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Shaler farm girl didn't believe in handicaps

For Ellen Klemz, serving as a leader for Cub Scout packs that reached out to boys with special needs and minorities came naturally.

"Throughout her life, it was my wife's Methodist faith that guided her in everything that she did," said her husband, Charles Klemz. "And Ellen applied that faith to our marriage."

Ellen Kramer Klemz of Shaler, formerly of Garfield, died on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, in her home. She was 71.

"We both began working with the boys of Pack No. 29 at the Fort Pitt School in Garfield in 1972 and later with Pack No. 88 at the Albright United Methodist Church in Shadyside.

"She taught several of the boys, who could manage it, the use of power tools," Klemz added. "For others, who found it hard to use pots and pans, she taught them to cook on tin foil.

"What was most important, she'd often say to them, was the importance of looking after each other and to work as a team," he added.

He recalled meeting his wife while they rode a bus to their jobs Downtown. "We had a lot in common. I had also been raised on a farm. But I also let her know that I had been wounded in Vietnam and had been paralyzed for nearly two years.

"She let me know that there was no such thing as being handicapped and that you are as handicapped as you make it," said Klemz, who worked as a short-order cook for 43 years at Ritter's Diner in Bloomfield. "We were married in 1964."

Born and raised on a farm in Federal, Allegheny County, Ellen Kramer was one of four children in the family of Louis and Dorothy Kramer.

"Ellen was active with the 4-H and had through the years won many awards," said her husband. "But it was her participation in the Federal Methodist Church that gave her the most satisfaction.

"Ellen taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, both at Federal United Methodist and later in Albright United Methodist Church in Shadyside, where we became members in 1968.

"We were considered a team," Klemz added. "At St. Augustine Church in Lawrenceville, I cooked and Ellen was in charge of the volunteers making the deliveries.

"Even though Ellen attended the former Duff's Iron-City College (Downtown), where she studied accounting, she was a pro at helping setting up the Thanksgiving dinners at Albright, where we served hundreds of people who had no place to go for a holiday meal," he said.

Abass Kamara of Highland Park recalled what it was like for young people like himself to help serve the Thanksgiving dinner.

"She encouraged us to stop and serve," said Kamara. "And to be ever mindful of how much we have."

In addition to her husband, Charles, Mrs. Klemz is survived by a son, Mark Klemz of the South Hills; siblings, John Kramer of Federal, Betty Holmes of Canonsburg and Russell Kramer of the South Hills; five grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

She was preceded in death by a daughter, Michele Klemz-Bucklad.

Friends will be received from 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday at McCabe Bros. Inc. Funeral Home, 5300 Penn Ave., Bloomfield, where services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

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