Through Any Given Door

1.20 Sketches of Clemens Family

RooseveltTheir parents were not openly affectionate to the children, but they took it for granted that their parents loved them. It’s not that Grandpa and Grandma didn’t care; they had work to do: cows to milk, corn to husk, bread to bake, mouths to feed. As soon as the kids were old enough to feed a chicken or carry a bucket, they had work to do too. When they grew up, most of them ran their own farms. It was the life they knew.

Sketches, pictures, and clippings of the Clemens children:

Calvary Cemetery

1. Unnamed twin (female) Clemens
1898 – 1898 (died at three days); Rochester, Minnesota
2. Unnamed twin (male) Clemens
1898 – 1898 (died at three days); Rochester, Minnesota

3. Mary Anne Clemens
Born: Oct 29, 1899, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: May 7, 1994 (age 94); Pepin Township, Minnesota
Married: Sep 9, 1924, Francis Peter “Frank” Wallerich, Rochester, Minnesota
Five children

Elizabeth and Michael, Mary and Frank

Mary, the oldest child, was the first to wed, with her sister Elizabeth and Frank’s brother Michael standing up for them. At the time all the eligible neighboring farm boys were already spoken for, so at twenty-two, she didn’t know anyone to marry. Her mother had been in Wabasha and found out about a nice fellow there who needed a wife. Frank was a fourth cousin of the Nigons on Grandma’s father’s side of the family. They too lived off the land, selling their cream and the pigs they raised. She grew medicinal herbs in her garden, was up early morning to milk the cows, then back in the kitchen to make breakfast, continuing the cycle of a Minnesota farm wife.

4. Elizabeth Barbara Clemens
Born: Oct 15, 1900; Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Dec 21, 1996 (age 96), of pneumonia after a hip break, Rochester, Minnesota
Never married

Betty Rose and Elizabeth

Elizabeth’s first love was Joe Adamson, Paul’s oldest brother, and he broke her heart. She never gave it away again, and it was her one great regret that she never married. When she was a young woman, she moved to town and roomed with her best friend, Betty Rose, where they walked to their jobs at the Mayo Clinic. She still came home on weekends, with Betty joining her and becoming part of the family. For more than 20 years she worked at the Clinic for Dr. Harrington, a fellow in surgery and later internationally known, as his secretary and surgical stenographer. She talked about him all the time, what a great doctor he was, what a good family man, how much she respected and admired him. When the good doctor retired, Elizabeth retired too, getting a decent pension of $37 a month. Years later she and Betty Rose moved to Southern California together, working for the hospital in Lynwood. But Betty Rose fell in love and married and moved away. It devastated Elizabeth, as she lost her best friend. Years later, when her husband died and Betty Rose herself became ill, they reunited and Elizabeth cared for her until her death.

5. Amelia Rose “Mele” Clemens
Jan 17, 1902, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Jul 7, 1972 (age 70), stroke; Rochester, Minnesota
Married: Nov 22, 1927, Patrick Henry “Pat” Conway, Rochester, Minnesota
Nine children

Amelia and Pat

Amelia married Patrick Conway in St. John’s Church. They raised their nine children on their farm not too far away from the Clemens’ farm, Amelia barking orders trying to keep order; if you were a kid, you stayed out of her way. The Clemens, Conway, and Hauser cousins grew up together, getting into all kinds of trouble, just as the generation before them had.

Newspaper wedding announcement:
The bride was gowned in white satin with trimmings of white silk lace and wore white kid slippers. Her veil was of white tulle held in place by a wreath of intertwined orange blossoms and pearls. The bride’s attendant, Cecelia, wore a dress of powder blue crepe with a matching hat. The bride carried a bouquet of pompom chrysanthemums and swansonia, and the bridesmaid a bouquet of butterfly roses. John Conway, the brother of the groom, acted as best man. After the ceremony a three-course wedding breakfast was served to sixty guests at the home of the bride’s parents. After a wedding trip, Mr. And Mrs. Conway will reside on a farm eight miles west of the city. The bride is a graduate of St. John’s High school and has been employed in the John E. McGovern insurance office. The groom has been engaged in farming west of the city.

