John and Karen Ross named Grand Marshalls of Mankato's 150th parade

It all started on a Saturday night in Mankato, Kansas, in August 1958. Two girls in a Jeep, one girl got out and a guy from Lovewell got in and that was the start of a 64 year romance. Two years later they were married. They have lived most of 62 years in the same house in Mankato. At the time of their meeting, John was going to K-State and Karen was going to Emporia State. John didn't have a car but managed to get to Emporia most every weekend. Christmas 1959, they figured it would be cheaper if they got married between semesters and Karen transfer to K-State.

John graduated from K-State in May 1960. Because of his college deferment, he was put back on the draft list. Instead, he joined the Air Force for four years and took training at San Antonio and Amarillo, Texas, and Karen stayed in Mankato.

John got orders to report to Beale Air Force Base Marysville, Calif., and they packed their little Hillman convertible and left for California. John worked in supply supporting the B47 bombers stationed there. Karen worked for American Machine and Foundry Corporation which was installing the Titan missile program in the area. Two years later orders came to report to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Anchorage Alaska, so they packed their new F85 Oldsmobile and drove to Alaska. John was still in supply and Karen worked in the office of the North American command.

The fall of 1964 John was discharged and found a job in Kansas City with Wilson Packing on the smoked meats desk in charge of making all their smoked meats. Karen landed a job with Hallmark Cards purchasing boxes for Hallmark's products.

July 1, 1965, Karen and John purchased Sweden Creme from John's parents. The fall of 1965, they started building the Buffalo Roam Steakhouse with the help of the Mankato Commercial Development Association. They opened in January 1966, and ran it successfully for 32 years because of the loyal employees who worked there. They could take time off because the employees would take care of business.

During those 32 years running a business, they managed to raise three children witht he hlep of grandparents, Jack and Marie Morris and Alfred and Viola Ross. The children are Leah Pletcher (Eric) of Pinehurst, Texas, who graduated from KU as an electrical engineer; Karla Fleming (Mark) who manages several businesses in Mankato and will graduate from K-State December 2022 with a bachelor's of arts degree; and Alan John Ross (Dorian) of Denver, Colo., who graduated KU as a civil engineer. They are blessed with six grandchildren.

Karen served 24 years on the Mankato City Council, was a member of the board of directors of the Kansas State Chamber of Commerce, PEO officer, and was on the Mankato Rock Hills Alumni Committee. John served as Jewell County Commissioner 12 years, one term as president of the Kansas Restaurant Association and president of the Mankato Commercial Development Association. John was co-chairman with Boyd Silsby for the Mankato Centennial Celebration in 1972. Karen and John are active members of the Mankato Evangelical Lutheran Church. They also found time to explore Norway, Scotland, Qatar, Mexico and India.

In March 1988 they decided to sell the Buffalo Roam Steakhouse to long time employees Carl and Kathy Jensen, and retired.

John couldn not completely retire, so he started a game bird business at the farm in 1995 and continued it for 15 years selling pheasant, quail and chukkars to hunt clubs in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. Karen went on all the deliveries. When John turned 70, he told Karen, "That's enough" and turned the game bird business over to son-in-law, Mark Fleming, and Karla.

Now Karen and John do whatever they want, "mostly nothing," and they thank God that they are able to do that.


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