Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II: Fun at the Kletscher family reunion July 31, 2013

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THE THING I APPRECIATE about a little competitive fun at the annual Kletscher family reunion are the memories built and the melding of generations.

Review the images below and those published yesterday (click here) and I expect you will agree.

I love that my extended family loves to have fun.

In this game, contestants race to move gummy worms from a pie plate into a cup, with their mouths. The plates were supposed to be filled with whipped cream, but someone left it in a hot vehicle and, well, there was no whipped cream. Perhaps just as well.

In this game, contestants (my sister Lanae is on the left) race to move gummy worms from a pie plate into a cup, with their mouths. The plates were supposed to be filled with whipped cream, but someone left it in a hot vehicle and, well, there was no whipped cream. Perhaps just as well.

Dropping gummy worms into a cup.

Kegan drops gummy worms into a cup, doing his part for the Rednecks team.

Teams work together in assembling 25-piece puzzles.

Teams of all ages work together in assembling 25-piece puzzles.

Teamwork, up close.

Teamwork, up close.

Denver, member of the blue team.

Denver, member of the blue team.

Big sister assists little brother in the kids' nail driving contest.

Big sister assists little brother in the kids’ nail driving contest.

Determined, if anything.

Determined, if anything.

Uncle Wally, an experienced carpenter, won a round of the adult competition in nail driving.

Uncle Wally, an experienced carpenter, won a round of the adult competition in nail driving.

My cousin Sandy, organizer of the games, scrambles to pull boxcutters from the tool prize box before the kids grab the knives.

My cousin Sandy, organizer of the games, scrambles to pull boxcutters from the tool prize box before the kids grab the knives.

Colorful socks, colorful cups for this contestant in a race to fill the cups with popcorn.

Colorful socks, colorful cups for this contestant in a race to fill the cups with popcorn.

The water spigot proved a popular spot once squirt guns were distributed.

The water spigot proved a popular spot once squirt guns were distributed.

That would be my husband, Randy, sporting "safety glasses" for the nail driving contest. He wont the first round, pounding 9 1/2 nails into a chunk of wood in one minute.

That would be my husband, Randy, sporting “safety glasses” for the nail driving contest. He tied in the first round, pounding 9 1/2 nails into a chunk of wood in one minute.

My sister Lanae cuddles 5-month-old cousins Garrett (I think; he's a twin), left, and Logan, right. They represent the next generation of competitors.

My sister Lanae cuddles 5-month-old cousins Garrett (I think; he’s a twin), left, and Logan, right. They represent the next generation of Kletscher family competitors.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Loving Christmas with family December 26, 2012

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My husband Randy and me with our three adult children, from left to right, Miranda, Caleb and Amber.

My husband Randy and me with our three adult children, from left to right, Miranda, Caleb and Amber.

IF YOU WANT to make a mom happy, return home for Christmas.

My three, plus the eldest daughter's boyfriend, Marc, opened gifts Christmas Eve afternoon. Caleb is juggling on the left with his new juggling balls.

My three, plus the eldest daughter’s boyfriend, Marc, opened a few gifts Christmas Eve afternoon before Miranda had to leave. Caleb is juggling on the left with his new juggling balls.

All three of my children were able to get back to Faribault for the holidays, although my second daughter had to leave early Christmas Eve afternoon. She was on-call Christmas Day with her job as a Spanish medical interpreter in northeastern Wisconsin. But I had her here for awhile and that made me one joyful mother.

Ditto for my mom.

After taking numerous "good photos," we decided to imitate six-month-old Hank (the first great grandchild for my mother) by closing our eyes. Missing from the photo is Alex, the photographer.

After taking numerous “good photos,” we decided to imitate six-month-old Hank (the first great grandchild for my mother) by closing our eyes and pretending to sleep. Missing from the photo is Alex, the photographer.

For the first time in many years, all six of her children and their spouses and their children, plus the first great grandchild and significant others, gathered for a pre-Christmas family celebration at my middle brother’s rural Lamberton home.

One of my favorite candid shots, my son embracing his grandma, whom he had not seen since July Fourth.

One of my favorite candid shots, my son embracing his grandma, whom he had not seen since July Fourth.