6. Dorothy Clemens
Born: Feb 16, 1903, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Jun 18, 1903 (age 4 months); Rochester, Minnesota

Upon excavating Joe Clemens’ grave (child #13) in preparation for his burial, there were fragments of two additional caskets, just pieces of wood. The family surmised that these could be Dorothy and perhaps Joe and Betty’s infant son, William Joseph Clemens, who died in 1947. It’s also possible they were caskets for the first-born twins. Nearly all the family is buried in the Clemens family plot in Calvary Cemetery, Rochester.

7. Aloysius Michael “Louie” Clemens
Born: May 5, 1904, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: May 5, 1929 (age 25), auto accident; Rochester, Minnesota
Never married


The brothers were altar boys at St. John’s. As a child, Louie had a terrible stutter. He would squint and just not be able to get the words out, except when reciting his prayers in church or while saying the rosary. He died in a car accident on his twenty-fifth birthday. While he Clemens and Conways were gathered at the farmhouse for his party, he’d gone into town for the forgotten candles. The newspaper clipping read as follows:

Aloysius Clemens, 25 years old, of St. Paul, son of Mr. & Mrs. Clemens of Cascade Township, was fatally injured shortly before noon yesterday, his birthday. The coupe he was driving collided with a car, struck the guy wire of an electric light post, hit a tree, seemed to jump in the air fifteen feet, then turned turtle and landed upside down at the north end of the street. His brother, Lawrence, who was with him at the time of the original impact, was uninjured save for slight lacerations of the legs.

Dr. H.E. Robertson of the Mayo Clinic gave more information regarding the post mortem examination following Aloysius Clemens’ death. The chief injuries were about the face and head, he said. There was a deep gash in the left cheek left of the nose and below the eye. On touching the bones of the face and skull it could be seen that there was not a single bone not fractured. On moving the scalp, the bones of the cranium were found to be fractured in a half a dozen fragments. The brain was lacerated, and there was a large amount of hemorrhage. There were practically no injures save those about the head. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict that Clemens’ death was caused by an automobile accident. The blame was not fixed.

Clemens is survived by his parents and a number of brothers and sisters. Arrangements for the funeral had not been made yet this morning. The young man had come down from St. Paul Saturday night for the purpose of celebrating his twenty-fifth birthday at his home a mile west of the city. All was in readiness for the birthday dinner when it was found that candles were lacking for the cake, and the brothers, Aloysius and Lawrence, volunteered to drive to Rochester to get them. Following the accomplishment of this mission, they were hurrying back to the birthday party when the crash appeared.

8. Carl John Clemens (my father)
Sep 25, 1905, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Sep 16, 1986, age 80, prostate cancer; Santa Rosa, California
Married (1): Feb 4, 1933, Noreen Ellen “Babe” Chatfield, Colusa, California
Five children
Married (2): 1956, Irene Venita (Tregear) Whitehead
Married (3): Sep 25, 1961, Marie Lenore (Macdonald) McCartney, San Francisco, California

Carl, Anna, Agnes, Amelia or Elizabeth, Lawrence, Aloysius, Cecelia 1913

Everyone had their place at the table and everyone had good table manners. As she was left-handed, Cecelia sat on the end next to Carl. She was his pet. He called her “Chub” and he got all her desserts. “Now Chub, if you don’t want your ice cream, I’ll eat it.” She thought he was pretty grand. When Carl left home, she stepped into his shoes with the chores and the milking.

The kids had nicknames. Lawrence was Mans, Agnes was Tops, Louie was Bunny, and Carl was Pinkie, maybe because he held it skyward when he drank his tea. Carl was strong and healthy. He recollects being sick only a couple of times when he was small, and remembers them as the only time his mother comforted him and where he felt like she loved him. He was happy, the most happy-go-lucky child of the family. He could also be a little rascal, getting in trouble at school for jumping from desk to desk, making all the kids laugh; he thought he was kind of cute. Carl enjoyed life. He made you feel good, he never picked on the other kids, and he never complained… well, except about farming.

