Letter: Klingerman was model for honest police work

Published 10:32 am Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The stories shared this past Sunday, Dec. 21, were abundant. The over 200 persons who gathered at the church on the east side of Austin were a most delightful and positive group.

The party was to clebrate Duane Klingerman’s 90th birthday. He was a member of Grace Lutheran Church for most of his life of 90 years, and for him, no one was ever a stranger.  The handshakes were extended with the tenderness of love, while often a careful hug was placed over the shoulders of a man still tough and graceful. For some of us, age may wither, but not Duane. If you can match his smile and greeting, try it!

We may be long overdue in expanding our statements of thank you to men and women in their vocation of law enforcement.  The flow of people on Sunday made their way to spend time with a retired Austin police officer.  Duane is to be seen, I believe, as a statement of appreciation for his well-lived life of 90 years —  wow — and with a voice that yet sings Christmas hymns and talks with you about current events in this world.

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During the two hours of festive time, there was rarely an empty chair, as people sat, chatted, and satisfied their appetities with beverages and treats the shapes and colors of this Christmas season.

My appraisal of this event, which was hosted by Duane’s extended family and members of Grace Lutheran Church, was, I believe, a recognition of a man who continues to share his volunteerism and joyful friendship with many. Ask the neighbors of his southwest Austin residence.

This gathering showed a deep feeling of respect and support of a career in police work and, I believe, everyone present wanted to say “Thank You” to Duane.

A story of positive police work

As I wandered around the room (I have that trait), squeezing between dozens of tables, my conversations were, I’m sure, similarly evoked by others.  It was talk of the importance of the men and women engaged in law enforcement positions. I add this sermonic comment:  May we best treat officers who are in the departments, sheriff and police departments, or are now retired, as we best treat our conscience. If functioning with alertness, this conscience puts a check on our behavior when we violate the knowledge of our better selves. Example: When I see a person run a stop sign, I may say to myself:  “Hey, sleepyhead.  Do you want to injure someone?”  We have cognitive ability to acknowledge “rules of the road.”

What I heard at this 90th birthday party, was the recognition of some of the feats of Duane while he spent over half of his life in various positions within the Austin Police Department. A woman in her retirement years reached way back in memory. “This policeman saved my life.” Sitting across from her as we mutually munched on Christmas cookies, I said, “Please, tell me more.”  Her story?  When she was a very young girl, she was playing in one of the city parks. She was having trouble breathing, as she was choking on a quarter she had accidentally swallowed. It was lodged in her throat. As kind of miracle, Duane, who was nearby, was able to use his training to dislodge the quarter.  The woman, with a smile that was as bright as it must have been many years ago, looked toward Duane’s seat and said, “See, I’m still here.” I told her there has to be a way of telling him of her memory.  I will make sure he hears about this grand event.

My writing this is to celebrate the sacrificial and dedicated work; the focused, honest work of the vast majority of people in police work.

I add a couple of personal memories. One of the members of the Methodist church I once pastored in north Minneapolis, was part of the city council. In those years of transition with some of the tensions one could expect, north Minneapolis witnessed the movement of many Jewish families to St. Louis Park and many black families were taking their place in north Minneapolis.  Some of those often normal conflicts that occur in such population changes, were minimal. The manner that the city council and police department devoted tireless attention facilitated peace.

When the mayor of Duluth, a man attending a Methodist church I pastored, shared his coffee times by telling how proud he was of the police department, I, of course, thought of the ways people can do the Lord’s work. I assume that anyone who spends vacation time in Duluth can still depend on smooth sailing and safety due to police officers on duty.

The many persons who shared their “Duane memories” were giving us a witness to 90 years, and how those years reflect how gracious and necessary police work is accomplished. Noting that some current police officers were present, I’m sure some of their admiration for Duane will translate into the kind of police work we now honor and support.

Marvin Repinski