Cover photo for Delbert Leon Reser's Obituary
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1931 Delbert 2023

Delbert Leon Reser

February 1, 1931 — November 21, 2023

Newton

Delbert "Bob" Reser passed away on Tuesday, November 21st, in his apartment at Kansas Christian Home in Newton, Kansas, following a health decline after having a stroke in January. He was 92 years old.  

Delbert was born into extremely humble circumstances. Jobs were scarce in the Ozarks in those days, and his parents made do with whatever they could get, building their own small house using lumber from trees they had felled on their property, raising as much of their own food as they could, relying heavily on home remedies when medical care was necessary, and teaching their children how to read before they even reached school age. As a result, when Delbert went to the local one-room schoolhouse, he was ahead of his peers and moved through the earliest grades rapidly. He entered high school when he was 12, and graduated when he was 16.  

Delbert set his sights on a career with the railroad and moved to Kansas when an opportunity arose to work for the Santa Fe, ultimately becoming a dispatcher. He worked there for 40 years, interrupted only by four years of service in the navy (1951-1955), where he was trained as a machine accountant. This involved working with punch cards and a very early precursor to today's computers. When his term of service was nearing its end, he was asked to sign on permanently and was promised an opportunity to go to computer training school with IBM in Rochester, NY. After carefully weighing his options, knowing that his prospects for advancement in the navy were limited by a glut of officers above him in the hierarchy, he and Mae decided to return to Kansas, the railroad, and civilian life.  

Delbert and Veda Mae Reschke had met when he first began working for the Santa Fe. During slow times when he was a depot agent in Mitchell, he would travel over to the little prairie town of Little River and go to the drug store to buy a dime's worth of peanuts as a snack. There was a cute redhead working behind the counter, and he began to flirt with her. "Come on, Red," he'd cajole. "That ain't enough! Put a few more in there." They dated for some time, when someone advised him that "That redhead you're goin' with.... You better marry her. If you don't, somebody else is goin' to." He recalled that this got him to thinking seriously about his future.  

Delbert and Mae were married in Harrison, Arkansas, in April 1951, and remained married until Mae's death in 2013. They had one daughter, Brenda, twin daughters who were born fatally conjoined and died very shortly after birth, and a son, Gary. They worked hard to provide well for their family. Over the years, Delbert played bluegrass gospel songs (the only kind he knew then) on his new guitar in a neighborhood bar (though he was underage), sold Bibles and silverware door-to-door to supplement his navy pay, and in civilian life ran a TV repair shop and prepared income taxes during the spring. Mae supplemented their income by doing child care in their home when they bought their first new house. For 20 years they both took over running what was then the Santa Fe Employees Federal Credit Union, turning it from a mom-and-pop, kitchen table, home-based enterprise into a financial institution with an expanded charter, its own office building, and a million dollars in assets.  

Shortly before Delbert's death, he was reminiscing about his marriage and said that he would "take her [Mae] on again" if he had it to do over. She was his first love, but not his only one. The other was bluegrass music.  

Delbert was a talented musician--a perfectionist who played for the pleasure of it but also focused intently on improving his skills. HIs first teacher was a distant relative, Viney, who taught him the rudiments of how to play the guitar when he was a boy. As Viney later observed, she had "learned a lot of boys" how to play the guitar, but Delbert was "the only one who took to it." Over the years, he also took up playing the banjo, the fiddle, the mandolin, and the dobro. The only stringed instrument that thoroughly defeated him was the steel guitar, which he tried to learn when he was about 90 years old.  

For several years he and Mae hosted regular Saturday evening pickin's in the basement of their house on Walnut Street in Newton--all comers welcome! Delbert became a member of the Kansas Bluegrass Association a few years later and offered to help the tiny organization in any way he could, which is how he became instrumental in growing the KBA and promoting interest in bluegrass music in the state. In the 1970s and 1980s he was part of a band known as the Bashful Bluegrass Boys, and in 2014 he was inducted into the KBA Hall of Fame. As one person said, "If you're into bluegrass in Kansas, you know who Delbert is!"  

Delbert is survived by his son and daughter, six grandchildren (Graham Denzler, Todd Denzler, Arika Saferite, Stephanie Pham, Jason Reser, and Brian Reser), and twelve great-grandchildren, as well as his brothers Charles, Donald, and Lonnie and their families. He was preceded in death by his newborn twin daughters; his mother, Maude Reser; his father, Joe Reser; and his wife, Veda Mae.  

Funeral services for Delbert will be held at Peterson's Funeral Home in Newton, KS, on Wednesday, November 29th, at 10:00 AM, with visitation taking place at 9:00 AM. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to Traditions Hospice or to St. Jude Children's Hospital.  

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

9:00 - 10:00 am (Central time)

Petersen Family Funeral Home

215 N Main St, Newton, KS 67114

Family will receive friends and family an hour before the service.

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Funeral Service

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

10:00 - 11:00 am (Central time)

Petersen Family Funeral Home

215 N Main St, Newton, KS 67114

Please feel free to stay after the service and spread memories of Delbert with the family.

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

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