Throughout his life, Norman H. Klumb maintained an essence of commitment to family, faith and the joy of life itself. He was a man with an ingenious mind and an incredibly admirable work ethic, who lived by the motto “If you are going to do something, do it the right way.” A true family man, Norman’s happiest moments always involved the time he spent with his children and grandchildren. They were the people that he shared his life with, and the people that he loved.
Each generation had unique milestones and events that have helped shape future generations. The 1920s were without exception. In 1927, the advent of flight took a giant step when Charles Lindbergh made the first trans-Atlantic solo flight non-stop from New York to Paris. The entertainment world entered a new phase with the first “talkie” motion picture starring Al Jolson. On March 22, 1927, in Rockfield, Wisconsin, Norman H. Klumb was born, an event that would shape the future generations of his family.
Norman was the youngest of six children with four older brothers, Edgar, Alfred, Marvin and Hugo, and sister, Ruth. He and his siblings were raised on the family’s farm and their parents, Edward and Frieda (Klug) Klumb, made sure the kids learned responsibility by pitching in with daily chores. When the harsh economics of the Great Depression hit, his parents lost the farm in 1931, but continued to find farming work in the area. Norman was very much a “hands on” kind of boy, and from working along side his Dad, he learned to do just about anything he put his mind to. As a teenager, he became passionate about mechanics and actually took a Model A Ford, dismantled it and then built it back up. His talent and skills in mechanics would stay with him throughout his life, even influencing his career choices.
Like many young men of the time, Norman’s formal education ended after the 8th grade, when he went to work full-time in farming to help support his family. In May 1945, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, proudly serving his country as a cook. His brother, Marvin, told him to volunteer for KP because then he’d never go away hungry, and that is what Norman did. It was while in the military that he learned the ways of bartering, and would often say “Know who to talk to, to get what you want.” This know-how came in handy throughout his life!
Upon his honorable discharge on December 1, 1946, Norman returned home and got help from his sister, Ruth, in getting a job at Huebsch Laundry, where she worked on the east side of Milwaukee. This turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Norman, for it was at Huebsch that he met the love of his life, Christina Valenti. Christina was from a very traditional Catholic, Italian family so it took some time to convince her mother to even allow him, of Lutheran, German descent, to see Christina. Norman was able to win over Christina’s twin brother, Sam, and he was his advocate with her mother. It wasn’t long before love blossomed between the two, and they were happily married at Capitol Drive Lutheran Church in Milwaukee on September 3, 1949.
After saying “I do,” Norman and Christina settled into married life together living on the east side of Milwaukee near her family. It wasn’t long before the couple welcomed the births of their first two children, sons Michael and Gary. With a growing family, Norman quickly realized they would need a bigger house, so being a farm boy, he looked for some property in what others considered “way out in the country.” Before making a decision, Norman sought out the advice of his father, who told him “investing in land is good because even if the house is gone, you still have the land.” Although some family and friends thought they were “crazy” for moving to the boonies, Norman put his “can do” attitude into full gear and built them a home in Mequon, Wisconsin that they could be proud of. Soon after, Norman and Christina completed their family with the addition of three more beautiful children: Mark, Kristie and Dennis.
To provide for his family, Norman put his talents as a mechanic to use working at Schmidt Ford. However, because the company required their employees to drive Fords, and Norman was an “Oldsmobile man,” he started to look for work elsewhere. He worked in several Oldsmobile repair shops over the years, including Bob Black Olds, Stark Olds, Jaeger Olds and Balistrerie Olds. Norman worked as a mechanic for over 30 years. Then, in 1981, he decided to change his career path and took a job at Goodwill Industries in maintenance. Goodwill had taken on a large contract to do laundry for Great Lakes Naval Station, so Norman’s job was to rebuild the washers to do the work. After 11 years, Norman retired from Goodwill in 1992.
Norman was continually guided by strong values, learned from loving parents and passed on to his own children. He and Christina raised their children with a strong sense of family and a strong work ethic, which would guide them through their lives. As a skilled mechanic, Norman enjoyed teaching his sons to work on cars. His philosophy was learn by doing, so often times he’d let the boys try their hand at repairing/replacing something on the car first, and then come back and tell them how they should have done it. That was usually when he would say (in a more colorful way) “If you are going to do something, do it the right way.” Norman took great pride in being a part of his son Dennis’s racing team that he put together. Most families gather around the dinner table at night to talk about their day, but Norman and his sons would trade stories of how they fix this or that and perhaps gave advice when needed.
Although life was good for Norman and Christina, it also had its obstacles to overcome. In 1994, Norman’s health took an almost deadly turn when he suffered an abdominal aortic aneurysm, and later had heart problems and underwent carotid artery surgery as well as heart bypass surgery. Through it all, Christina tenderly cared for Norman, nursing him back to health each time. Tragically Norman lost his beloved Christina on October 13, 2004, after a stroke. They were married for 55 wonderful years. On Friday, September 21, 2012, Norman was admitted to St. Joseph Hospital in West Bend, Wisconsin after being diagnosed with an aneurysm, but sadly died the next day on Saturday, September 22nd surrounded by his beloved family.
Norman’s hard work provided him with a full and happy life. His family will always remember his strength of mind, his generous spirit and his unconditional love for his family. He will be greatly missed.
Norman was preceded in death by his cherished wife and best friend, Christina Klumb. Beloved father of Michael (Renee), Gary (Arlene), Mark (Vickie Colber), Kristie (Jeff) Thorpe and Dennis (Emily) Klumb. Loving PaPa of Andrew (Jenna), Amy (Troy), Angela (Greg), Laurie (Ben), Camisha (Justin) and Cayla (Eric). Great-Grand PaPa of Austin, Taylor, Erin, Brayden, Cade and Kolton. Dear brother of Ruth Ackmann. Fond brother-in-law of Donna Klumb and Grace Valenti. Further survived by nieces, nephews other relatives and friends.
Visitation is on Wednesday, September 26, at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, 11313 N. Riverland Road, 35 W, Mequon, WI from 3:00 p.m. until time of the Funeral Service at 7:00 p.m. Interment at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, September 27, at Christ Church Cemetery, Germantown, WI. In lieu of flowers, memorials to Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church appreciated. Suminski Lifestory Funeral Homes, Suminski / Weiss (414) 276-5122. Please visit Norman’s personal memory page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you may share a memory and sign his online guest book.