Violet Klaseen – mother, wife, grandmother, friend, teacher, Francophile, traveler and community activist – died suddenly Thursday morning., Feb. 25. She was 88.
Violet Grace Hardies was born Sept. 12, 1921, in Los Angeles. She graduated from North Hollywood High School, UCLA, and Garrett Biblical Institute in Evanston, Ill.
“Vi” loved to teach, travel and work for what was right. In the words of a local city official, “She exemplified the role of citizen volunteer and activist.”
Two American Youth Hostel trips to Europe in 1947 and 1948 to repair damaged youth hostels left indelible impressions of the wastefulness of war and led her to pacifism. Trained in theology, but, as a woman, not allowed to enter the ministry, Vi’s jobs in Christian youth work took her to Kingsville, Texas, and Fresno, before meeting Ted Klaseen at the Tuolomne Cooperative Farm in Modesto.
Married in 1949, she and Ted lived on the Farm, an intentional community, for 10 years, where all five of their children were born. Two years in Davis were followed by the move to Redding in 1961.
Filling in as a substitute in her youngest child’s classroom, Vi started her teaching career at Buckeye Elementary School, where she taught for 27 years.
She was able to return to France in 1969, and traveled there often, including her last trip in 2009. She loved all things French.
Vi gave freely of her time on civic and church causes. She worked on many city, county and citizen-initiated committees and groups. These included: Coordinating Council and Negotiating Team of Buckeye Teachers, Redding Parks and Recreation Commission, Shasta County Grand Jury, Shasta County Public Transportation Advisory Committee, Redding General Plan Advisory Committee, Shasta County Democratic Club, Shasta District Lay Leader of the Cal-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church, Shasta Women’s Refuge Board of Directors, AAUW Woman of the Year, Shasta County Citizens Against Racism Civil Rights and Social Justice award (with husband Ted).
Vi was predeceased by her parents Chris and Glee Hardies, and her brother, Edwin Hardies.
She leaves behind husband, Ted Klaseen; daughters Theo Sieg of San Rafael, Joanna Pace of El Cerrito and Elin Klaseen of Redding;, sons Sven Klaseen and Nels Klaseen of Redding; son-in-laws Ron Sieg, Clay Pace and Bob; and grandchildren Stina and Toby Sieg; Ingmar and Sofia; Ruth Pace, and many other relatives and friends worldwide, but especially in the United States and France.
The family wishes to thank the pastor, staff and members of Redding First United Methodist Church, as well as Mercy Hospital Emergency and IC Units, Golden Living Rehabilitation, and Pacific West Graphics.
The following was written by Vi Klaseen in 2003 for granddaughter Sofia Prokop as a part of Sofia’s fifth-grade class assignment on family while at Juniper Elementary School:
“I was born in downtown Los Angeles on September 12, 1921. My folks lived in Norwalk which is about 30 miles out of town. I was their first child. Three years later, my only sibling Edwin Bennett Hardies was born.
I only remember cars in the streets, but there was quite a system of street cars which ran all over the Los Angeles basin.
We moved a lot in my first ten years. I started to school in a kindergarten that was near our house. I still remember the Christmas song that I learned for a program. I also remember looking at the colored comics in the newspaper. At the same time we lived in a house that was at the top of a hill.
Later we moved to North Hollywood where I went through the 12th grade. This was in the Los Angeles School system. Even though these were the years of the depression, the school system was well funded. There was no talk, within my hearing, of no money for supplies or programs. We even had a weaving class in the eighth grade.
In 1939 I started university at UCLA. I started the same week that Germany entered Poland. I lived at home and commuted by automobile the 28 miles to Westwood. I paid fellow students 25 cents a day to ride in their cars (Jackie Robinson was also a student at the same time). The attack on Peal Harbor came in my third year. The summer of 1942 we did not have vacation, so I finished my 4 years early and graduated in February 1943.
