April 1924 – January 2019
Norma Mae Klaschus was born April 13th, 1924 in Turlock, California to Ruth and Knut Dahlgren. Norma grew up on Marshall Street in Turlock with her younger sister Arlene and her brother Harlan. Norma attended Turlock High School. She learned to play clarinet and marched in the band directed by Alfred Rageth. During WWII she worked for a time at Lockheed in Burbank, CA wiring electrical systems inside P38 airplanes.
During the war she met her first husband Ronald Repke while playing accordion at the Turlock Legion Hall; Ronald was a guard stationed in Turlock. They were married and moved to a remote rural farm near Repke’s family in Wisconsin. During this 10 year period Norma braved the Wisconsin cold with no running water or electricity while raising 5 children, Ronnie, Charlotte, Linda, Daniel and Jerry. The last 6 years of this time they were finally able to have electrical power in the home.
This period ended when Ronald died in a chainsaw accident while cutting wood with a friend. Norma sold everything and moved back home to Turlock where she knew she could find work. She worked at a local cannery and did extra work at home such as giving accordion lessons so that she could raise the children.
In 1961 she married Irvin Klaschus. She had known the Klaschus family as neighbors down the road in Wisconsin. The next year their last son, Irv, joined the family.
Norma continued to give accordion lessons while raising the family and Irvin taught classes at Turlock High School. They were some of the earliest members of Monte Vista Chapel and served there faithfully the rest of their lives. Norma played Clarinet in the orchestra and she also played accordion for many different children’s ministries. She also ran a cassette tape ministry and made sure the elderly as well as Monte Vista Chapel missionaries around the world could hear the weekly services.
Norma loved her Swedish heritage and made sure to make an authentic Swedish dinner for the extended family every Christmas Eve complete with dishes such as Lutefisk and potato sausage. In later years she also played at the Skandifest festival. She even played on stage once with her friend Myron Floren (from the Lawrence Welk show) whom she had struck up a friendship with through the mail.
Norma showed her Christian faith by serving people that are often lonely. She considered her gifts as God given and she used them to help mobilize others as well. For instance, she gathered friends with similar musical abilities and they played in local rest homes every month and at special events. She loved to brighten the day of seniors saying, “I love to go over on a gloomy day”. As she played and the residents began singing and tapping their toes she would see amazing things.
Norma often related how people that were unresponsive would brighten up and begin to sing when they heard their favorite song from WWII, their childhood or a hymn they knew from church. Norma knew 300 songs by heart that she could play on her accordion. She said, “Once they get into your head it sticks like a computer.”
Norma and Irvin also played music and served with the Rock Bottom ministry, which was started in Turlock to minister to people in prison and juvenile detention centers. Every Christmas their house would be converted into a cookie factory as Norma mobilized family to bake 1000 cookies and pack hundreds of bags containing cookies, candy and a gospel tract that would often be the only thing many prisoners would receive at Christmas.
When the Christian Beret camp was founded by Don Crooker, Norma got involved as a cook as well as getting food donations to the camp from local farmers. The camp was formed to give Christian summer camping experiences to handicapped children that would otherwise not have such an opportunity. Norma also mobilized friends and family to help out as counselors and other roles at Christian Beret.
Though Norma never sought any acclaim, her years of service to the community were recognized by the Turlock Chamber of Commerce in 1984 when they bestowed the “Humanitarian of the Year” award on her.
Norma continued her service until she was nearly 86. With the passing of her husband in 2011 and her failing health she had to curtail her activities. Even without the ability to care for herself, she considered that the Lord had given her a ministry of prayer from her bed. Norma would pray for those ministering to her, for police and people passing by the window. She also made it a point to pray for her surviving sons, friends and for her grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, those knowing Norma and wanting to make a gift in her honor are requested to visit www.ChristianBerets.org and support the fine work of this charitable organization that seeks to minister the love of Christ to handicapped children throughout California.