9. Cecelia Helen (Sister Ann) Clemens
Jan 25, 1908, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Nov 1, 2003 (age 95), acute leukemia; Rochester, Minnesota
Franciscan Nun

Grandpa, Sister Ann, Grandma 1936

Graduating from St. John’s in 1927, Cecelia entered the novitiate, wanting to join the convent, but she honored her mother’s request to wait a year. “Will you stay home until Agnes gets out of school?” Standing side-by-side in the kitchen washing dishes with Amelia and discussing what Saint’s name would be assigned to her, Amelia worriedly asked, “What if you get Sister Kundegunda?” Both were relieved when Sister Ann was the name chosen for her, and another girl was stuck with Sister Kundegunda. Cecelia fared well in her new surroundings, although she found the food unusual when she left home, not like home-cooked farm fare. “The first time I had canned peas I was so amazed that every pea was the same size.”

Sister Ann Clemens 1960

Sister Ann joined the Sisters of St. Francis in Rochester in 1928, and began her teaching ministry at St. Pricilla Parish in Chicago. She served as teacher, religious superior, and principal at schools in Austin, Winona, Chatfield, Sleepy Eye, Owatonna, Waseca (all in Minnesota), and Portsmouth, Ohio. She also served as Postulant Mistress and assistant novice mistress from 1946 to 1949. In 1971 she became a member of the Assisi Heights congregation, serving as bursar for 10 years, assisting in the infirmary, working as sewing room coordinator, and continuing in the sewing department until her retirement in 2002. She celebrated 75 years as a Franciscan Sister in 2003. My aunt died of acute leukemia, diagnosed only two weeks before her death.

10. Agnes Catherine Clemens
Born: Jun 27, 1909 Rochester, Minnesota
Died: May 21, 2005 (age 95), old age, suffered from dementia; Seal Beach, California
Married: Aug 18, 1932, William Francis “Bill” Hauser, Rochester, Minnesota
Three children

Agnes, Bill, children, abt 1945-46

Agnes graduated from secretarial school, then worked in the food department at St. Mary’s Hospital. She married Bill Hauser, who also worked there as an outside maintenance man. He had five acres of lawn to mow in the summer and four miles of streets and parking lots to keep clear in the winter; he worked there for 32 years. They lived in Rochester for the first year of their marriage, then moved back to the farm in 1933 to take care of Grandma who was getting on in years. Grandma died in 1937. They raised their three children on the farm and lived there until Grandpa died in 1948, then built a house on an acre up along the woods that they were given from the estate. They lived there until moving to California sometime in the 1960s.

11. Anna Frances Clemens
Born: Jan 9, 1911, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Jun 14, 1995 (age 84), heart attack; Rochester, Minnesota
Married: Jun 17, 1933, Francis Sylvester “Frank” Walsh, Rochester, Minnesota
Three children

Frank, Anna, and sons

Anna, the youngest Clemens girl, went to Normal School (secretarial school) and got work at the Mayo clinic. She was the last girl at home and the last to wed. She married Frank Walsh, a truck driver, an auto salesman, and grain elevator man, which was as close as he came to farming. Anna was pleasant, kind, and always had a smile on her face. She and her sister Agnes were best friends. Other than my Dad and Aunt Elizabeth, she was the only other sibling to leave Minnesota, she and Frank moving to Iowa after their boys were born. Anna, Frank, and their three sons all died of heart attacks, not a common cause of death in the family.

12. Lawrence Matthew Clemens
Born Jul 28, 1912, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Sep 1, 1978 (age 66), heart attack; Rochester, Minnesota
Married: Jul 15, 1942, Pearl Louise Herrick, Rochester, Minnesota
Four children

Pearl and Lawrence

At age 30, Lawrence, who worked hard at farming, married Pearl, who worked in the laundry at St. Mary’s. On Saturday nights they danced into each other’s hearts at the Pla Mor Ballroom in Rochester. They too lived on the family farm for many years after Ma died. Along with Agnes, Bill and their three kids, and Joe, the youngest Clemens, they too took care of Grandpa and ran the place. Lawrence had a big John Deere to haul hay and one day made the mistake of putting Agnes’ son in the driver’s seat. Dick, who was 12, could barely reach the clutch nor quite strong enough to operate it, drove it across the field and into the barn. Lawrence caught hell from his sister for putting her son in that dangerous position.

