Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Honoring the memory of my dad April 4, 2011

Elvern Kletscher's 1950s military photo

HIS OBITUARY READS IN PART: From 1952-1953, he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. He served on the front lines, receiving the Purple Heart after being wounded…He enjoyed his weekly visits with his veterans support group. He enjoyed bird watching, making horseradish and tomato juice with his family.

Elvern Kletscher passed away Thursday, April 3, 2003, at the Sunwood Good Samaritan Center in Redwood Falls, Minnesota at the age of 72 years and 29 days.

Yesterday, on the eight-year anniversary of my father’s death, I failed to remember. How could I? How could I forget the day he died, the day I lost my dad? How could I?

It breaks my heart that I would forget. This failure to remember the date of his death seems like a dishonor to the father I loved. He was a man who worked hard tending the earth, who loved his family and God. He was a soldier who served his country and, because of his time on the killing fields of Korea, suffered from a lifetime of demons that at times robbed me of my father.

But in the end, in his last days, I came to terms with the issues that sometimes made life with him difficult and challenging. I saw only the goodness as I stood at his bedside in the Veterans Administration Hospital where he lay dying of cancer and congestive heart failure.

As I held his hand, stroked his thick white hair, held a straw to his lips, I tried to be brave, to cheer him, to comfort him.

But when I couldn’t keep my emotions in check any more, I fled his room, stood outside his hospital room and wept.

Once I pulled myself back together, I returned to his bedside, listened to him tell me he was going to a better place, that he wanted all of us to take care of Mom. And then I cried, right there, holding nothing back because I couldn’t no matter how hard I tried.

Two days later, after being transported back to his home county, into a nursing home, my dad died.

And on April 7 we buried him, deep in the soil, in the hillside cemetery that overlooks his beloved prairie, the place where, except for his time in the military, he lived his entire life.

On that gloomy April day of biting cold wind, I held my mom close, my arm wrapped around her shoulders as she shivered uncontrollably. Together with my siblings we huddled inside a tent, next to the coffin.

As the guns fired in a military salute, as taps sounded their mournful wail, as my mom accepted a carefully folded American flag, I wept.

Today I weep, too, as I remember the father I loved.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


A lesson in Minnesota sales taxes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:09 AM
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How much does your community tax purchases?

“ARE YOU A SEVEN?” she asked.

“What?” I asked her to repeat what she’d just told me over the phone.

“Are you a seven?” she repeated.

Still, I didn’t understand. Then she—the saleswoman at J.C. Penney in the Burnsville Shopping Center—explained that sales tax rates vary, depending on where you live in Minnesota. She wondered if I lived in an area with a seven percent rate.

Huh? I had no idea, about the rate or that such differences existed.

I live in Faribault. Is that a “seven,” or some other number?

The helpful saleswoman, who was trying to calculate the cost of pleated shades (which I’m not buying because they are way too costly at nearly $400 for two windows, but which I really, really want), was confusing me. Apparently orders shipped to my home would be taxed based on where I live, or something like that.

Not one to simply let this piece of information slip through the recesses of my brain, I googled “Minnesota sales tax” and ended up on the Minnesota Department of Revenue sales tax rate calculator website. It’s an easy-to-use site where I could type in Minnesota zip codes, a dollar amount and, zip, the sales tax rate appeared. The calculator covers Minnesota and local general sales and use taxes. Any other special taxes, such as those on entertainment, liquor, dining and lodging, are not figured into the totals.

First, I needed the nine-digit zip codes for my sample towns. Once I had those zip codes from a U.S. Postal Service link, I typed the numbers and my sample dollar amount of $10 into the tax calculator website.

I quickly discovered that Faribault is not a seven. Our sales tax rate, like that of my brother who lives in Redwood County in rural southwestern Minnesota, is 6.875 percent. We would each pay 69 cents in sales tax on a qualifying $10 purchase in our parts of Minnesota. We have no extra taxes, just the 6.875 state-wide basic sales tax levied by the state.

My daughter who lives an hour away from me in south Minneapolis, however, will pay more for purchases made in her area. The sales tax rate for her address is 7.775 percent. That breaks down to the standard state sales tax rate, plus an additional 0.15 percent levied by Hennepin County, 0.5 percent by the city of Minneapolis and 0.25 percent for Transit Improvement. She would pay 78 cents in taxes on a $10 purchase.

In Woodbury, where my youngest brother and his family live, a 0.25 percent Transit Improvement levy is also in place. It’s the only extra sales tax in that city, so tax on a $10 purchase there would be 71 cents.

I was surprised to learn that St. Cloud also has an extra tax, of 0.5 percent, pushing the sales tax rate there to 7.375 percent. That helped pay for an airport and other projects. You’d pay 74 cents sales tax on a $10 purchase.

But my biggest surprise came when I typed in a friends’ nine-digit zip code up in Duluth. There the local government has imposed a one percent additional general sales tax, pushing the sales tax in that port city to 7.875 percent. The tax on a $10 purchase is 79 cents. Authorized in 1973, that special tax “may be used for any city purpose, as determined by the city council.” It has no expiration date and is the longest-running local sales tax listed on a September 2010 document from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ve just gotten a good basic education on sales tax rates in Minnesota.

Funny, isn’t it, how that J.C. Penney employee’s seemingly simple question—“Are you a seven?”—educated me about sales tax rates in Minnesota.

THE MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE is considering legislation that would loosen current restrictions on local sales taxes. Under the proposal, cities or groups of cities could impose local sales taxes with local voter approval. Twenty-two Minnesota cities currently have a local option sales tax.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling