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Enjoying retirement

Dr. Joe and Kay Tempel say they have become closer

By Chuck Hunt - Editor | Apr 18, 2021

Dr. Joe Tempel enjoys working on his wood projects in his shop behind his home in Blue Earth. Tempel says he learned his wood working skills from his father and grandfather who were both cabinet makers and carpenters. Tempel has made display cases for several local and area museums, as well as items of furniture.

People handle retirement in different ways, some good and some not so good.

For Dr. Joe and Kay Tempel, of Blue Earth, retirement has brought them much closer together.

“We have been married 54 years,” Kay Tempel says. “And we have been in love all those years, and we are still in love. But we are together now more so since Joe retired, and that has been wonderful.”

She explains that the life of a doctor does not always leave a lot of time for family.

Kay was busy working as a teacher at times, and raising their four children. Joe was full time as a doctor in Blue Earth, at a time when doctors were on call a lot.

Joe Tempel started working with four other doctors back in 1970. He had been basically “recruited” by Dr. John Anderson.

“We all took turns being on call, covering days and every other weekend,” Joe explains. “It was a lot of time away from the family.”

Kay says that since Joe was an OB-GYN doctor, he was on call more than the others.

“There were a lot of babies born back then,” she says. “And Joe would be called out at all times of the day and night.”

The two recall one Labor Day when Joe had four babies born during the day.

“We were trying to have a family day, and Joe would be called out, come back home, be called out again, come home again, all day and night,” Kay says. The two laugh when they say they realize it was “Labor” Day, after all.

The two met in Winnebago because of their families.

Joe was born and raised in Winnebago, Kay was born in Winnebago but raised in Blue Earth.

“But, my grandparents were neighbors with Joe’s parents,” Kay says. “I would play with Joe’s sister when I was at my grandparents home, ever since I was seven.”

Joe’s sister and Kay’s brother started dating and invited Joe and Kay along on a double date.

“We played cards, went on picnics, things like that,” Kay says. “And Joe was in med school and I was in college. I never looked at anyone else after that. I knew I had met the perfect man to spend my life with.”

What sealed the deal was when Joe volunteered to make some wood work items for Kay’s art work.

The two were married before Joe was out of med school at the University of Minnesota, then moved to Roseville where Joe was doing his internship.

In 1970, they moved to Blue Earth, close to where Kay’s mother’s house is, after Joe’s two year stint in the Navy. And soon they had a 4-year old, 3-year old, 2-year old and a 1-year old at home. Kay’s mother Eleanor Burke, helped out, despite also teaching full time.

Joe’s parents were in Winnebago. His father, Robert, was a carpenter and had owned a merchantile store on Winnebago’s main street in the 1940s and 1950s.

“It was in one of the four buildings that make up the Winnebago Museum now,” Joe says. “He sold groceries and dry goods.”

His mother, Camillis, taught Latin and English at the high school.

Even before he retired, Joe had a lot of interests he pursued.

“I started riding a bicycle 20 years ago,” he says. “I used to ride about 5,000 miles a year, but I have slowed down a little.”

He still rides a bike all winter in his basement which sits on a stand he built himself. And he rides with a group of friends nearly every day in the summer.

“My brothers rode bikes and got me started, and we all rode in the RAGBRAI (ride across Iowa) and that got me hooked,” Joe says, adding that it is a healthy thing to do. “I think it might help postpone my mortality, too.”

Wood working is another hobby. He has a large wood working shop in a former garage in his backyard. And a wood working area in the basement for use during the winter.

“My dad was a finish cabinet carpenter and my grandfather was a carpenter, so I come to it naturally,” he says. “I worked with my dad when I was in high school and college at St. John’s.”

Joe has made cabinets for several area museums, and pieces of furniture and other wood items.

He also loves to sing. He and Dick Miller, of Winnebago, have done a lot of singing at nursing homes, events in Winnebago and Blue Earth, and some other special occasions.

“My father was an accomplished musician, played the sax and sang,” Joe explains. “My brother Tom plays oboe and played with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, my brother Larry played bassoon and was in music education and my sister Mary Beth was a pianist.”

While Joe is an accomplished singer, he says he doesn’t play any instrument.

“My dad tried to get me to play the sax, like him,” he says. “But I offered to mow the lawn instead and he let me off the hook.”

Joe sang with groups in high school and college and did a tour of Europe with his college singing group.

Another lifelong hobby has been hunting and fishing.

“It has always been a big part of my life,” Joe says. “Now it is more being a naturalist and hiking in the woods. We have also made several trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.”

In his “spare” time, Joe is also the Blue Earth Lions Club treasurer and has been for years, on his church council, and was on the local school board for nine years back in the day when the BEA District was first consolidating.

Kay has been a member of the Mitchell-Chautauqua Club for 30 years, and is a member of the PEO (Professional Educators Organization), has a degree in home ec and in art, and is an avid reader.

The Tempel’s other favorite hobby is traveling together. They have been on trips to Europe, where Joe goes on biking trips with an organized group and Kay travels in the support van.

“We have been to France, Germany, Ireland,” Kay says. “They have been wonderful trips.”

Together, the couple loves to play board games, including their favorite, Rummikub. They have been known to clear the supper dishes off the table and bring out a board game to play after dinner.

And, of course, like just about every retired couple, one of their favorite activities is spending time with their family, including their 13 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

“We love spending time together,” Kay says. “Joe retired in 2006, nearly 15 years ago, and we have been together a lot since then and we love it.”

Kay looks at Joe and has nothing but loving words to say about her husband.

“He is a kind, gentle man,” Kay says. “He is not a big talker, but he is sure a good listener.”

She adds that they have had their share of struggles over the years, like most couples have.

Their oldest daughter was killed in a tragic car accident, and their house burned down a few years ago. Kay has had quite a few health issues over the years; many are due to the fact she was a victim of polio as a child.

But, through it all, they have had each other.

“Joe has always been there for me, one step ahead of me,” she says. “He can look me in the eye and say everything is going to be OK, and I know it will be.”