My dad (Walter Kleinsasser) would have been 98 years old on Nov. 9, but he died in 2015 at the age of 92. He was truly one-of-kind. He was a great dad, husband, and father, who, with my mom, spoiled me rotten and I loved every minute of it.
One of the best things he did was to write his memoirs. Since this is a sports column, I’ll share some of his athletic-related stories, starting with a cheating scandal when he was a kid growing up in California.
“The local 4-H club had a basketball tournament coming up, and since Harold (brother) was a pretty good athlete, and I could also play a little, they asked us to join the club. That sounded like fun, especially since we didn’t know what we were getting into. Dad had bought three pigs to raise for butchering, so we decided that we could each claim one for a project.
“I guess we decided we could easily cheat a little in filling out forms regarding, food, etc. A slight problem developed. One of the pigs was a runt, and one had a softball size hernia on its belly. No sweat, who would ever know?
“All went well, and we even won the tournament. One beautiful spring day I saw two cars pull into the yard. This time there was lotsa sweat because it was the 4-H leader and the club members making the rounds to see the various projects.
“My back was to the wall, and I became a believer of, ‘Be sure your sins will find you out.’
“We led the group to the pig pen, and it was a sorry sight. A trough with slop in it and three pigs as described above. The leader was kind enough to point out the nutritional value of slop, and then they soon left.
“Needless to say, that brought a fast ‘whoa’ to our 4-H experience.”
My dad’s father didn’t always appreciate his boys’ attention to sports, but when he backed up and knocked over the basketball goal in the middle of the yard, he put it back up before the boys knew it was down. My dad said, “I still don’t know how he did it by himself.”
My dad and mom moved to Hillsboro to work at Tabor College when I was five years old.
“The advantages of being employed at a college (especially at a Christian denominational school) are numberless. The collegiality one experiences, getting to know students and parents, traveling, assisting in sports, drama, music, special speakers and conferences and other areas keeps one mentally, physically, and spiritually alert.
“Throughout my tenure, I was able to participate in intramural football, basketball, volleyball, and track. I ran the time clock for basketball games 30 years, and handled the downs box at football games ever since football started at Tabor. Esther (my mom) and I were able to work together for 30 years. Living one block from work all that time made it possible for us to get by with only one car.
“In May of 1974, Coach Holmskog informed me that the following spring his aerobics class would run the 13-mile road and asked if I would want to join them. I started running immediately, and in fall I felt I was ready. The problem was no one else was.
“I waited two weeks and finally went and ran it by myself. Two weeks later another fellow wanted to run it, so I went with him. On Nov. 9, my 53rd birthday, I ran it again.
“That got me started, and I have been running ever since. I have run over 14,000 miles, including many races from three to 15 miles, five marathons, one 52-mile run and two triathlons. I was never a great runner but was one of the top three in Kansas in the 50-and-over category.
“My most satisfying 10K was getting first place in the River Run in Wichita, beating a fellow that won five gold medals in the World Masters Track Meet. It is true that he was a sprinter rather than a long-distance runner, but still a fantastic athlete.”
Dad, I miss you. Thanks for the memories!