Thelma Jane McPike Klauss
June 16, 1926 - December 16, 2020
On December 16, 2020 beloved mother, grandmother and great grandmother, Thelma Jane McPike Klauss, age 94, passed away from complications of cancer at Capitol Manor in Salem, Oregon.
Thelma was born on June 16, 1926 in Gooding, Idaho, the daughter of Baptist minister Rev. Marion Jefferson (M.J.) McPike and Ada Shaw McPike, who had both moved from Missouri. Her grandparents were Francis M. McPike and Alice Belle Proctor McPike of Palymra, Missouri and George Shaw and Niza Ginther Shaw of Linneus, Missouri.
During her early school years Thelma moved often, whenever her father accepted the post of Pastor at a different church. Through the years, they lived in Gooding and Eagle, Idaho, as well as in Belgrade and Helena, Montana before finally settling in Missoula, Montana where Thelma graduated from Missoula County High School. Among Thelma's recollections from childhood were her parents always having a garden and her father raising bees. She remembered seeing snow on the mountains for the first time at age seven when she moved to Belgrade, and marveling at the beauty. Her parents took her by train to Missouri to visit her grandparents, and cousins, making sure she knew where her parents came from.
Thelma’s love of music began while she was living in Helena where she had a chance to learn to play the big organ at the Catholic Cathedral. This music skill became an important focus of her life.
As a Pastor’s daughter she sat through regular dinner conversations with foreign missionaries, who opened her mind to people and ideas from all over the world, and established her ability to engage and enjoy conversations with everyone. She had a sincere interest in everyone she met and an inquiring mind. For years, she took the time to keep detailed notes and cards from people so she wouldn’t forget her conversations, the names of their children, or where they lived. Her family marveled at her ability to remember details of their friends whom she had only met once or twice.
After high school, Thelma left Missoula to go to Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon where she was a popular member of a sorority and jumped at the chance to be in plays and musicals whenever she could. It was here that she met her life loving husband of 58 years, Vermoine Vertelle (V.V. or Curly) Klauss, who had just returned home from fighting in the Pacific during WWII. The handsome, dark-haired avid outdoorsman caught Thelma’s eye and she stayed by his side for the rest of his life.
After a marriage ceremony performed by her father on Christmas Day in 1946 in Missoula, Thelma and Curly lived for a short time in the Dallas, Oregon area, then moved to Missoula to be near her parents. They built their modest home on Strand Avenue that they occupied for over 20 years. They had two children, Carol born 1951, and Julie born in 1955. Thelma and Curly made life-long friends in the Young Adult Group (YAG) group at the First Baptist Church and with their neighbors on Strand Avenue. During this time the family participated in raising funds to build a new First Baptist Church where Thelma was organist and where her daughter Carol was married. Curly and Thelma always stayed in touch with these early friends from Missoula.
In Missoula, Thelma taught music and worked part time, playing the organ for Squire Simmons and Carr funeral home, as well as at the Baptist church. She was delighted to have played for weddings and funerals of all religious denominations and often told stories of interesting or funny events that took place even in the saddest of funerals.
After Curly retired from the US Post Office, they moved back to Oregon where her brother Max McPike and family, as well as Curly’s brother LaMoine Klauss and sister Darlene Rillette, and her parents, M.J. and Ada, were now living. They enjoyed 30 years in Salem Oregon, living around family. Thelma continued playing music for Virgil Golden Funeral Home in Salem and at the Trinity Methodist and First Presbyterian churches where she and Curly attended. Curly and Thelma enjoyed their days camping in their “Bigfoot” camper throughout Oregon and being at the Embarcadero in Newport with Carol’s family, watching their grandkids grow and enjoying the ocean as much as they could. Curly perfected his fishing and crabbing while Thelma concentrated on walking the beach and trying not to miss a beautiful sunset or moon. They moved into Capital Manor in 2001. It was here that she played the organ for Vespers services and other occasions as called on. After Curly’s death in 2004, Thelma continued living at the manor, doing very many volunteer services, including working on the Kiosk, Music, Flower, and Spiritual life committees for which she was recognized for her hours of work over the years. She continued to tend her garden, growing berries and flowers that she passed out to friends at Capitol Manor. She continued going to church and living her motto of “you are never to old to make a new friend.” She was surrounded up until the last days by the love of many of these friends at the Manor, sharing ice cream, watching mysteries and laughing.
We will miss terribly her wise words, her love of the world and her friendship and love.
Thelma was predeceased by her parents, brother Max, sister-in-law Margaret, her husband Curly and recently her daughter, Julie Klauss who passed away in May 2020. She is survived by her daughter Carol Yenne (Bill) of San Francisco, and her grandchildren: Azia Yenne Bolos (Mike) , Annalisa Temple (Todd) and their children in San Francisco, and Emily Giometti Smith (Steve), their two children, and Anthony Giometti of Cincinnati, Ohio. She will also be missed by the numerous nieces and nephews who cherished her notes and visits. She was lucky to have lived to see the birth of many great-grandchildren who she always remembered with a birthday card each year. She enjoyed every visit with them and walked the Oregon beaches with three of her “greats” as she called them just this past fall.
She remarked that on several occasions through the years that “angels” were by her side, allowing Curly to come home after the war, when so many of his friends did not, and an incident in later years where she and Curly sailed off a road down a cliff while driving to the coast and were rescued by the tow truck that just happened to be driving behind them, perfectly positioned to rescue them. When she set about dying, she said that she had nothing left that she wanted to do, and was ready for her final walk. She had a good and long life, but we will miss her every day so terribly.
In honor of her memory, please consider bringing a friend some fresh flowers, as she would have done, or donations in her memory may be sent to Capitol Manor where she was so well cared for during her last weeks, or Willamette Valley Hospice in Salem Oregon.
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