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The Mexico Ledger - Mexico, MO
  • Guest column: When voluntarism becomes visionary: A thank you to Candace and John Klemann

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  • I clearly remember the day Candace Klemann stood in my disheveled yard as I said, “I need HELP.”  And she said, “Well, John and I can give you some.”  Thus began an entire landscaped drought-resistant garden which I hoped would make people struggling up the 200+ steps to the lighthouse a bit happier despite their sweat and groans.
    What I didn’t know was that I had received the Klemann “initiative.”  Candace, with her husband John’s help, simply sees the town in its POTENTIAL best light.  She sees the obstacles standing in the way—and she decides to do something.  Volunteer.   So here’s a small incomplete list of what this couple has done for Hannibal, as they plan to leave and move to Florida.
    The Hannibal Arts Council lived in quaint quarters in the Wedge.  While lovely, quirky, and inspiring to those of us who love art, it was a somewhat unknown treasure tucked in the outskirts of the historic district.  Then came the year when a building on South Main (across from the new movie theater) went up for sale.  Candace happened to be president of the Art Council Board.  Buying that building was, frankly, a scary prospect.  Money (large quantities of it) had to be raised.  Candace became instrumental in believing the Council would thrive in the new location and be a much larger asset to Hannibal.  Today, it is a showcase of art, culture, community events, and yes—larger awareness in the community.
    History and heritage and Hannibal came together in innumerable ways.  Joining Friends of Historic Hannibal (FOHH) and Marion County Historical Society (MCHS) meant stints at upending buried stones in the Old Baptist Cemetery, spending countless hours year after year standing in cold booths at the Folk Life Festival, and working on fund-raising historic home tours.  She suggested that the old stone
    “Welshman’s Cottage” be made available by MCHS to Faye Dant to house her “Huck Finn Freedom Center—Jim’s Journey” museum highlighting Hannibal’s black history.  She helped clean it out, clean it up, and install exhibits.
    When Ken and Lisa Marks opened the Hannibal History Museum, labor was the most needed and valued commodity.  And here it is worth noting that John has provided a full 50 percent of this Klemann volunteer enterprise.  Painting, scraping, repairing, wiring, remodeling, restructuring, standing on ladders, examining problems—often it is John who “completes the vision.”
    Volunteering in the Hannibal chapter of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), she spent countless hours conducting home visits, writing reports, and testifying in court for neglected and abused children.  Making sure these little ones were thriving, she often drove a couple hundred miles.
    Page 2 of 2 - When Hannibal’s Community Partnership for Reconciliation (CPR) embarked on an ambitious project of educating a small group of middle schoolers about Hannibal’s history in preparation for an oral history project, Candace became a core team member.  The students interviewed our elders, both African American and Caucasian, took guided history tours, met with our newspaper editor, and learned how to professionally record interviews.  Candace, a former teacher, promoted the use of trolleys, picnic-style lunches, and storytelling techniques—even showing where Hannibal houses a very rare tombstone for a slave—all of which helped make the summer program exciting for the participants.
    Everything fascinates (or frustrates) her.  You are likely to find her on the phone with the City Engineer, Director of Parks and Recreation, Chief of Police, City Manager, or Building Inspector.  It might be about trash, drugs, landlord violations, noise, road safety, bike trails, widow-maker trees, or snow.  She’ll walk town officials on tours of problems-to-be-fixed.  Cordial, and often with a sense of humor thrown in, she succinctly describes things that, if only addressed, would make a significant difference in the quality of life in Hannibal.
    Eventually civic leaders learned that if you could get Candace on your working committee, you had a real head start on things.  She was instrumental in getting our Christmas season Living Windows started.  She helped establish the haunted tours that have exponentially grown and are now handled by the Hannibal Museum.  She taught yoga at the YMCA for years, with a dedicated following.  She’s a thoughtful networker, reaching out to newcomers, introducing them to potential friends—often hosting dinners at her home to do so.
    Even knowing the end is in sight for her time in Hannibal, she joined in helping the Juneteenth celebration; she worked this summer on the Community Garden; she joined the Tree Board; she helped clean up the levee gardens (always with John at her side).
    We often use the word volunteer to thank people who work for free and often without acknowledgement—and certainly Candace and John have been extraordinary volunteers.  But she embodies something much more than that.  She couples vision with passion for this town, seeing its potential, laughing at its foibles, raging at its inadequacies —committing her SELF to making it better.
    She brought vision, hope, and hands to everything she touched.
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