My mother had a deep love and admiration for her father, Lucas Carlisle Kells, and frequently talked about him and wished we had known. And perhaps some of my research on the family has been an attempt to know him a little myself.
Luke, as he was called, was born on 17 June 1882 on the family farm in Melrose, Stearns, Minnesota. His father, Stephen Avery Kells, had been a Union soldier in the Civil War. His mother, Isabella Duncan had been a school teacher before marriage. Luke was the second son and third child out of what eventually totaled eight children. Plus his father had a son and a daughter from his first wife, so ten children in the family altogether. Luke's father, Stephen, was much bothered by physical conditions resulting from his Army service (he got dysentery in the swamps of Georgia while on Sherman's march). So, Luke never talked much about him to his own children (I was the one who discovered he'd been a Union soldier and on the famous march through Georgia, Luke never told them this). But he talked much about his mother, Isabella. She taught him a great appreciation for literature, poetry, philosophy and music. He passed this on to his own children as well.
His beloved mother died of breast cancer in February 1897 when Luke was just 15. His father died a year later in December 1898. At this point his father's brothers wanted to break the family. To prevent this his older sister, Madge, married the handyman and raised her younger siblings as her own, thus keeping the family together. Luke worked his way through the University of Minnesota and earned a scholarship to Columbia University where he graduated with a Ph.D in Philosophy. He went to Seattle and was a professor at the University of Washington for a year before deciding to study law, which he did and became a lawyer. He married Edith Stefani in August 1916 at the age of 34.
Luke and Edith had four children, Lyman, the twins, Milton and Margaret, and Doris. During the depression his kind heart often led him to take barter for his services in lieu of money or allow people to owe him rather than pay promptly. This annoyed his wife but endeared him to many. he loved his children and made the time to play with them. He encouraged them in education and music, all the children had singing lessons, for instance. He loved to sing himself and also played the harmonica. his niece Cecil wrote to my mother of remembering him, "playing the mouth organ-(with feeling!)" and of once seeing him "singing an old plaintive ballad and I can see a dreamy far-away look on his face and hear the refrain over and over." He loved to visit the old home in Melrose, going almost every summer, often with Edith and the kids. He would work on the farm and visit with his brothers and sisters and feel very much at home.
As a lawyer, Luke was greatly respected for being an honest, able, and caring one. He was also active in the Church, the family having joined the Madrona Presbyterian Church which was only half a block from their house. My mother said that, " when he taught a Sunday School class it wasn't like others because it included a thoughtful, questioning look at Bible stories and teachings while never including prayer. His approach to the Creation Story in terms of millions of years rather than days was a revolutionary idea to us."
In he 1940's his health started to fail and he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Edith took care of him and he declined slowly but eventually came to a point where he didn't know Edith and would get violent. At this point he was sent to Western Washington State Mental Hospital. He died there on 6 Oct 1946 with his wife and youngest daughter by his side. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Seattle with a headstone of granite from Minnesota to mark the grave. His wife was buried at his side 36 years later and his daughter, Doris', ashes were buried at his feet in 2000. He was a kind and honest man, one who was very intelligent and cultured but also greatly enjoyed life. His younger sister, Marian, wrote this of him, "The memory of a good and noble being can not be lost; and Luke had goodness and had nobility."