My mom repeated many times, before and after the get together, how very happy she was that everyone could make it. All but four could stay for the entire day and into the evening.

Santa shows up every year at the family Christmas. Here he hugs my second daughter. He handed out cans of SPAM to me and my siblings apparently to celebrate all the SPAM we consumed as children.

Santa shows up every year at the family Christmas. Here he hugs my second daughter. He handed out cans of SPAM to me and my siblings apparently to celebrate all the SPAM we consumed as children.

We took lots and lots and lots of pictures, as my eldest daughter’s boyfriend noted. I believe, I mean I know, he was slightly overwhelmed by the entire event. Who wouldn’t you be when you’re not used to my loud and fun-loving family, most of whom bunk out on the basement floor after the day’s festivities end?

Last year my sister Lanae brought vintage hats for all the women to wear. Here most of the granddaughters pose with grandma.

Last year my sister Lanae brought vintage hats for the women. Here most of the granddaughters model their hats with grandma.

I love my family. And I love that my 80-year-old mom experienced the joy of having her closest loved ones with her for a single day to celebrate Christmas.

I decided the men needed hats, too, so I brought Santa hats for them to model in a serious pose.

I decided the boys needed hats, too, so I brought Santa hats for them to wear, here in a serious pose.

HOW ABOUT YOU? Are you able to gather with extended family to celebrate Christmas and what are some of your traditions?

Santa always poses for a photo with my mom.

Santa always poses for a photo with my mom.

Hank, the first baby in the family in 11 years, was the center of much attention.

Hank, the first baby in the family in 11 years, was the center of much attention.

My sister Lanae gifted our brothers, Brian and Brad, with Kitty Piddle and Dog Drool.

My sister Lanae gifted our brothers, Brian and Brad, with Kitty Piddle and Dog Drool. I also received red hot sauce from her and one fabulous gift I will tell you about in another post.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Memories shared, memories made at a rural Minnesota family reunion July 31, 2012

Old-fashioned games like a gunny sack race, a three-legged race, and running with eggs on a spoon have been popular activities at recent Kletscher family reunions.

MY COUSIN LYNN doesn’t realize it, I’m sure. But when she repeated to me several times at this past weekend’s Kletscher family reunion that we need to keep this going, that not all families are like ours, gathering every year, remaining connected, sharing memories of the past, I knew that she was absolutely right.

The reunion originated many, many years ago as an annual summer picnic for descendants of Rudolph and Mathilda Kletscher, my great grandparents. As their son Henry’s family grew, a reunion for the family of Henry and Ida, my grandparents, was established.

In my 55 years of life, I bet I’ve missed only a handful of Kletscher reunions. It’s that important to me to attend this yearly gathering  in my hometown of Vesta. These aunts and uncles and cousins (and my grandparents, long ago deceased) were very much a part of my life when I was growing up as we all lived in close proximity to one another.

Saturday evening, circled around a campfire in the Vesta City Park, we shared memories of the many, many times our family celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. While the uncles clustered around card tables to swig beer and play cards so many decades ago and the aunts visited, we cousins raced in the dark shadows of farm yards in raucous games of “Starlight, Moonlight.” And then, when the wooden crate of pop bottles was pulled out, we swarmed to grab the rare treat of bubbly beverages.

Such were our memories (some best kept within the family) shared as darkness settled upon the prairie. Campfire flames flared and sparked while conversation ebbed and flowed as only it can in the comfortable familiarity of family.

Despite the feelings of closeness evoked at a reunion, the reality is that we are connected now primarily by memories and blood, not by the intertwining of our lives today. For the most part, we’ve moved away from the prairie and see each other only at the reunion or at the funerals of family members.

Several years ago, my sister Lanae and I decided we needed to infuse new energy into the reunion if we were to keep the next generation interested in remaining connected. That meant offering activities which would create memories. And so we, and other family members, have planned games. This year was no exception.

The cupcake walk, a popular activity two years ago, was brought back.

Elle, one happy little girl with a cupcake. She’s also an excellent hula hooper.

Already we can see our hard work and efforts effecting a change. The younger generation wants to come to the reunion now as opposed to “having” to tag along with mom and dad and being bored to death because “there’s nothing to do.”

