Dan and Katie Klein Reflect on 85 Years of History
Burke, Allan. "Dan and Katie Klein Reflect on 85 Years of History." Emmons County Record, 23 June 2005, 1, 3-4.
St. John’s Catholic Church, which
was razed in recent years, had historic significance because
it was the Mother Church to the Catholic churches in south central
North Dakota. The parish was combined with St. Andrew’s
in Zeeland, and there will be lots of memories shared at the
St. Andrew’s Centennial this weekend.
When St. Andrew’s Catholic Church of Zeeland celebrates its
this week, the parish’s oldest couple, Dan and Katie Klein,
among those honored.
While Katie grew up in St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hague,
Dan was born and raised in the St. John’s Catholic Church
five miles north of Zeeland. St. John’s closed, and its members
transferred to St. Andrew’s.
"I was baptized and had my First Holy Communion at St. John’s,"
said, "and I attended 'German School' at the church
during the summer
He said Martin Braun, a music teacher at the Zeeland School, taught
religion and prayers in German.
"He was very strict," Dan noted.
Dan remembers when Braun brought his 50-member band from Zeeland
play at St. John’s.
"Zeeland had a community band for many years, and some of
were members," he said.
"The church seemed so big to me as a boy, and it was a very
church," Dan recalled. "There were stained glass windows
by the altar,
and the dome above the altar was copper."
Katie said the church seemed so small to her when she began attending
St. John’s after her marriage to Dan.
"St. Mary’s is a much bigger church, but I came to love
Anton and Elizabeth Klein posed with
their daughters, Sister Antonette and Sister Janeane, O.S.B.
Antonette later left the religious life.
The Anton and Elizabeth Klein family
included, left to right, Tony, Sister Janeane, Sister Antonette,
Anton (father), Elizabeth (mother), Dan, Elizabeth and John.
The first priest Dan remembers is the late Father E.J. Steinbach.
"All of us kids liked Father N. Fox because he gave us candy
after Mass," Dan said.
For many years, St. John’s had a resident priest who lived
rectory just north of the church. The last of the resident priests
When the rectory was no longer used, it was moved to Zeeland, and
and Lenora Salwei now own it.
Like other Catholic churches in the region, Mass was celebrated
Latin, and the homily was given in German.
Gardening is one of Katie’s hobbies,
along with quilting;. Above, she shows some of her tomatoes.
Dan stands with one of his pet deer.
Dan’s hobby is fishing.
Dan and Katie remember when Father Schill, himself a carpenter,
remodeled St. John’s into a modern church. A finished basement
with a furnace was added, which made the main floor much warmer.
"In the winter before we had a basement, Father Anton Anzic,
a big man,
would stomp his feet when he entered the church to get the snow
showed. It was so cold in the church that the snow stayed there,"
During the remodeling project, Father Schill built a new altar,
is now in use in Fargo. Dan said the major disappointments in the
remodeling were the removal of the original ornate altar and the
painting over of the copper ceiling.
The vocations of St. John’s include Sister Janeane, O.S.B.,
sister; Sister Mary Edgar Feist, O.S.B., an aunt of Dan’s;
Emmanuel Feist, O.S.B., a cousin; Sister Jamella Meier, a second
cousin, and Father Zyprian Meier.
When it came time to close St. John’s and combine the parish
Andrews, it was difficult for many in the church.
"There is always a strong attachment to a church and parish,
John’s was unique because it was the Mother Church to the
churches in the area," Dan explained.
Dan lives on the farm where he was born in a sod house 85 years
His parents were the late Anton and Elizabeth (Feist) Klein, who
immigrated to the United States from Germany.
"My dad was unusual for that time because he attended a business
college in York, Neb., and taught in a country school. Later, he
for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dan has six brothers and sisters. They include, after Dan, who
oldest, Tony (Cecelia) Klein of Bismarck, John (Agnes) Klein of
Aberdeen, William (deceased), Antonette (Gene) Staudinger of Bismarck,
Sister Janeane of Richardton Abbey and Elizabeth of Tacoma, Wash.
"We walked to our country school, which was about three-quarters
of a mile from our farm," Dan said.
He graduated from Zeeland High School in 1939.
"That’s where I got my smarts," Dan joked. "I
must have been smart
because I passed the exam to get my teaching certificate."
When he was 12, Dan had appendicitis, and it was a major undertaking
those days to get him to St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck. He traveled
by wagon and train. Still in his collection is the small, itemized
receipt from his surgery on March 1, 1932. The list includes $15,
board, room and care; $14, operating room and anesthesia; $2.50,
fee; 66 cents, medicine and supplies; 25 cents, laundry, and 10
toothbrush, for a total of $32.51. Terms were cash.
Dan and Katie had five
children (Brenda is deceased). Left to right are Dan, Jerry,
Bob, Al and Katie and Dan.
Like his dad before him, Dan became a teacher. He taught in the
country school (Strasburg School District No. 3) where he attended
the first eight grades.
"Our youngest son, Bob, started out in the same country school
finished his elementary and high school education in Zeeland,"
According to Dan, attending a country school did not limit the
of his students.
"My country school students ranked high in high school, and
on to very successful careers," Dan said.
He noted that Bob is a third generation teacher and taught at Bismarck
High School for 30 years before retiring and then going back to
Dan was teaching in the country school when he met Katie Gabriel
"Katie was a good dancer. I just watched," Dan said.
"I asked somebody
who was that pretty girl out there dancing. I found out she lived
over there in Emmons County, but she was worth the trip."
They were married in 1941 at St. Mary’s, the church where
baptized and received First Communion. They started out on his parents’
farm north of Zeeland, where they have lived for many years.