I left the next month for graduate school at Northwestern University (Chicago, IL). I enrolled at the Methodist Seminary that was on that campus, Garrett Biblical Institute. I lived in the dormitory that was on campus, with a view of Lake Michigan. I was there two years and graduated in June 1945 with a Masters degree in Religious Education from Northwestern.
At no time in all those years did I have an automobile. I only got my own bicycle when I was about 20 years old. I had learned to ride one when I was 12. My mother never learned to ride a bicycle at all. After I finished at Northwestern, I took a job doing student religious work at the Texas College of Arts and Industries in Kingsville, Texas.
The war ended the month after I arrived in Kingsville. It was a period of returning soldiers. In 1947 and 1948 I went on two summer trips to Europe by steamship. I traveled on the U.S. Marine Tiger and the U.S. Marine Jumper. They had been troop ships, but they were turned into student ships. These ships were used for about eight years until air transport became more available. I traveled with the American Youth Hostels. I took my own bike both years.
In 1948 I left my job in Texas and came back to California. I worked in Fresno for one year with the Methodist church. There I heard of the Tuolumne Cooperative Farm, where two Methodist ministers had started a cooperative community. I visited for three weeks. I met the man who was to become my husband. I returned in November and we were married in Modesto. I got my first drivers license the month after we were married.
We lived there ten years and had five children. Sofia’s mother was number five. She was born and we left in our tenth year there.
After three years living in Davis while Ted got a Soil Science degree. We came to Redding where we have lived ever since. In 1963 Sofia’s mother started Kindergarten. Two months later her teacher decided to leave. She practically handed the class to me. I finished that year as Elin’s teacher and taught for 27 years in the same district.”
The following are memories gathered by Vi’s children:
Mom the Teacher
Mom taught at Buckeye Elementary for 27 years. She took over a kindergarten class that was already in session when the teacher had to leave suddenly. We all have slightly different memories of this start of her teaching career.
Elin, who was in her first class, remembers it as the teacher went off to China. Dad said she went to Canada. Theo perhaps the most accurate in memory, being the oldest, said that the teacher had to go to Arizona and take care of her brother who had broken his leg.
Mom was given a provisional credential and then had to travel to out-of-town classes on weekends and summers to earn the credential. Mothers working outside the home were not so common in the early ‘60’s when she started, but she said she never felt like she left us to go to work, because all five of us were going to school there at Buckeye.
She felt so fortunate to have been a schoolchild during the Progressive era of education, and in her own teaching tried to offer her students a rich variety of hand-on experiences, whether it was cooking, building, gardening, using math manipulatives, or playing with the class pet (various guinea pigs, chickens and rabbits).
If you were bored on a weekend, you could always tag along when she said, “I’m going out to school to feed the animals, do you want to come along?”
She loved teaching hands-on math in kindergarten and felt that children had to have the tactile experience of numbers before the pencil-and-paper work. She created her own system for teaching kids number sense by using piles of washers or beans or beads.
In the middle of her kindergarten classroom was a playhouse/loft. She often would remark “Don’t say to children, “Be careful going up the ladder,” or “Be careful!” because then you create cautious children, afraid to try new things.”
We five kids ended up climbing lots of ladders!
Though she taught mostly kindergarten, for a few years she taught some challenging special education classes and utilized emerging and advanced Behavior Modification techniques. She’d come home from the store with bags of M & M’s and other treats used in learning reinforcement. We’d get our hopes up, but then would realize they weren’t for us with her standard reply, “No, those are for my kids.” We were her kids, but not those kids. (Elin does remember being brought to those training sessions as a sample student and earning many of those M & M’s.)
Some of her signature activities at Buckeye were the chess club and the Kindergarten Camp Out, an overnight stay, in tents, in the kindergarten playground, including a campfire visit from the singing peace officer, and his dog. (A memorable camp out was the year the sprinklers went off in the middle of the night and no one could find the shut-off valve.) Colleague Paul Raymond tells us, “She had a larger-than-her-classroom view.”
