Which is better, living in rural America or living in the city? John Seibel and his wife, Connie, of Hillsboro have experienced both, and in the end, they chose to return to their roots.
After living in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, for 15 years, they moved back to Kansas last spring.
Both had roots in rural America. John grew up in the Ebenfeld area southeast of Hillsboro, and Connie grew up in northeastern Colorado and eastern Wyoming.
The 57-year-old Hillsboro High School alumnus has been a teacher ever since he graduated from Tabor College in 1982. He has a master’s degree in education from Emporia State College.
Seibel taught in Tonganoxie, Kansas City, and Coffey County before moving to a suburb of Atlanta, where two brothers and a sister were living. The couple had seven children ages 7 to 18.
“We went from Gridley, Kansas, a town of 360, to a county that had 800,000 residents,” he said. “Where Gridley High School had about 100 kids, our new high school had 2,900. We found our kids adequately prepared for the new environment academically. It took a while for them to learn how to navigate the school and overcome some small town fears and inhibitions, but before long they were thriving in academics and extracurricular activities.”
After all their children were grown and on their own, the couple began dreaming of moving back to Kansas, owning a small farm, and enjoying a slower, more natural life.
“City life has its advantages, but after a while, we began feeling closed in on,” Seibel said in explaining their decision to move back to Kansas. “The population continued to grow. Businesses and houses began to blanket the green space. Traffic continually worsened, and we began craving the open skies, the horizon, and the simplified life of our former home in Kansas.”
Their children were supportive.
“They had a desire to see our family anchor and have a presence here in central Kansas where we have friends, family, a connection to our heritage, and a simpler, more natural life,” Seibel said.
His 93-year-old mother, Irene, and brother, Clinton, live in Hillsboro.
The couple decided “somewhat abruptly” to make the move last spring. Seibel didn’t have a job here.
“It was difficult getting schools in Kansas to read a resume from a teacher in Georgia,” he said. “I sent applications to all the schools in Marion County for substitute teaching.”
He found that Centre needed a full-time paraprofessional and was hired through Marion County Special Education Cooperative. He also is student council sponsor.
He said driving a mile or two to the grocery store in Atlanta took 15 minutes, and now he can drive 23 miles to Centre in 23 minutes.
“My friends in Atlanta are in disbelief,” he said. “My drive from Hillsboro to Centre is wonderful.”
The couple is renting a home in Hillsboro for the time being. Their plan is to buy some rural property and farm for themselves, gardening and feeding animals as naturally and organically as possible.
“It’s awesome how peaceful we feel since coming back,” Seibel said. “We’ve not been disappointed in our anticipation of simplicity, less stress, small town community, and a more natural rural existence. We’re looking forward to our future here in Marion County.”