I need only see the excitement in the faces of my cousins’ kids and grandkids’ and the smiles on my cousins’ faces to realize we’re on to something with offering organized activities. These descendants of Henry and Ida Kletscher are bonding and building memories.

It didn’t take much persuading to get the young adults participating in the Tacky Tourist Relay, helping each other slip into Hawaiian garb and more during our Hawaiian Luau themed reunion.

Perhaps 15 – 20 years from now they will circle around a campfire in the Vesta park remembering those gunny sack races or the time they hula hooped or Audrey insisting they join in the Tacky Tourist Relay Race.

Teams compete in the Tacky Tourist Relay.

I hope they will smile at the memories and realize how very blessed they are to be part of a family that has loved one another for generations.

Even my generation (OK, they’re a wee bit younger than me) formed a Tacky Tourist Relay team.

My sister Lanae and cousin Kirt assist each other in the hula hoop competition. I’m pretty certain they did not win.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

The Kletscher family legacy of public service February 4, 2011

WE’RE NOT EXACTLY the Kennedys. But the Kletscher family, my family, has a long history of political, church and community involvement.

My uncle, Merlin Kletscher, writes in the family history booklet he compiled:

“Many of us (in this older generation) have, like our forefathers, been active in our community. We have served our country in the military, on church councils, city councils, township boards, ambulance squads, fire departments, and school boards. We’ve served on Legion auxiliaries, vocational school cooperatives, electric power cooperatives and grain elevator board cooperatives. Fire chiefs, mayors and county commissioners are among our family—and it makes me proud. The list for our family could go on and on. The point here is that our families have seen the need, as our forefathers did, to serve others to make someone else’s life a better life.”

For the Kletschers, that service to others traces back to my great grandfather, Rudolph Kletscher, a German immigrant. In 1890, he started a mission church at his home near Vesta in southwestern Minnesota. The families who met in his farmhouse would eventually organize St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, where I worshipped as a child and which my mother and many other relatives still attend today.

I never knew my great grandfather, who died three decades before I was born. But his legacy of community involvement continued when his son Henry, my grandfather, served for many years on the Vesta School Board. When I was attending Vesta Elementary School, I would walk by a plaque just inside the front door engraved with my grandpa’s name. I suppose, subconsciously, that made an impression upon me.

My Uncle Merlin, the family historian, like his father before him, became involved in education by serving on two school boards. His community involvement is too long to list. But suffice to say that Rudolph Kletscher would be impressed with his grandson.

He would also be proud of my Uncle Harold, who held public office for more than 30 years in Vesta. Two of Harold’s sons likewise were elected to office.

In my immediate family, my dad, Elvern, fought on the front lines in the Korean Conflict and was active locally in church and Legion organizations and probably other groups of which I am unaware. He once unsuccessfully ran for Redwood County commissioner.

One of my brothers served several terms as a county commissioner. My older brother was the Westbrook fire chief for many years and his son is currently a volunteer fireman.

My eldest daughter holds a political science degree and today works in the State Capitol complex.

Like my Uncle Merlin, I am proud to be part of a family that gives back via public service.

MY COUSIN JEFF KLETSCHER, who is current president of the Minnesota Association of Small Cities and who served on the Floodwood City Council for 10 years before being elected mayor in 2003—he’s in his fifth mayoral term—was a DFL candidate for the House District 5B seat in northeastern Minnesota.

Jeff finished fourth among five DFLers in Tuesday’s special primary election. It was hard, he says, to be from a small community (Floodwood, population 503) with two big communities (Chisholm, population 4,960, and Hibbing, population 17,071) in the district.

DFL-endorsed candidate and Iron Range attorney Carly Melin easily won the primary with 50 percent of the votes. The 25-year-old is from Hibbing.

I’m not going to pretend that I am informed about northeastern Minnesota politics or the DFL candidates (other than my cousin) who vied for the office vacated by Tony Sertich, the newly-appointed commissioner for the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.

But I can tell you that Jeff, like his great grandfather, grandfather and father (my Uncle Harold) before him, is living a legacy of service. He cares about rural and small-town Minnesota. Jeff’s length of public service (nearly 20 years) speaks volumes to me about his dedication to making life better for Minnesotans.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling