Vincent “Don” Klein was a man of the soil and the salt of the earth. Farming was his way of life as well as his vocation. It let him live simply yet inventively. Meat and potatoes and strawberry sundaes gave him as much pleasure as growing corn, beans and producing exotic oils. He was proud of his accomplishments and his ability to provide for his family. By his character and actions, Vincent gained the respect of his community and instilled such core values as honesty and hard work for the generations that follow him.
Vincent was born to John and Elizabeth Klein on June 17, 1917 in Kalamazoo, Michigan just months after the United States was drawn into “the war to end all wars.” He came of age during the Great Depression and personified an era in which a man’s word and a handshake were enough to get a job done right.
The Klein family built a life on the farm in the small community of Mendon, where Vincent, nicknamed Don, was the second of eight children: Ed, Don, Rita, Mary, Dorothy, Pauline, Bob and Cecila (not in order). From an early age, Don took on serious responsibilities around the farm, so much so, that he had to quit his talent in baseball to work on the farm after school. When he graduated from Vicksburg Public Schools in 1934 and took agriculture classes at Michigan State University, he completed only a few courses before going back home to work the farm. By then, farming was in his veins, and Don continued in the profession his entire life.
During the years after high school, Don was introduced to Ruth Seaburg on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend. It was the beginning of a year-long courtship that culminated in marriage in 1945. Don and Ruth were blessed with three children—Shirley, Mary Jane and Carol—who quickly adapted to rural life. Dogs were just a few of the many animals on the farm that, at one time, included an orphaned fawn which the family raised.
Farming was the only job Don ever had and the only one he wanted. When he bought his farm, it was by virtue of his work ethic. The bank didn’t hesitate to loan him the money and never regretted investing in a man who knew exactly what he wanted to do. To Don, farming was demanding work but also sheer delight. He started out growing mint and then herbs such as wormwood used for medicinal oil, and he designed and built his own distillery. He considered his business more of a hobby, because he could make money doing what he enjoyed.
Though he was all business, Don had a playful side to him. He had a sense of humor and a bit of wanderlust. Most winters, he traveled with a farmers’ group to sites around the world: Europe, Israel, Hawaii, New Zealand, Brazil and several other places. He could be “hard-nosed” and strong-willed, but his heart was made of gold. Don was caring and kind. His strong Catholic faith kept him firm in his convictions and rendered him a man of his word. He leaves a legacy of honesty and integrity.
Vincent “Don” Klein, age 97, of Flowerfield, Michigan passed away Sunday, July 21, 2013 at Heartland Health Care. Visit with his family and friends and view his life story film on Tuesday, July 23 from 4:00 to 7:00 at the Life Story Funeral Home, Vicksburg; 409 S. Main St. (269-649-1697). A funeral service will be held on Wednesday, July 24 at 11:00 a.m. at the same location. Don’s family includes his wife of 67 years, Ruth; his 3 children; 7 grandchildren; 13 great grandchildren and 4 great-great grandchildren; 3 siblings, as well as several nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by 4 siblings. Please visit Don’s memory page at www.lifestorynet.com where you can read his life story, archive a memory or photo and sign his memory book online before coming to funeral home. Memorial donations can be made to Heartland Hospice.