Anne “Babe” Kaisler celebrated her birthday this weekend in the same manner she’s celebrated the previous 99 — surrounded by friends and family in the Laramie Valley.
A lifelong Laramie resident, Kaisler celebrated turning 100 with a gathering at Spring Wind Assisted Living, where she moved a few weeks ago. Prior to that move, she lived at the Ivinson Home for Ladies since 2009.
Most of her life, however, was spent on the family ranch about 15 miles west of Laramie, and she traces her family history to the founding of the city.
“It’s a wonderful place to live,” she said of Laramie.
According to historical accounts, the Bath family moved to Wyoming Territory in 1868 after immigrating to the United States from Germany. Henry Bath started a ranch along the Little Laramie River with his brothers.
“As the story goes, they turned their horses out in the valley and let them go, and when they picked them up in the spring, they were so fat and sassy, at least Henry decided to stay,” said Sherri Kaisler, Babe’s daughter-in-law. “Henry became one of the first citizens of Laramie City.”
The Baths built a stone house that still stands off Herrick Lane near exit 297 on Interstate 80.
A few generations later, Babe was born as the only child of John MacRae Baillie and Mabel Bath Baillie. She was the first baby born in Ivinson Memorial Hospital, which had recently opened at the corner of Ninth Street and Grand Avenue.
She remembered milking cows, churning butter, raising chickens and riding her horse Mickey to school during her ranch days.
“It’s a good producing ranch,” she said. “(It has) good cattle on it, good hay on it, nothing wrong with it.”
Babe said she never minded milking the cows, and in fact enjoyed most of the ranch work.
“I never even thought about it,” she said. “You just had to do it.”
She remembers life prior to television, cars and even electricity, as well as the arrival of new technology.
“It’s amazing all those things you can’t hardly wait to get ahold of and have, and then when you have them, you don’t even think about them,” she said.
She also remembers a time before the construction of I-80, which cut a corner off the ranch and infuriated the family.
“We took a drive by there one day, and just seeing it made her mad,” granddaughter Liberty Boyer said.
Babe attended University Prep, which later became the University of Wyoming Lab School. She then attended UW and earned a teaching degree. She taught school in Hanna, traveling there by train from the ranch and staying with family members during the week.
In 1941, Babe married Frank Kaisler, who grew up in Wisconsin as the 10th of 18 siblings with an alcoholic father. He followed his sister to Laramie during the Great Depression. He met Babe when he took a job as a ranch hand. They built their own home on the ranch and lived there until the 1970s.
Babe described Frank as a “perfectly normal person.”
Babe and Frank had three children — Stephen, Mabel and Ethel, who are now deceased. She also has seven grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
In 1971, Babe and Frank moved into town and Steve took charge of the ranch. Frank worked on campus while Babe took care of several grandchildren and worked as a bookkeeper for Collegian Dairy. Frank died in 1981.
Babe continued working until she was 89, later taking at job as a cook for Albany County School District No. 1.
“I liked working,” she said.
Sherri Kaisler said Babe often hosted the family for Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving dinners. Even if there weren’t children around, she dyed at least a dozen Easter eggs by herself each year. She also loved baking birthday cakes.
“She could cook some real good food,” Sherri said.
Babe is a lifelong member of St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, itself formed in 1886. During a 1989 interview conducted through the church, she credited faith in God as one reason for the family’s survival through hard times on the ranch, including being snowbound for 40 days one winter.
“There was no separation between her spiritual life and the rest of her life,” said Rev. Sally Palmer, former minister at St. Paul’s. “She just talked to God every day.”
Babe said in the interview she learned about love from her husband, who didn’t harbor bitterness from his harsh upbringing.
“He reached out to everyone and tried to help them on their way,” she said.
Palmer said Babe is a devoted church member who served as the church bookkeeper and led a fundraising and renovation effort.
“She did everything at St. Paul’s,” Palmer said.
Babe is also a long-time member of a service organization called the Daughters of Rebekah, which she joined in 1936. In 1995, she was awarded the Decoration of Chivalry, the organization’s highest honor. The award was given during a ceremony at the state convention.
“It is a very prestigious award,” said Cheryl Green, assembly president.
Palmer called Babe a servant and a survivor.
“If everybody who lived in Wyoming could be as good-spirited, as resilient, as profoundly connected to what needs to be done, day by day, this would be a marvelous state,” Palmer said.