Kleinpeter Matriarch and Sweetie Pie!
By Keith John Paul Horcasitas
Living and Loving Memories of my aunt, Sr. Mary Joselia Kleinpeter, SSND, who has been a great mentor and a family link for my mother's side of the family - the Kleinpeters, who live in Louisiana.
My late mother, Mercedes Kleinpeter Horcasitas, was one of 10 children and a first cousin to the local Kleinpter Dairy Family, who have blessed this Baton Rouge region with so much heartfelt love, nutrition and enriched calcium for us – whether per milk, ice cream or other “non rBGH” products. The oldest of her siblings who still survives in her 90s, with 5 other septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians, is Sr. Mary Joselia Kleinpter, SSND (“Mildred”), a School Sister of Notre Dame nun who still lives in Chatawa Mississippi. They were all raised by my late Kleinpeter Grandmother in the Mid-City area of New Orleans, where my late Kleinpeter Grandfather, Francis Kleinpeter, Sr., developed a grocery store that most of my aunts, uncles and my mom worked at for many years.
Sr. Joselia, who celebrated her 75th Anniversary as a SSND on June 4, 2011, is someone very special and as an aunt, she always has found ways to reach out to the family and friends, whether in New Orleans where she served for many years or in other venues for her order. How can I forget all of the goodies she would bring to us at Christmas or other festive or simple visitations with us and other members of the Kleinpeter Family? Sr. Joselia used to be the vital link for us New Orleans Kleinpeter natives with our Red Stick relatives, who also did so much with her. She would be very involved in the reunions for the family that were mainly held in Baton Rouge with the late “Big Boy,” Ben, Jeff and others from the Dairy helping so much. Now that I and my family have been in the Red Stick since the early 90's, we still look to Sr. Joselia as a timeless connection for all of the families.
At the SSND Mother House in Chatawa Mississippi, not far north of the Louisiana border off of I-55, it was always a blast as a kid to go with family to visit with her and get to know other religious and their families on visitations. While consecrated and not married, she still has been like another grandmother for me and other Kleinpeter family per her sharing so much of her care, time and possessions. We even got a Christmas card from her this past year, and I will never be able to recount the many religious cards, relics, statues, toys etc. that she has given to us over the years! It was neat to also see special items at the Mother House, like the Madonna Statues that one of the early Mother Superiors had collected from around the world where the order had communities.
When I was a kid, the first trip that I remember taking to the Mother House was when Helen, my older sister, went for a summer boarding camp up there. There is a nice pond that greets you as you come off the beautiful winding road from I-55 that takes you to St. Mary of the Pines, as it is called. After passing the pond and before the main entrance to the headquarters, you also get to view a special cemetery located adjacent to the road which is the final resting place for the deceased religious of the community.
Being a city slicker from New Orleans, it was great to feel “out in the country” on these outings and to stop for some free “Kentwood Water” from the springs nearby. I will never forget finding and keeping a gigantic grasshopper that David, my older bother, and I found in the woods by the Mother House – I named it “Micky,” since my sister was really into The Monkees, and my favorite member was Micky Dolenz, their drummer! How funny when I think back to then that I had decided to let Micky D. go free in the grass at a McDonald's in New Orleans, where we had gone for a snack after the trip to Mississippi!
Also, it was always fun on our trips to Chatawa after lunch with Sr. Joselia to go to the gift shop and ceramics displays there. There were so many hand made items like stuffed animals and toys that it felt almost like “Santa's Little Workshop” to us kids. Sr. Joselia has always been very charismatic and engaging, especially with kids, so we really looked forward to those times or the occasions when she would come in town for a short visit. However, since kids will be kids, we did at times not always welcome Sr. Joselia's effervescent personality, that sometimes involved her squeezing our “baby cheeks” rather hard when greeting us when she saw us. As we got older, we thought of ways that we could help prevent her from innocently grabbing our faces as a sign her sincere affection for us – we would high tail it to the gift shop!