She held offices in the Buckeye Teachers Association and in retirement faithfully attended California Retired Teachers Association meetings.
She loved teaching. She started teaching at age 42, and retired at age 69, when, among other things, her eyesight wasn’t what it had been. Apparently, not too long after she retired she learned that her new eyeglasses had been mistakenly made with her old prescription.
“If I had known that, I might have kept teaching!” she said.
Mom the Homemaker
Mom was not big on the home arts. Her mother told Violet that her job was to go to school and get a good education. She was the first one in her family to earn a college degree. Mom attributed her lack of domestic skills to the fact that her mother was so good at it.
So there she was, on the farm, with five kids and a farmer husband to cook for. She used Adele Davis’ Let’s Eat Right to Stay Fit” to learn to cook. Adele Davis was an original health food visionary, so we kids ended up with healthy eating habits.
Joanna can still remember how some of her friends’ eyes would get big as they sat down to a meal at our table and saw dishes they had never heard of before, like the grated raw turnip and fruit cocktail salad. For us, a sandwich of American cheese sandwich on white bread with Miracle Whip and a slice of tomato was a pretty exotic sandwich, having only been given whole wheat bread.
We all liked going to the frequent potlucks at the church and the Grange because of the wide choice of dishes we also never saw on our table.
Apparently those first two years they were married while on the farm, mom mostly sat inside and read novels, while Dad worked on the Farm. Theo and Joanna definitely inherited that default setting of ” When in doubt, READ!”.
It’s a misnomer to call the cooperative farm a commune. Our parents referred to it as an “intentional community”. The members were all pacifists with quite a record of activism amongst them all. We and everyone else on the farm were very poor. Mother’s family was aghast when they visited and found we didn’t even have a proper front door – just a screen and a blanket. All five kids were born on the farm within a seven-year span. The older siblings have fond memories of running around barefoot and eating lots of pomegranates.
Mom the Traveler
When Joanna tried to suggest that maybe she wouldn’t go to college, that was one of the rare times when mom told her child what to do. “College opens doors,” she admonished.
She appreciated keenly the economic power that having her own job gave her.
Of course the door that her job opened for her was the ability to travel. Those two trips to Europe right after the war so strongly shaped her world view that she wanted to go back, but the arrival of five children in seven years put that dream on hold for more than 20 years.
Her first trip back to Europe was in 1969, with 14-year-old Nels, to France and to Lebanon, to see friends she had made in Davis. Theo recalls that the friend was a Lebanese woman whom mom met in the foreign students wives club.
Joanna went to Europe with her mother in 1971, and Elin went in 1974. Dad finally went with mom after that. His preference was for staying home and going on rafting or hiking trips. They were a couple who was OK with each doing his or her own thing. That’s probably part of how they managed to stay together 60 years.
Her trips, into her 70’s, at least, were always with a rucksack on her back, taking public transportation and staying at youth hostels. The trip she took with Theo this past autumn, to France and Switzerland, was her self-acknowledged “last trip” – and so they did it a bit more deluxe: business class flight, a nice big rental car for Theo to drive, and a stay with Elin’s Swiss friends Marina and Rolf in the Swiss alps. Theo says she was a wonderful travel partner.
Nels remembers walking back to their hotel one night, on their trip, and telling her, “Wait Mom, this isn’t the way we came,” and Mom insisting that they take this different route back.
“Variety is the spice of life!” she explained. We all learned to love change. Not even the furniture arrangement in our house stayed the same. We suppose that was a way to get some of the thrill of traveling, without traveling.
Mom the Francophile
The first summer that civilians traveled to Europe, after WWII, Mom traveled on a converted troop carrier with other students on an American Youth Hostel bicycling trip. (The Raleigh bicycle she used on those trips in the late 1940’s was used by daughter Elin to commute from the train to her work in Sunnyvale in 1990).
