Leo Geise looks at the plaque on his wall and cannot help but smile.
It’s from Guinness World Records and states, “The oldest professional house painter is Leo Geise, 78 years and 198 days, as verified in Delphos, Ohio, on July 8, 2018.”
At age 78, this man is painting houses, inside and out, as well as churches, office buildings and businesses. He still can get up and down a ladder like a squirrel climbing a tree.
“I enjoy working, always have. So why quit?” he asks. “I like doing something all the time. It keeps me young.”
His story gets better.
He says the inspiration for his career came from Elvis Presley.
Geise explains that when when he graduated from Fort Jennings High School in 1957, he was a typical teenager. Geise felt the world was staring him down, and at the age of 17, he was fumbling for an answer on what he was going to do the rest of his life.
Geise tried factory work, but knew it wasn’t for him.
Next he took a job with the Nickle Plate Railroad, making daily runs from Delphos to Toledo. But it was 1958 and the world had fallen in love with automobiles. It didn’t take Leo long to realize the locomotive industry was in turmoil, and he wouldn’t be working on the railroad all the live long day.
Then it hit him.
“I heard Elvis Presley singing ‘I Did It My Way,’” Geise said. “It inspired me to start a painting business. I knew it was time, as they say, to take the bull by the horns, create my own job, and do it my way.”
Fifty-three years later, he’s still painting … still doing it his way. He started Leo E. Geise, Inc. four years after he was married to the former Norma Shumaker. They raised 10 children on the income provided by the painting business. It has grown from one employee to four, including a son, Tom, who will take over when dad finally decides to clean his last paint brush.
It’s been a business full of change.
”When I first started, people would call wanting a room or two painted. Today, it’s more common for someone to want their entire house painted.”
One thing that hasn’t changed, he said, is the wife typically selects the color. “A man may think he’s picking it, but not really,” Geise said. “Right now, gray is the most popular color for inside the house. There are many shades of gray, and we’ve painted about all of them.”
He used to buy a gallon of paint for $5 in 1965 and it was all oil-based paint. Today, the paint is almost all latex and sells for $35 to $50 a gallon. He’ll pay $20 for a good brush, which he says will last about two months if taken care of properly.
He can tell you who his first job was — Joe and Henrietta Rode — and how many interior (35) and exterior (20) jobs he averages in a year.
What Leo won’t tell you, however, is the brand of paint he uses.
“Trade secret,” he said, but then added, “almost all the paint you buy today is good.”
Geise is as excited about the business today as he was when it began.
“It’s my way of life. I enjoy meeting new customers, doing job estimates and competing for the job. It is a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.”
Three years ago, he started another business, Delphos Ladder Accessories. It sells tools to make work easier for painters and builders.
“For anyone who wants to create their own job, they should try it. It is like living the American dream.”
ROSES AND THORNS: The rose garden spreads some Christmas cheer.
Rose: An unknown donor left a $1,000 check in the mailbox of the Rev. James Leach and his wife, Reva.
Rose: To Dashanna McClellan, of Lima. She was the showcase winner Tuesday of “The Price is Right,” with her total winnings at $39,299.
Rose: To Allen County Common Pleas Judge David Cheney, who at age 70 will be stepping down at the end of the year due to Ohio’s age stipulation. He could appear gruff at times, but his colleagues say he cared deeply about every person who appeared before him.
Thorn: Lima City Council has yet to change the charter to allow for a national search to take place the next time the Lima police chief’s job comes open, yet, a national search will take place too find a replacement for retiring Human Resource Director Vince Ozier.
PARTING SHOT: A coat of paint can hide a multitude of sins.
Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News. Contact him at 567-242-0391 or at The Lima News, 3515 Elida Road, Lima, Ohio 45807.