In memory of a village treasure

21 Nov

On March 3, 2018, the Village of Webster lost one of its most precious people, Carol Klem.

I had known Carol for less than 10 years, but we shared a passion for local journalism, and a love for the village. When we first met — I don’t remember when or where it was, but it was probably at some village event — we immediately hit it off.  Aside from bonding over our love of writing and journalism, we recognized in each other the same determination to live life fully, not take life too seriously, and never completely grow up.

For more than ten years, Carol penned the Village Focus column in the Webster Herald, and was basically the village’s biggest cheerleader. On November 21, 2017, the Webster Village Board returned the favor. To show Carol how much her efforts were appreciated, they presented her with a proclamation and named the day after her. Every year hence, November 21 would officially be Carol Klem Day in the Village of Webster.

Given that today is Carol Klem Day 2021, I wanted to post something in memory of my friend. What follows is an article I wrote for the Webster Herald which ran the week before the proclamation.

If you’ve lived in the Village of Webster for any length of time, chances are very good you know Carol Klem — or at least know about her.

It helps that for the last 12 years, as Village Focus columnist, Carol’s smiling face has appeared every two weeks on the village website and in the Webster Herald.

But even if you don’t regularly read her column, you’ve almost certainly seen Carol around town, chatting with fellow journalists at Barry’s Old School Irish or at Golden Boys, visiting with local business owners, or darting back and forth during parades, festivals and other special events, snapping photos for her column.

Basically, the name Carol Klem has become synonymous with all things good about the Village of Webster. For years, she’s been the eyes and ears of Webster, like a town crier, using her column to cheer accomplishments both big and small. She has introduced us to new businesses and old businesses. She has written tender obituaries, announced births and anniversaries. She has told us about upcoming special events and charmed us with personal musings about small-town life. And every Christmas she has delighted us all with her epic holiday poem.

Carol was born in Rochester in 1938, the oldest of three children, and lived with her family in the Beechwood section of the city. While she was attending high school at Nazareth Academy, her parents decided to move to Webster, in a home they built on Basket Road.

At that time, Webster was very rural, and was really considered the “boondocks.” Moving from the city to farm country was a big adjustment, but it gave Carol lots of handy excuses for being late for school. One of them, her daughter Mary Kay remembers, was “the Schreiber cows were loose on Basket Road.”

Carol attended Nazareth College, where she studied English and music, and was hired at Holy Trinity School, where she taught first through third grades.

Carol was the school’s first lay teacher. “It was mom and all the nuns,” Mary Kay said. “It was really quite funny. I think she was very different from the nuns. I can’t imagine a bunch of nuns and my mom!”

It was while she was teaching at Holy Trinity that she met Gene, her husband of 57 years. They were introduced by then-pastor Fr. William Kalb in 1959, married the following year, and immediately started a family. Mary Kay was born in 1961, followed closely by Tom, Greg and Doug. Many years later, in 1978, little sister Meg joined the family.

Carol worked through her first pregnancy, then became a stay-at-home mom. It was only after all the kids had all grown and moved on that she re-entered the workforce, finding part-time work with the Webster Post, writing wedding announcements and obituaries.

At 47 years old, Carol Klem the journalist was born.

“I remember her starting with a portable typewriter,” Mary Kay said. “I couldn’t imagine she would ever be computer-literate, and Word proficient. Although she still has a knack for losing files.”

In 2005 Carol left the Post and was asked to join the Webster Herald as the Village Focus columnist. She had finally found her true calling: writing about the village she loves so dearly.

And she does love Webster dearly. In September 2015, in an interview she recorded for the non-profit Webster Together organization, Carol called the village “the heart of Webster.”

“I just love our town. I love the people in it, and I love the spirit,” she said. “I’d love to see the village definitely take off. I think that whatever happens, we have the right people to make the decisions.”

I think Carol would be happy with the direction the village is going. She’d be sad to see long-standing businesses like The Music Store close, but happy about all of the new shops that have moved into the village. And given the social butterfly she was, this COVID stuff would have driven her up a wall. I don’t think it would have slowed her down too much, though. I can picture her in a mask, swinging her little digital camera as she chronicled life getting back to normal.

I miss her ever-present smile, boundless energy and joie de vivre. I’ll be raising a glass to her today.

* * *

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4 Responses to “In memory of a village treasure”

  1. Julie Klem Gocker November 21, 2021 at 6:59 am #

    I was lucky enough to have Carol Manske Klem as my 2nd grade teacher at Holy Trinity…she was the most animated and enthusiastic teacher I ever had…She was a Webster treasure! Thank you, Missy, for the touching remembrance.

  2. Robert Steinorth November 21, 2021 at 11:41 am #

    She was a treasure. Thanks for the remembrance. Bob Steinorth
    Sent from my iPad

  3. Nancy Adams November 22, 2021 at 10:54 am #

    Missy, Thanks so much for remembering Carol. Like you, Carol and I bonded when we first met many years ago. Later on when we realized we were both Ladies of Nazareth, the bond was forever cemented. I miss her an awful lot, as does anyone who was privileged to know her. Thank you for keeping the Village voice alive. Carol is smiling down on you for sure. Nancy Adams Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone Get Outlook for Android

    • websterontheweb November 22, 2021 at 11:18 am #

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Nancy. You made me tear up.

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