Obituary: Lawrence Clemens, City Resident, Dies
Lawrence M. Clemens, 66, of Rock Creek Estates, a retired employee of Rochester Fertilizer Plant, died Friday of cancer at Rochester Methodist Hospital. He had been ill six months. He was born July 28, 1912, in Rochester, and married Pearl Louise Herrick on July 15, 1942. He lived in Rochester his entire life. Surviving are his wife; two daughters, two sons, five grandchildren, five sisters, Mrs. Mary Wallerich of Lake City, Elizabeth Clemens of Florida, Mrs. Anna Walsh of Rochester, Sister M. Ann Clemens of Assisi Heights, and Mrs. William (Agnes) Hauser of California; two brothers, Carl of California and Joe of Rochester. One brother and one sister preceded him in death. The funeral is 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Pius X Catholic Church with the Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. Richard Feiten officiating. Burial will be in Grandview Memorial Gardens. Friends may call at Macken Funeral Home after 2 p.m. Monday. Rosary will be recited at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the funeral home.

13. Joseph William Clemens

Born: Oct 1, 1914, Rochester, Minnesota
Died: Aug 7, 2010 (age 95), Chatfield, Minnesota;
polycythemia vera (bone marrow cell mutation cancer) and old age
Married (1): Apr 20, 1942, Elizabeth Ann “Betty” McGeary, Rochester, Minnesota
Ten children
Married (2): Dec 7, 1991, Rita (Pyffereon) Rhoten, Rochester, Minnesota

Joe Clemens

Joe lost his eyesight in his right eye as a kid, a spark catching him from standing too near a welder. At 76 years old, in 1989, he had surgery that corrected it, and for the first time a tree did not look like a solid mass to him. All those years they thought he had cataracts. You never knew if Joe was happy or sad as he was so intent trying to see through his coke bottle glasses.

Matt Clemens, Betty, Joe, Betty’s mother, Claire McGeary, wedding photo, 1942

For a time, Joe and Lawrence rented the farm from Grandpa, then they had their own farms in 1943; Joe had a lease with his father to buy the farm for $100 an acre. In 1942, at the age of 27, Joe married Betty McGeary, a woman of his stature who would give you the shirt off her back. Betty wore Joe’s clothes, his boots and old overcoat, even to church; she wasn’t interested in how she, or her house, looked. With ten kids, her hands were full, except when smoking a cigarette. Years later at her funeral, Jerry Conway commented he had never seen his aunt not smiling. Betty’s sister told him why. “For a time as a young woman, Betty worked in the laundry at St. Mary’s, one of the worst jobs a woman could have, and she wasn’t happy there. As she was going up the elevator, the doors opened, and in walked Eleanor Roosevelt. When she got out, Mrs. Roosevelt turned to her, looked her right in the eye, and said. ‘Girlie, stand up straight and smile and the world will go better.’ She paid attention to the woman who knew what she was talking about, and lived her life that way thereafter.”

Nine years after Betty’s death from cancer in 1981, Joe married Rita, a childhood friend.

Grandpa and Grandma

The passing of Matt and Barbara Clemens ~ In November of 1937, at the age of 64, Grandma passed away. She had a stroke in the middle of the night and died within two hours. Ten years later, in March of 1947 at 73, about the age when most farmers wore out, Grandpa passed. He’d been suffering for some time, and died after having surgery for lip and throat cancer from smoking cigars and pipes his whole life.

Matthew S. Clemens, who has lived in Rochester all but the first year of his life, died in the Colonial hospital last night after an illness of two weeks. He was 73 years old. Born in Mazeppa on March 1, 1874, he was brought to Rochester as an infant. On April 19, 1897 at St. John’s church in Rochester, he married the former Barbara Nigon, who died about 10 years ago. Mr. Clemens was a farmer. Surviving him are nine children, a brother, and two sisters. In January of this year, Mr. Clemens received a gold certificate for being a member of the St. Joseph Society for 50 years, an award that he treasured highly.

As Grandpa left no will, his estate wasn’t settled easily or harmoniously. Quite a fight ensued as to what was going to happen to the farm. Hands were raised against one another, along with screaming, hollering, and cussing one another out. Elizabeth slapped Amelia, or was it Amelia who slapped Elizabeth? Elizabeth was involved in taking care of Grandpa’s finances and the sisters were in great disagreement; it didn’t matter that it was Sunday. Bill Hauser spoke up as he and his father-in-law were good friends. Shaking his head, he said Grandpa and Grandma would not want to witness this. When he announced he and Agnes didn’t want anything, things settled down. Carl, who’d come from California for the funeral, suggested to his brothers and sisters that Bill and Agnes get an acre of land for taking care of Grandpa and Grandma, for which they were forever grateful. When the disbursement issues were worked out, the farm took on a different landscape. Joe, along with Amelia and Pat Conway, purchased a portion of the land, Elizabeth owned an acre, Agnes and Bill Hauser had their gifted acre, the golf club purchased four, and Mr. Vincent Lilly purchased five acres and all the buildings. The kids received equal proceeds from the sale.

