Mattie Lou Brown:
1) My brother and I were the only grandchildren on either side of our family. We had no cousins. We had only one set of grandparents that we saw only once during our growing-up years. And only one aunt. How we yearned for a wider circle of family. In 1955 my dad married my step-mother and she took us down to meet her family on the farm in Missouri, back in the hills south of Columbia. They greeted us with open arms.
Grandma Kleasner was a pleasant down-to-earth farm wife who had worked hard her whole life. She had a large garden from which she canned most of what her family would need for the winter. She kept a large flock of chickens. When our step-grandma wanted a chicken for supper she went out in the yard, caught a hen by its head, swung it around her head to break its neck, brought it inside and plucked it and cooked it. Nothing was wasted. The bones were used for soup and the feathers were kept for bedding. I still have several of her home-made pillows she stuffed with her own chicken feathers.
Grandpa Kleasner was a hard working farmer and spent most of the day in his fields. He had a red face and a white forehead from where the brim of his cap kept the sun off. Everyone tiptoed around him so we did too. My mom explained he was inclined to be crabby, but we never saw it.
Aunt Tudie was a large jolly woman who worked as a telephone operator. She had never had children. Her husband, Uncle Bernard, was a drunk, very pleasant and sociable but not worth beans. Aunt Tudie had to earn the living. They lived in town.
Uncle Wayne and his wife, Aunt Gladyes, lived on the farm. Aunt Gladyes was a tiny little woman with a great big voice. Sometimes she swore. Uncle Wayne helped Grandpa with the farm work and also had a job in town. He was a baseball player and played on the Columbia team all summer. Whenever we visited during baseball season we went to every game. One year we were 20 miles out of town on our way home when we had a car problem. We were delighted. We got to return to the farm and watch Uncle Wayne in a very important game. In the evenings when there was no game he coached me and my brother and whomever else was around. After it got too dark to play ball outside everyone would come in the house and play cards til it was time for bed. Pitch was the game of choice.
The first year we went, Uncle Kenny was there, my mom's youngest sibling. He had come from Texas to meet us with his wife Dorothy and step-daughter, Sherry. Uncle Kenny was the only one of five children to go to college – even the only one to complete high school! He had been in Korea and went to college on the GI bill, becoming an accountant. His wife was a pretty little blonde woman with major problems. She had a habit of wandering off and not worrying about little Sherry who was six. Uncle Kenny never knew where he'd find her. That marriage didn't last too long. Uncle Kenny, and Wayne and Louie too, were big strong very handsome cheerful men with twinkles in their eyes, always ready to tease.
Uncle Louie was the oldest. Twice he came from California while we were visiting. I believe he was a bus driver. He was in the Battle of the Bulge during WWII driving a tank. He was with the GIs when they liberated the Concentration Camps. I have an article telling of his experiences. Uncle Louie was married to Annabelle and they had an adopted son Larry, a bit younger than I. Uncle Louie liked to fish. He took me fishing once. We sat on the bank of a stream in the woods for hours. He was afraid I was being bored but I loved it, and I can't even remember if we caught anything.
The house itself was very interesting. When you came in the front door you could go right into a large bedroom or left into the living room. Turn right in the living room and go into the kitchen. Turn right in the kitchen and go into the dining room. Then turn right into the bedroom beside the front door. Uncle Wayne and Aunt Gladyes had a small bedroom off to the back, but the rest of the house was one big circle. No basement, no furnace or air conditioner. A kerosene stove in the living room and, of course, Grandma's continuous cooking kept it warm in the winter. But they did have electricity. They didn't own the house or land, they rented.
There was no picturesque red barn, only a collection of ramshackle out buildings. There was no indoor plumbing, just a two-seater, and a well with a pump for water. Water had to be heated on the stove. Waste water was thrown into the yard. Slop and food scraps were fed to the pigs and chickens. Us city folk kept clear of the pigs, but I was allowed to feed the chickens. One day Grandma asked me to go to the hen house and collect the eggs. I came back and said I didn't know how to get the roosters off the nests. Everyone got a good chuckle out of that.
The first day I was there I asked if I would get to ride a horse. Grandma and Grandpa didn't have a horse but someone suggested I ride Farmer Palmer's old mare down in the next meadow. Someone took me down the path and lured the horse over while I climbed up a fence. They hoisted me onto the mare and then left! No saddle, no reins, no stirrups – just me and the horse. Everything was fine until she saw her colt on the far side of the meadow. She took off on a sprightly trot and I hung onto her mane for dear life. Gradually I felt myself slipping farther and farther off to one side. Then boom! I was on the ground and Horsey did me the further indignity of stepping on my ankle as she whizzed away. After I limped home everyone just laughed at my adventure and went on about their work.