Katie’s parents were the late Adam and Katherine (Schmidt)
farmed near Hague. Her brother, Frank, has the family farm.
Both of Katie’s parents were Germans from Russia, and they
to the United States as children.
There were seven children in the Gabriel family. In order of birth,
they are Ann Mitzel, deceased; Mary Weigel, deceased; Joe Gabriel,
deceased; Katie; Frank of Hague; Ambrose, deceased, and Helen (Wilfred)
Eberle of Fargo.
Katie attended a country school about a mile and a half from the
and then she stayed home until she and Dan were married.
The Kleins have five children. Dan and Pat Wolf have two sons and
in Bismarck. Pat is a teacher, and Dan is a retired teacher. Bob
Cheryl (Cheryl Jundt, a native of Zeeland) Klein live in Minneapolis,
Minn., where Bob works for Zerox. They have three sons and lost
a son in a
tragic car accident. Jerry and Bev (Bev Schatz of Zeeland) Klein
in Fessenden and have four children. They own a grocery store, and
Jerry is a State Senator. Al (Cathy) Klein is a pharmacist in Elwood,
Ind., where he has worked since 1976. They have two children.
Their youngest child, Brenda, was 33 when she died in 1996. She
cerebral palsy and attended school at Grafton.
"The staff at Grafton did a wonderful job of caring for Brenda,"
said. "She looks down on her old mom and dad and says 'stay
Dan Klein and Katie Gabriel were married
at St. Mary’s in Hague in 1941.
After starting out on the Klein farm, Dan and Katie moved to Aberdeen
where he worked for three years for K.O. Lee in the shipping department.
The company manufactured small electric grinders. Dan was drafted
into the U.S. Navy in 1944. Their son, Dan, was two years old, and
Bob was a baby. Katie and the boys moved to Zeeland where they lived
for most of the time Dan was in the service. "Dan bought me
a 'war buggy' with wooden wheels," Katie laughed.
"That’s what they called baby buggies that moms had
while the dads were
in the service. I pushed the boys in that buggy through snow to
Katie said they donated the buggy for an auction held by St. Andrew’s,
and they were shocked when it sold for $100.
After Dan left for his Navy Duty, Bob became very ill with what
out to be a bowel obstruction.
"Dr. J.B. Grace, an elderly doctor, figured out the problem,
surgeon in Aberdeen later said we were lucky to have such a good
in Zeeland," Dan said.
Dan was on the way to Florida when he received the news that his
was gravely ill, and he was given special leave to be with his family.
"When I got to the hospital in Aberdeen and I saw Katie, I
everything was alright," Dan recalled. "She was smiling."
At eight months old, Bob lost 12 inches of his intestines, but he
Dan was drafted by the U.S. Navy in
1944, and Katie and their two sons were able to join him when
he was stationed in Louisiana.
Dan returned to boot camp, and his company was shipped out for
overseas duty. He and another sailor were held back because the
Navy needed typists, so he was sent to the Great Lakes Naval Station
in Chicago. "I used a manual typewriter with an 18-inch carriage,"
Dan said. "Erasures and cross-overs were not allowed. I had
the advantage of being slow (30 words per minutes; fast is 100 words
per minute) but accurate."
Dan and his fellow typist were unique on the base because of their
in the headquarters, and new recruits thought they were officers
"We were called Little Admirals," Dan laughed. "I
guess we must have acted like admirals."
From Chicago, Dan was transferred to Florida for amphibious training.
He was the chief of a land craft with eight sailors under him; however,
an ear infection disqualified him for sea duty.
He then served in the personnel department of the anti-aircraft
at Shell Beach, La., where Katie and the boys joined him from April
November of 1945.
"There was strict segregation of the races in the South at
but Daniel and Bob played with black kids. Bob is dark skinned,
think people thought he was part black. All of the kids had fun
together, and none of them knew the difference," Dan said.
Dan still remembers the spring of 1946 when the loud speakers at
the Louisiana base blared that "the Japs" had surrendered.
The Kleins returned to Zeeland to farm Dan’s home place, and
Dan went back to teaching.
"Katie was a great farmer," Dan recalled.
Katie added, "I would plow until I hit a rock and then back
up. I went
back more than I went forward. If I had backed up any more, I would
have been in the neighbor’s field."
The Kleins milked cows and raised chickens, pigs and cattle.
"In those days you didn’t have to have a crop,"
Dan explained, "because
you could live on what you raised."
The Post Office
In 1966, Zeeland Postmaster Adolph Dockter died, and his widow,
(Wolf) Dockter, suggested to Dan that he apply for the job. (Julia
resides in Bismarck.)
"I had never even thought about working in the Post Office,"
"but I applied and got the job."
Dan was trained by the Gackle Postmaster, and his clerk was Adella
Boschee. Dan served from 1966-84, and Adella replaced him when he
"Adella was a very good clerk and easy to work with,"
Dan recalls his patrons at the Post Office as great people. He said
he loved his job but was able to take early retirement because of
The Kleins enjoy living on their farm, and the land is rented out.
"We wouldn’t want to live anywhere else," Dan and
For Dan and Katie Klein, this weekend’s church centennial
will be a
special time in their lives and a chance to be with many friends
Martin Braun conducted the Zeeland
Band for many years, and Dan Klein remembers when Braun brought
his band to St. John’s.
State Sen. Jerry Klein of Fessenden
and his son, Jonathon, are on the 1949 MT John Deere that Jerry
country school for nine years, and he said his students all
went on to do well. Above are students from one of his years
at the school. The girls are, left to right, Annie Klein, Pauline
Aberle, Caroline Weigel, Theresa Aberle and Isabel Klein; the
boys are Orvin Aberle, Jerome Weigel and Francis Weigel.
Reprinted with permission of the Emmons County Record.