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Kelly retires after 45 years

(John Kelly surrounded by family at his retirement earlier this month)

PONTIAC – When John Kelly started his long career at the local John Deere dealership in Pontiac, it was known as Gardner Sales and Service and he was working on some of the first 20-series combines.

“I actually started in the shop setting up combines,” recalled Kelly.

Fast forward 45 years, and Kelly has retired from what was known as Gardner’s, Kelly-Sauder-Rupiper Equipment and now Prairie State Tractor.

The biggest change Kelly remembers was the move to autosteer systems on tractors and combines, saving labor and preventing extra mental stress for farmers going through the field.

“What they have done since then is just amazing,” said Kelly.

Kelly has observed equipment getting bigger along with the acreage farmers cover.

Looking back, Kelly reflects on a wonderful career for which he gives credit to Delbert Gardner who approached Kelly’s father back in 1978 looking for a partner to come into the business.

“Delbert had developed a health problem and he needed some business partners to work with him.”

Kelly started then his brother Tim began working there after returning from mechanic school. Roger Edwards was a part owner at the time and was killed in a car accident in July 1979. The two Kelly brothers eventually bought out Gardner and his family.

“By the goodness of Delbert’s heart, he was able to go ahead and take Tim and me under his wings,” noted Kelly.

Through the years, Kelly has been fortunate to develop good business relationships and friendships thanks to the John Deere dealership.

“I love working with the people, the farm customers.”

Even though he was officially done in early July, Kelly can still be spotted around the business as he still has a few business deals to finish. He can also step back and complete all of those “honey do” projects at home. Plus, you may catch Kelly in a combine this fall.

“Brother Tom I think may still employ me to run a combine this fall and help on the farm,” he explained.

According to Kelly, it was simply time to move on and turn the business over to the younger help who are stepping up to replace some of the older ones involved.

“I can volunteer and not have to worry about hurrying up and getting back to work. It’s great,” Kelly concluded.


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