Athlete puts heart into games

By By Debbi Elmore | November 1, 2021

Being the oldest competitor at this year’s Heartland Games didn’t faze Jerry Reiserer, who has spent a lifetime engaged in physical activity.

He was a child when his father first took him along on his job of drilling wells for area farmers.

“I remember my dad taking me to the fields and the guys would say, ‘Does that boy know what he’s doing?’ My dad would reply, ‘He sure does.’”

“We were different than kids today,” he added. “We always had to work. It kept us out of mischief, I guess.” 

Reiserer enjoyed the work enough that it became his own career for 70 years.

“He drilled water wells until he was 90 years old,” his daughter, Gina Morgan, said proudly, “and still works with customers.”

Reiserer was 11 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and he vividly recalls the reaction among farmers. “All the men went to war or to work in the defense plants,” he said. 

After the war, as economic prosperity returned to the United States, he noticed many farmers discarding old items to replace them with new. “I told them I would have my dad drill a couple more feet if they wanted to give the items to me. That’s when my collecting old things started. I just like things that someone put their heart into making.”

Reiserer and his wife have three children: Gina, Randall and Ronald. The family has now grown to include seven grandchildren.

“He was a hard-working man,” Morgan said. “He didn’t take much time for hobbies, but loves golf and collecting antiques. He was a natural athlete. He never had to work out much. He kept in shape participating in sports and drilling wells. He played football in high school and college, but track and field was his love. He was on the track team while in the Marines.”

“He continues to participate in masters track and field. He has boxes full of medals. He has excelled in every age group. He now finds that he is sometimes the only one in his age group so he misses the competition, but still enjoys the medals. He competes with himself to always do well.”

The Heartland Games originated as a series of competitions to help support operations at the four senior centers operated by Senior Services of Wichita and to celebrate the abilities of older adults.At this year’s games, held June 5, Reiserer competed in shot put, discus, javelin, standing long jump and 50-meter dash. At 91, he was the oldest competitor.

“The Heartland Games have always been a chance to showcase that abilities are ageless,” Senior Services Director of Programs Karen Dao said. “Jerry was the perfect individual to demonstrate this.”