On July 17, 1930, Cleon, born to Cora and Leon Kimberling, made his appearance onto this planet with the aid of a neighbor lady. His father was in the middle of harvest in the hot wheat fields of western Nebraska driving a 12 head hitch of beautiful draft horses pulling what was then called a header. His education to animal behavior and health started in those early years being surrounded with the typical array of horses, cattle, swine, chickens, turkeys, geese, the barn cats and dogs. All of these animals contributed to the livelihood of the farm family. Early in this educational process he experienced first hand an outbreak of equine encephalomyelitis. This technical term was implanted into his vocabulary at about the 3rd grade level when attending the one room country school along with his sisters Garneta and Oneta.
At about the same level, another traumatic educational event happened when the entire Poland China swine operation experienced an outbreak of hog cholera, now an exotic disease. As this educational process continued he lost his favorite saddle horse to an impaction, which was beyond the ability of the local veterinarian to correct. Later on, his favorite heifer was left with an obturator paralysis due to improper and excessive traction. This was probably the sequence of events that prompted the pursuit of an education in Veterinary Medicine.
While growing up in Nebraska, Cleon met Betty Leech. He was a country boy, and she was a town girl, but they fell in love and got married in 1953. They then started their life together on a small patch of land in Nebraska.
Cleon served in the US army and aided in the Korean war; however, he was never one to boast about his service as he humbly worked to make the world a safer place. When he had breaks from service, he was able to travel Europe and see many countries.
Cleon went to Colorado State University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from CSU in 1951, and a degree in veterinary medicine in 1959. While in Colorado he ended up purchasing a plot of land in Weld County which later on has been jokingly referred to as the “Kimberling Family Compound” and at its peak occupancy had seven members of the Kimberling clan living together.
Education and work were not the only thing keeping Cleon busy while in Colorado. With the purchase of land and a new home, he and Betty started their own family. Their oldest child, Kirk, was born 1960 and then Beth was born 1964. Both of them attended Windsor High School and later carried on the family tradition of going to CSU.
Cleon himself continued to work at CSU as well. For 40 years, from 1965 to 2005, he was a faculty member in CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and during this time also worked as a CSU Extension veterinarian. During his time at CSU, he also spent three years in Nairobi, Kenya, with Betty, Kirk, and Beth.
Later on, Cleon was blessed with welcoming William Francis and Karen Kimberling into the family as the spouses of Beth and Kirk respectively. He was then gifted with three grandchildren, John and William from Beth, and Kayla from Kirk. Kayla and her husband Nate added to the family with their children Jace, Kaden, and Emeylnn.
At the age of 65 Cleon was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Instead of giving up he decided to be even stronger and did a bicycle trip from Oceanside, California, to Bar Harbor, Maine. Later after his retirement he cycled the perimeter of the United States. He always said it is important to keep making goals.
At age 81, he began working with Optimal Livestock Services, a Fort Collins-based company that specializes in sheep health, reproduction and management. He was also an active member throughout all of his time in Colorado with First Presbyterian Church and increased his involvement post retirement. Not only did he work to unite the church during difficult times he also helped with the McBackpack program which is housed at the church and helps deliver food to children in need. In addition to this he also helped the church build its current live streaming system which has been integral with the aging congregation and COVID-19.
At the age of 85 Cleon volunteered with the Christian Veterinary Mission in Mongolia and helped invent a solar powered microscope that is still used in the field today.
Cleon also supported many other causes including the Food Bank of Larimer County, CSU Scholarship and Extension, Highlands Presbyterian Camp, among others.
Visiting more than 60 countries in his lifetime, Cleon never stopped traveling and each year he would make a custom calendar featuring his many photographs, another one of his talents. After he stopped traveling in 2019, he revived his old photos he used to develop on film to make a calendar that commemorated his time in Africa.
In the last few years of his life Cleon continued to be active with photography, bike riding, and helping others. All of his favorite things. Everyone who has known Cleon has known him to be generous, accepting, positive, energetic, and a friend to all.
His one favorite quote sums up everything perfectly…
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body…but rather to skid in broadside thoroughly used up…totally worn out and loudly proclaiming WOW– WHAT A RIDE.” – Hunter S. Thompson