parts of his tribute actually comes long before the final baked goods are revealed. It happens each time he opens the oven.
As he explained to the station, his wife picked it out when they moved into their home 62 years ago.
"Everything I do, I do it with love,” he said. “That's my secret ingredient, is love.”