Klaus K. Rabenhorst, age 88, of Green Lake, WI died peacefully in his sleep on Monday, February 24, 2020 at Markesan Resident Home in Markesan, WI.
Klaus was born on July 28, 1931, on the ancestral family farm, near the village of Neuendorf, Kreis Naugard in the former German Provence of Pomerania, the son of Karl and Herta (nee Kamrath) Rabenhorst. Klaus contracted polio in 1933 which left his left leg withered and posed a constant challenge for the remainder of his life. During the world-wide depression of the 1930s, life was challenging for everyone and the familys sugar beet crop was their primary source of income. Because farmers were generally self-sufficient, the family didnt suffer the food shortages that were common in most German cities at the time. As a boy, Klaus loved fishing and hunting, hobbies which he enjoyed throughout his life.
With the outbreak of WW II, the familys sugar beet crop became a national asset and given his age and disability, Klaus remained on the farm. In March 1945, the family fled the farm in the face of the advancing Russian Army; they were less than a mile away when the farm buildings were destroyed in a dawn airstrike. With only a Deutz F2M 315 tractor, a team of horses and two wagons, the family, farm hands, and their families took what they could and made their way West through the snow to eventually resettle in the farming community of Medelby, near the German-Danish border.
After the War, the tractor and wagons formed the nucleus of an agricultural transportation business which delivered farm produce to the local markets. On June 21, 1948 misfortune struck again when the Allied occupation government abruptly replaced the Reichsmark with the Deutschmark overnight. Unfortunately, the familys tractor was being repaired at the time and the 10 to 1 exchange rate left the them unable to pay for the repairs, thus they lost their only tractor. Despite continuing difficulties, Klaus completed his high school education and helped support the family through his apprenticeship as an automotive mechanic and driver.
In 1952, Klaus boarded the former troop transport, USNS General Harry Taylor (T-AP-145), in Hamburg, Germany and sailed for New York as part of a Post-WW II Marshall Plan program which recruited German refugee farmers to help expand the American agricultural economy. After leaving Ellis Island, Klaus traveled by train to Dalton where he worked on a local farm before later becoming a truck driver for the Grand River CO-OP in Markesan. Klaus shared a cottage near Little Green Lake with another German immigrant, Günther Koepp and they remained lifelong friends. Klaus and Günther shared a car and worked at various jobs in the Markesan, Randolph, and Ripon areas. After suffering multiple beatings for speaking English with an accent, Klaus enrolled in night school, learned to speak English without an accent, and completed the history and civics courses required to earn his citizenship in 1958. Before taking his citizenship oath, the Judge in Fond du Lac reminded the new citizens that
Your rights end where someone elses nose begins.
In February 1957, Klaus married Doris Page of Fairwater and they raised four children, Karl, Kurt, Kristine, and Kent in the Town of Green Lake; living first in a rented farmhouse and later in a house that Klaus and Günther built. Klaus and Doris divorced in August 1974, and Doris died in March 1982.
Despite his disability, Klaus worked as a production line assembler at Speed Queen in Ripon for over a decade before enrolling in the Mechanical Design curriculum at Moraine Park Technical Institute in Fond du Lac in 1969. Upon graduation in 1971, Klaus joined the Engineering Department at Berlin Chapman Corporation where he helped design, develop and install industrial heat exchangers used in U.S. Navy warships, nuclear power and food processing plants, and various other industries. Klaus continued to work in Berlin throughout the various corporate management changes before retiring from Senior Engineering Corporation when the facility closed in 1996.
In 1985, Klaus moved to Green Lake, and in November 1991, he married Shirley Kearley (nee Klingbeil). The couple lived together in Green Lake until Shirleys death in December 2008. In his final years, the cumulative effects of childhood polio and smoking took their toll on Klauss mobility and overall health. He was fortunate to receive excellent care at both the ThedaCare Medical Center-Berlin and Markesan Resident Home.
Klaus is survived by two sons, Karl (Laura) Rabenhorst of Kenosha, WI, Kurt (Jean) Rabenhorst of Green Lake, WI; a daughter, Kristine (Randy) Ooms of Gowen, MI; a step-daughter, Linda (Dennis) Kallas of Green Lake, WI; nine grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; a brother, Dr. Gero (Gertie) Rabenhorst of Kiel, Germany; and seven nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Karl and Herta Rabenhorst; a son Kent; both wives Doris and Shirley; and his sister Inge (Dr. Günther Voss) of Neumünster, Germany.
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic response, the visitation and memorial service originally scheduled for April 4, 2020 at the Butzin-Marchant Funeral Home in Ripon has been postponed. Per CDC COVID-19 Travel in the US and WDHS COVID-19 Travel guidance, services will not be rescheduled until after May 10, 2020. A joint inurnment with Shirley will be conducted in a private ceremony at Dartford Cemetery in Green Lake, WI at a later date. Updated information will be posted here as it becomes available. Please contact Karl Rabenhorst via the condolences link below if additional information is required.
Please visit www.butzinmarchant.com to send online condolences.