Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Early work on farm led to 100 years of growth
BY DAN NEPHIN, Staff Writer
Donald Klingler was born in New Berlin 100 years ago today and grew up on a 100-acre crop farm in Union County.
He toiled on the farm until age 23, when he went to work for a furniture store, where he repaired radios.
His interest in electronics -- and radios in particular -- paved the way to his marriage and a career.
He also was interested in amateur radio, or ham radio, and through a ham radio friend he met his wife, who was a a young widow with two sons.
He and Violet married on May 25, 1939, and spent 53 years as husband and wife, until her death in 1992.
Though they had no children together, Klingler raised Violet's two boys as his own.
His granddaughter, Jill Kelley, said he taught by example.
Once, when she was in her 20s, she said, she told him about someone taking something from her.
He told her, " 'A thief steals from no one but himself.' And I have remembered that since I was in my 20s," she said.
The lesson was to let it go, that the thief was losing more than what had been gained by stealing, she explained.
"He was always mellow. He would never make waves," she said.
He was helpful with neighbors, lending a hand or driving them to doctor appointments.
"He didn't just tell you things -- he lived the example," she said.
Klingler shared what's helped him live a long life.
"The mind has to be energized," he said.
He was active in Chambers Hill United Methodist Church, near Harrisburg, where he taught Sunday school for several decades.
An inquisitive tinkerer, Klingler built the family's record player and television and also worked on the family's cars, keeping them going 200,000 or so miles, said Kelley.
He's also a history buff and would talk with other ham radio operators about WWI.
After the furniture store and a stint with Montgomery Ward as a supply and service manager, he went to work as a subcontractor for ITT Terryphone, installing phone and intercom systems for businesses.
Klingler took up bowling at age 82 and, in his retirement, he took a silk-screening class as Harrisburg Area Community College.
"He has never stopped learning," Kelley said.
Friends and family plan to celebrate his birthday Saturday at Mennonite Home, where he's been living since October 2008.
The celebration will include chocolate cake -- his favorite -- and taking a picture of his family's five generations: two stepsons; four grandchildren; two great-granddaughters and one great-great-grandson.
Other relatives and friends also will be on hand.