Uncle Raymond Kleinpeter, the only bachelor of my late mom's siblings, used to have Sr. Joselia over to his house quite often. And since we went to see her almost every time when she was in town, where we also enjoyed swims at Uncle Ray's pool, it became a tradition. Another few annual gatherings that the New Orleans Kleinpeters would have that Sr. Joselia would join with us at times were the Christmas Parties at Aunt Clare and Uncle Warren's house, as well as the Mid-City Parades by the old Kleinpeter Grocery Store on South Jefferson Highway and Bienville Avenue. Of course, there were many LSU Tigers games that we attended at times with other Kleinpeter relatives from both the Big Easy and the Red Stick! Also, I would think that Sister was very responsible for helping Uncle Ray and others with the great genealogical work that he and others have done for the Kleinpeter heritage. In addition, it was fun in the past for some of my family to join Uncle Ray when he helped give a tour at the Kleinpeter Dairy location in Montpelier, Louisiana - where those Golden Guernsey cows get such great attention; I'm sure Sister was able to visit there once!
There were so many other neat things that we would do upon our excursions to visit with Sr. Joselia. After getting married and having kids on our own, we would treat them to the treasures of Chatawa! One particular gathering was around the time that “Barney,” the purple dinosaur, had just made a big splash on television. Sr. found out about a benefactor who had a friend with a “Barney Party Act” who wanted to do something special for the nun's families, so she invited many of the family to a gathering in Chatawa. No matter how many times we heard Barney say, “I love you, you love me, we're a happy family, with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, won't you say you love me to,” we really thought that was Sr. Joselia's song! Later, like most kids will mischievously do with songs, we got to hear another version to that tune that they made up! About 4 years ago, I joined our youngest son with his fellow boy scouts to take a great tour of the local Kleinpter Dairy.
More recently in 2008, Sr. Joselia and Chatawa were a refuge for us, as we and some other Kleinpeter family members were able to stay there when Hurricane Gustav was approaching the Red Stick. What a blessing to stay with the Sisters during that time when most of Baton Rouge was unfortunately out of power for about 7 + days during the aftermath of that summer storm! Besides the great fellowship and safety at St. Mary of the Pines, we had great meals and fun activities. I will always fondly remember us as a family having fun playing “balloon volleyball” sitting down on chairs with some disabled nuns in wheelchairs on both sides of the net and competitively whopping that balloon around!
In 2001, per cultivating a friendship with Kenny Kleinpeter, a 2nd cousin on my mother's side of the family who is a musician with his own music and studio, I began to inquire about the possibility of putting together my first CD. Maria and I would also go over to Kenny's to fish with the kids, since he used to reside next to a lake. So after some planning, we scheduled some recording dates. It was really exciting to be able to put some songs together that I'd collected over the years and had been working on in a more accelerated fashion then. I attribute Sr. Joselia with encouraging me to develop more contact with the Red Stick Kleinpeters like Kenny. It was also neat to join Kenny, Ben and others last year at night on All Soul's Day at Kenny's new home near to Highland Cemetery, where Fr. Paul Counce helped to give a Blessing and recognition to the Kleinpeter and other family members who are buried there. In the past, I also dearly remember our family going with Sr. Joselia a few times to visit a more distant Kleinpeter connection, the late Robert Kleinpeter, who had a Farm off of Perkins where they used to have hayride parties. It was so fun there milking the cow and doing other fun outdoor stuff with Sister while visiting with other Kleinpeter kin.
Thank you, Sr. Joselia, for giving us Kleinpeter Family such a great example of self-sacrifice, love and caring. Make no bones or “moos” about it – she is definitely the “Sweetie Pie” of the Kleinpeter clan!
Keith John Paul Horcasitas, LCSW, MHA, 1133 Knollhaven Drive, BRLA, 70810, firstname.lastname@example.org, January 1, 2012.
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