With only months to live due to cancer, Dolores Klingeisen continues making rosaries
CLARKS MILLS - Dolores Klingeisen, 83, carefully opens a large envelope, retrieved from a living room shelf, to reveal photos of children in a modest classroom. A picture of a young boy sitting at a desk brings a smile to her face. She doesn't know the student, or the school he attends, but recognizes the light blue and white rosary in his hand. It is one of 100,500 rosaries Klingeisen has made in the past 15 years.
"I started in 1994," she said. "The sisters at church (Immaculate Conception, Clarks Mills) had been making them. They were looking for someone to do it. I said, ‘I will make rosaries.'"
Henry Kopp of Kimberly pays for the supplies. Vic Remiker of Clarks Mills cuts the strings to the proper length, and Klingeisen orchestrates the small plastic beads to create the rosaries. The Marian Council at Immaculate Conception reimburses her for the postage. Most are distributed to missions through the "Rosaries for the World" program of Holy Cross Family Ministries.
Dolores Klingeisen threads a rosary bead through string. Most of the rosaries she makes are distributed to missions through the “Rosaries for the World” program of Holy Cross Family Ministries. Klingeisen has made more than 100,000 rosaries. Rick Evans photo
Klingeisen also donates rosaries to Franciscan Sr. Florence Piotrzkowski of Manitowoc, who sends them to school children, like those in the photos. Rosaries have also been sent to military personnel.
"Before these, I made the regular chord rosaries," she said. "I must have made 2,000 of those."
Klingeisen can make a beaded rosary in 10 to 15 minutes. She has produced as many as 25 to 30 in a day. Her husband of 63 years, Lester, 90, helps sort the crosses. Three hundred are separated in a bag. The amount is recorded on the calendar, which helps Dolores keep track of her total.
The Klingeisens pray the rosary each day.
"I was brought up that way," said Lester. "My parents, my mother especially, taught us the importance of praying the rosary. We also prayed the rosary at the beginning of school. Today, many people just don't make time for it."
Dolores, who also uses several Blessed Mother prayer books each day, said she hopes that her rosaries help deepen the prayer lives of the recipients. She downplays her dedication to helping others.
"It gives me something to do," she said. "I get out of wind trying to do other things. I can do this fast. If I didn't have something like this to do I would go crazy."
In November of 2007, Dolores was diagnosed with lung cancer. She had surgery to remove a third of her lung. Doctors initially thought the cancer was gone, but were mistaken. Her lung is now filling up with fluid, and she is on oxygen to assist her breathing. Near Christmas, she was told that she had approximately three months to live. Treatment was offered as a means to extend her life.
"I told them, ‘No, I'm not taking the treatments,'" she said.
Instead, Dolores said she will "put it in God's hands."
Despite Dolores' illness, the couple feels lucky. They have 11 children, all living in Wisconsin, 24 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. Following their wedding in 1945, the couple lived in the area now known as Whitewater Acres. They moved to a larger dairy farm in Clarks Mills in 1962, and built their current home in 1985. Lester still helps out with tractor work on his son Joe's horse training farm.
The couple's oldest child, Fr. Dick Klingeisen, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay in 1972. He currently serves as an associate pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Manitowoc and coordinator of Diocesan Health Services.
Dolores said she was very happy when he decided to become a priest.
"I prayed for that when he was born," she said. "I prayed I would have a son who was a priest and he was the first son."
Another son, Reiny, served as a priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. He is now a guidance counselor at West De Pere High School.
Dolores plans to continue to make rosaries as long as possible. She is concerned about the future of the ministry from the parish, not only due to her health, but also the fact that Remiker is 97 years old.
"I hope they can keep this going," said Dolores. "I was trying to teach the women of the Marian Council how to make rosaries. Some were able to learn how to do it fairly well. Others took an hour and a half because they had to keep opening up the knots. The only time I have trouble is if the bead isn't open the way it should."
The photos of the children and the many thank-you notes throughout the years are rewards for her efforts.
"It's nice when they write letters," she said. "There is still such a demand for the rosaries."