Siouxland Stories: Le Mars man keeps a family tradition turning

Siouxland Stories

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – It’s not exactly a man “cave.” 

“65 years old and still playing. That’s alright isn’t it?,” asked Rich Hessenius.

For Hessenius, what happens in his backyard shed provides every bit as much satisfaction as any game-winning touchdown on a 75-inch screen.

“I’m by myself. I can work at my own speed. I try and spend a couple hours a night and get a little something done each night,” he says. “It’s very peaceful.”

That’s until he flips the switch. The noise, not indicative of the subtle eye-appealing images found in the kaleidoscopes Hessenius creates here.   

 “There’s not a kaleidoscope or egg that the same. They’re all different. It’s not a factory it’s a hand-made product. I can turn that egg in about 15 minutes,” said Hessenius.

Hard blocks of wood hand-crafted with the kind of care that makes young and old alike, squint and smile.

“This is a kaleidoscope with pretties on the end. Colored beads. When you look through these you hold up to the light and you turn the end and it changes the colors. See, I’m smiling already,” Hessenius admits.

But to fully understand Rich’s passion for these ever-changing objects, you have to turn back the calendar to 2014 and meet Leonard Olsen.

For 15 years, Leonard was the man making things turn at The Kaleidoscope Factory. At shops in Pocahontas and Pomeroy, he put a twinkle in people’s eyes.

Sadly, on October 1, 2019, Leonard and Rich Hessenius’s brother-in-law, died after a terminal illness.
“That was his life for a while. (He) just liked being in that store and liked turning kaleidoscopes or whatever he was working on,” said Hessenius.

“He ended up living right there in the store in Poky. People could come stop in and see him because he was always there,” added Hessenius.

Until that October day.

 “When we were in Poky after he passed away, his sister wanted me to turn an egg. Which is one of these.  She liked it and thought that was kind of nice.  So, we decided to try and continue this, try and keep it going,” Hessenius said.

“I just think Leonard’s name and what he did for all those years,” Hessenius said.

And so, Leonard is never far from Hessenius’s mind, as he is now the one carving, sanding, oiling and assembling what is now a family tradition.

 “The ‘oh”s and ‘ahh”s. It’s satisfying,” he said. “My brother-in-law, I thought a lot of him.  I’m not the same person he was but I still enjoy doing this and as long as I do, I’ll keep doing it.”

If you know someone with a unique talent or little known skill that others might enjoy hearing about, KCAU 9 wants to know them as well. Email us at news@kcautv.com with the subject “Siouxland Stories” and briefly explain what it is that this person does that is so interesting. Don’t forget to watch those stories when they air on KCAU 9 News.


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