Once we went down when their school was still in session and I walked with the neighbor kids to the one-room school about a mile down a grassy lane. It was interesting to me to see what it was like, all the different ages together, the older ones helping the younger ones. I was an 8th grader at the time. After lunch we played baseball. The kids were amazed I knew how to hit and catch. Then one kid spoke up and said, "Well she IS Wayne Kleasner's niece!" So of course, I should know how to play ball.
Using the out-house was a thrill that was new to me. You had to get used to the smell, but then it wasn't so bad. You could go with a pal and at night there were a zillion stars overhead. One time, while walking to the out house, my mom and I saw Sputnik shortly after it was launched.
One evening when it was bathtime and the men were all gone, Aunt Gladyes took me out in the back yard and rigged up a shower. Several sheets hung over the clothesline made an enclosure. She heated water for us on the stove. I don't remember how, but she had a way to make it drip down on us. It was kind of exciting bathing out under the sky. Uncle Wayne always drove into Aunt Tudie's to take a “real” shower. That seemed like cheating to me. In fact when anyone went away from this enchanted little place it was disappointing. They belonged here and I wanted them all to stay right here just like this and never change.
Beyond the horse pasture there was a stream. Beyond the stream a wooded hillside. On the other side of the hill, miles and miles of woods. My brother and I both spent as much time as possible roaming in the woods. On day when I came home Grandma asked where I'd gone. I told her I walked til I came to a field where some cows chased me back into the woods. She was amazed as there weren't any cows in that direction for miles and miles.
But there were cows across the dirt road on the front side of the house upon a rocky hillside. The house faced west so in the evening you could see beautiful sunsets behind that hillside with the cows on it. It made me want to paint it and I did paint a picture of that farm and the hillside. I gave it to Grandma and she loved it. But after she died it disappeared.
My brother and I were totally in love with our new extended family. You would have thought it was heaven the way we carried on about going to Missouri. I suppose they were just ordinary people. The kids had grown up dirt poor with no education or modern conveniences. But to this day when I think of farm life I picture that place in Missouri. I feel the family love and I see the cows on the hillside moseying home in the evening light.
2) Mattie Lou counted Jon and Dianne Zimmerman among the "seven grandchildren" mentioned in obituary and Dawne and Jon Stevens among the "four great grandchildren."
3) 1900 census gives birthdate of May 1895
Field Title Value Meaning
ARMY SERIAL NUMBER 39286131 39286131
NAME KLEASNER#LOUIS#W#JR##### KLEASNER#LOUIS#W#JR#####
RESIDENCE: STATE 91 CALIFORNIA
RESIDENCE: COUNTY 059 ORANGE
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT 9141 LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA
DATE OF ENLISTMENT DAY 27 27
DATE OF ENLISTMENT MONTH 02 02
DATE OF ENLISTMENT YEAR 43 43
GRADE: ALPHA DESIGNATION PVT# Private
GRADE: CODE 8 Private
BRANCH: ALPHA DESIGNATION NO# No branch assignment
BRANCH: CODE 02 No branch assignment
FIELD USE AS DESIRED # #
TERM OF ENLISTMENT 5 Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
LONGEVITY ### ###
SOURCE OF ARMY PERSONNEL 0 Civil Life
NATIVITY 75 MISSOURI
YEAR OF BIRTH 16 16
RACE AND CITIZENSHIP 1 White, citizen
EDUCATION 0 Grammar school
CIVILIAN OCCUPATION 736 Semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor
MARITAL STATUS 2 Married
COMPONENT OF THE ARMY 7 Selectees (Enlisted Men)
CARD NUMBER # #
BOX NUMBER 1416 1416
FILM REEL NUMBER 6.182 6.182
Published Friday, February 1, 2008
Ken "Kenny" Kleasner, 78, of Columbia died Nov. 17, 2007, in Houston.
Services were held Nov. 19, 2007.
He was born in Fayette and attended Hickman High School and graduated in 1947.
He was fondly called the "mayor" of McBaine.
Kenny played baseball with the Yankees farm team. He later enlisted in the Korean War.
He later went to Texas, where he attended college and worked the remaining years of his life.
Kenny leaves behind a wife, Johnnie, of Houston.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Lewis Kleasner and Mattie Brown Kleasner; brothers Lewis and Wayne; and sisters Kathryn and Tootie.
[Sent by Roalind Hassell 11/08 with the following note: "Dookie in Rayville, MO (a relative?) did do an obit. It's the attachment here. It has errors tho. He was born in 1930 so was 77 yrs old. There were no services. According to an application in his stuff, he said he was born in New Franklin, MO. I've seen his birth certificate but don't remember details."]
Revised: November 26, 2016