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Hempfield Army veteran drew interest from Pittsburgh Pirates

Brian Bowling
| Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, 6:27 p.m.

Len Karfelt was a happy-go-lucky person who loved kids and working outdoors, his family said.

As a surveyor, he preferred taking measurements to sitting at a desk drawing maps, his wife Elaine Karfelt said. His main pastimes were hunting, fishing and maintaining two big vegetable gardens.

“He loved to be outside,” she said.

When he worked outdoors, neighborhood kids tended to congregate around him because he would pay attention to them, Karfelt said.

“I called him the Pied Piper of the neighborhood,” she said.

Mr. Karfelt was the same with his grandchildren, his daughter Lori Lee Scagline said.

“He was the kind of grandfather that played with them,” she said. “He didn't just watch them when he would be babysitting.”

He liked to be part of their life and went to all their events, she said.

Leonard D. “Len” Karfelt of Hempfield died on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, at his home after a 10-year fight with frontotemporal dementia. He was 78.

He was born April 26, 1939, in Bullskin, the son of Ida Mae and Aaron Karfelt.

He played American Legion baseball in high school. After graduating from Connellsville Joint High School in 1957, he was invited to spring training by the Detroit Tigers. After the Tigers cut him, the Pirates showed interest but he decided to join the Army, his wife said.

While he was in basic training, his mother forwarded a letter from the Pirates telling him to report to Forbes Field but that was no longer an option, she said.

“I still have that letter,” she said.

Mr. Karfelt learned surveying in the Army and spent most of his service surveying missile sites in Germany. He spent the last months of his service in Washington, D.C., surveying gravesites for Arlington National Cemetery.

After the Army, he worked for Michael Baker Surveying for years until he started his own company, Karfelt Surveying, his wife said.

They met at a dance when he was 25.

“The one thing I noticed about him, he was very relaxed, which I needed because I'm a hyper person,” she said.

It helped that he was only a couple of inches taller than her, so he was comfortable to dance with, she said.

“So we danced,” she said. “And from then on, we dated. Eventually, we married.”

When they moved to Hempfield in June 1969, he joined the Fort Allen Fire Department as a volunteer firefighter and became the department's secretary and “Red, the Bingo Caller,” she said.

A member of the Christ United Methodist Church in Youngwood, Mr. Karfelt loved being an usher, she said. He served in the church's men's group and during the monthly Saturday pancake breakfasts.

Mr. Karfelt enjoyed deer hunting, trout fishing and growing vegetables for his family and friends. He enjoyed cooking, his daughter said.

“He loved to feed everybody,” she said. “He didn't care if you just ate. He thought you should eat again.”

Mr. Karfelt is survived by his wife, Elaine Livengood Karfelt; his daughter Lori Lee Scagline of Murrysville; and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Christ United Methodist Church, Youngwood.

Memorials may be made to Christ United Methodist Church, 100 Lincoln St., Youngwood, PA 15697.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, bbowling@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribBrian.

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