Paved paradise and put up a parking lot…

Mr. Lilly was a cattle buyer, living on the farm from 1947 until his death in the 1980s. His estate was not settled for some time, and like all empty buildings not kept up and cared for, it fell into ruin. The whole section was overgrown with trees, weeds, and bushes, and the house was constantly vandalized. Kids broke in and had a bonfire in the kitchen. When the Lilly estate was settled in the 1990s, the Stuart Corporation purchased the land from Mr. Lilly’s estate for $6,490,000, leveled the buildings, and built a three-story, 108-unit apartment complex. A fire station was then built on one section; on the other they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

Clemens family, Minnesota, summer of 1940/41

Back of photo, numbered ID












1. Francis Peter “Frank” Wallerich 1890-1953
2. Margaret Nigon (cousin) 1892-1992
(was taking care of Don & Betty Kleist)
3. Annie Schabo? 1869-1962
4. Joseph William “Joe” Clemens 1914-2010
5. William Francis “Bill” Hauser 1913-1996
6. Amelia Rose (Clemens) Conway 1902-1972
7. Betty Rose 1906-1994
(lifelong friend of Elizabeth Barbara Clemens)
8. Joseph Matthew “Joe” Wallerich 1926
(son of Mary & Frank Wallerich)
9. Robert Michael “Bob” Wallerich 1930
(son of Mary & Frank Wallerich)
10. Mary Ann (Clemens) Wallerich 1899-1994
(married to Frank Wallerich)
11. Sister Ann Clemens 1908-2003
12. Donald F. Kleist 1928-2007
(cousin, son of Elizabeth “Jane” Nigon & Clarence Kleist)
13. Mathew “Matt” Clemens 1874-1947
(father of the clan)
14. Agnes Catherine (Clemens) Hauser 1909-2005
(married to Bill Hauser)
15. Elizabeth Barbara Clemens 1900-1996
16. Norbert John Wallerich 1930
(son of May & Frank Wallerich)
17. Barbara Ann Hauser 1939-1986
(daughter of Agnes & Bill Hauser)
18. Elizabeth Margaret “Betty” Kleist 1930-1962
(cousin, daughter of Elizabeth “Jane” Nigon & Clarence Kleist)
19. Francis Carl Wallerich 1934
(son of May & Frank Wallerich)
20. Richard Francis “Dick” Hauser 1932
(son of Agnes & Bill Hauser)

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  1. Jim Chatfield says:

    As always Cathy you have a special way of telling a story. You always make a reader feel like he is right there watching everything happen. Thank you for all your stories and bringing up memories of the past times. As always your stories are beautifully written and hold a person’s attention all the way thru. Thanks again for bringing back the memories of that time in history.

  2. Great stories! I loved the one about Eleanor Roosevelt’s timely advice to Betty, and how it changed her life!

  3. Susan Davidson Dalberg says:

    Makes me feel even closer to your family!! Great job! Sure you don’t want to take mine on? LOL

  4. Love reading… just crying now…

  5. What a great read Catherine. I found it interesting that Sister Ann and my great grandfather’s sister, Frances Von Rueden, Sister Mary Lawrence were both Franciscans at Assist Heights. In the ’80s I went there to find information. She died in 1940. After giving me her records they had an elderly nun come to meet us and she told me stories about working with my aunt at various schools in MN. I bet Ann and Fraces knew each other.

  6. Catherine, I am addicted to your family tales. Hopefully when you run out of the historical ones you might project the tales forward into the future?


    • Working my way forward. This was the last backstory piece on my father’s side of the family. Next story moves on to the family in the 1940s, and continues forward from there. Thanks for reading along with me. I like your company!

  7. Terry Conway says:

    The Hauser family occupied their acre well past 1958 as their youngest, Bill, graduated from Lourdes High School with me in 1962. I am not sure how much longer they lived there before moving to California.

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