She and the other students rode their bikes in France and Belgium, as a work party, and repaired damaged youth hostels. The next year, she was one of the trip leaders. She fell in love with France and all things French. Over the years, she took French classes, joined a French conversation group, subscribed to French magazines, and paid that extra charge on the cable bill so she could get French TV. She’d watch French game shows and tune to their news channels in times of international disasters, for the French perspective on the news.
In the ’70’s, on one of her trips, she happened to be walking by an elementary school in the Alsatian town of Wissembourg. She walked in, found the kindergarten room, and introduced herself to the teacher. She got invited home by the teacher, Annette Davi, and they became dear friends, all the way to the end of Annette’s life, just a few years ago.
The Russos family, in the mussel-growing region on the western coast of France, also became dear friends. Annick Russo ran a French language school at their farm. Mom attended for a number of summers and kept getting invited back, even after the school closed. She went back for a family wedding there and had the Russos here. She loved French food, French books, French wine and the French language, let alone her generous and hospitable friends there.
Mom the Activist
Those first two trips to war-torn Europe shaped her belief in pacifism and social justice, hence her participation in groups like Fellowship on Reconciliation, Shasta County Citizens Against Racism, Wesley Neighborhood (affordable housing,) as well as the Saturday silent vigil group against the Vietnam War that Mom and Dad participated in for years. The bicycling during those two summers in Europe were the root of her love for bike trails and public transportation. A colleague from Buckeye recalls that when the RABA (Redding Area Bus Authority) finally came into being, she pushed for a bus stop at the school. She then pitched to her colleagues that they do as many field trips as possible by taking the RABA bus. In the late ’70’s she would occasionally ride a bike to her work at Buckeye to show support of bicycling and the need to accommodate bicycling in our transportation planning.
With her theological training Mom had wanted to become a minister, but women were not allowed into the ministry at that time. Having possibilities denied to her because of gender led her to being a big proponent of women in politics. Joanna remembers sitting with her, in the early ’70’s at the Methodist Church’s Annual Conference (over 200 churches,) in Stockton. In the margin of her program she was keeping tally of the number of women who were recognized to speak, and the number of men recognized to speak. Supporting Hillary Clinton’s presidential run was a hallmark for her.
Here in Redding she will be remembered for her attendance at the Redding City Council meetings. Michael Pohlmeyer, a former city council member, sent these words in a card about mom’s comments at the Council meetings:
“Her suggestions were always on the mark and she always exhibited a complete and total grasp of the subject of discussion, no matter how complicated or tedious.”
Her children (well, Joanna and Elin) learned their meeting-going chops from Mom. We always feel like it would be cheating to leave a meeting before the end of the agenda, because, from Mom’s example, the only proper way to attend a meeting was to stay for the whole thing. Issues are always connected, and by seeing the big picture one gains better insight.
Volunteer service and honors received included:
Redding Parks and Recreation Commission
Shasta County Grand Jury
Shasta County Public Transportation Advisory Committee
Redding General Plan Advisory Committee
Shasta County Democratic Club
Shasta District Lay Leader, Cal-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church
Shasta Women’s Refuge Board of Directors
AAUW Woman of the Year
SCCAR Civil Rights and Social Justice Award (with husband Ted)
Coordinating Council of Buckeye Teachers, including negotiating team
Vi Klaseen once said that as a young person, she learned that friends were to be treasured like gold. You are one of her treasures and it will mean much to us if you join us in celebrating her life.
Saturday, March 6, 2 p.m.
Redding First United Methodist Church
1825 East St., Redding, CA, 96001
We will cherish any written memories and stories you have of Violet.
The Klaseens – Ted, Theo, Sven, Nels, Joanna and Elin, and their respective families
2295 Oak Ridge
Redding, CA 96001
Donations in Vi Klaseen’s honor may be sent to:
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
333 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 1001
Redding First United Methodist Memorial Fund
1825 East Street
PO Box 992716, Redding, CA 96099-2716
Shasta Women’s Refuge
2280 Benton Dr
Redding, CA 96003