Leo G. Babler, 93, Osage City: Aug. 27, 1930 – May 11, 2024 – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Leo G. Babler, 93, Osage City: Aug. 27, 1930 – May 11, 2024

OSAGE CITY, Kan. – Leo Gale Babler, 93, passed away Saturday, May 11, 2024, at Osage Nursing Center, Osage City, Kan. He had been in declining health for the last five years after suffering a stroke at home. Leo Gale Babler was born on Aug. 27, 1930, in Stephenson County, Ill., the son of William J. and Azora D. (Garnes) Babler. He was the youngest of five children.

Leo played sports in high school, graduating from Orangeville, Ill., High School in 1948. He then attended Dubuque University for one year on a basketball scholarship before returning to the Orangeville-Freeport area.

Leo was joined in marriage to Shirley Reed in Illinois, and they were the parents of one son, Michael Gale. They were divorced. Later, while stationed at Forbes AFB, Topeka, Kan., Leo met and married Phyllis Ann Markley, of Lyndon, Kan. They were the parents of three children, Lyle Blaine, David Lee, and Lisa Ann. Phyllis preceded him in death in 1994.

Leo enlisted in the United States Air Force in December 1951, completing basic training at Lackland AFB, in Texas. He completed gunnery training at several military bases, and then was a tail gunner in the Korean War, flying multiple combat missions.

After the Korean War, Leo completed training for inflight air refueling on KC135 aircraft and was a boom operator. He would joke that he kept the colonels employed, with them flying him around so he could hook up to and refuel the aircraft midflight. He was assigned to the Southeast Asia area during the Vietnam War, flying more than 100 support missions, mostly refueling the B52 bombers that were keeping tabs on Russia.

Leo retired from the Air Force in January 1972, having served his country for 20 years and attaining the rank of master sergeant. His military career took him to five different continents, seeing many parts of the world. Stateside, he was assigned to several military bases over the years, including Forbes AFB; Robbins AFB, in Georgia; and Pease AFB, in New Hampshire. He accumulated more than 10,000 hours of flying time and earned several awards and Air Medals. The family is trying to research what these medals and awards were for, as Leo would shrug it off when asked.

After retiring from the Air Force, the family moved to Osage City in early 1972 to be close to Phyllis’ mother and extended family. The family settled into a house on South Fourth Street, near the school. Leo worked as a John Deere salesman for his friend and Air Force buddy, Ed Slusher, at Osage Farm Equipment, Osage City, and then for a short time at Caldwell Implement, Topeka. He also helped with farm work for area farmers in the area until retiring for good.

In retirement, Leo enjoyed fishing, tinkering in the garage, going to the casinos, driving the Osage County gravel roads looking for wild berries and asparagus, and going to school sporting events, especially if the grandkids were participating. While still in good health, he and his special friend, Darlene Haskins, took many driving trips throughout the USA, creating wonderful memories together.

Leo is survived by his sons, Mike (Shirley) Babler, of Crested Butte, Colo., Lyle (Kristin) Babler, Grand Junction, Colo., and David (Jo) Babler, Scranton, Kan.; daughter, Lisa Sandlin, of Mississippi; nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren; and special friend and companion of 25 years, Darlene Haskins, Osage City.

In addition to his wife, Phyllis, Leo was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Delmar Babler, Clell Babler, and Boyd Babler; and a sister, Verla Rinehart.

Cremation is planned. A celebration of life service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at VanArsdale Funeral Chapel, Osage City. Military burial honors to follow service at Union Cemetery, Osage City. Family will receive friends 6-7:30 p.m. Friday evening, May 31, at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions can be made to Leo Babler Memorial Fund to be designated at a later date, and sent in care of VanArsdale Funeral Chapel, 107 N. Sixth St., Osage City, KS 66523. Condolences can be left at vanarsdalefs.com.

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