Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Vickie Klimitchek, 1925-2012


On July 30th, a wonderful lady and loving mother/ grandmother/ great-grandmother/ friend passed away... Victoria “Vickie” Klimitchek, 86, of Hallettsville. Mrs. Klimitchek was the mother of my Aunt Pat and the adopted grandmother of my first cousins on my mother's side. I remember her as talkative in that accent of native Tex-Czech speakers, very outgoing, and one of the most positive poeple I've met. She was also a goldmine of information about how early life was for a dying generation of Texas Czechs. Their invaluable knowledge is being lost daily in this state. 


She was born on Dec. 5, 1925 to Joe and Mary (Michna) Vanek in Hallettsville. Vickie grew up on a farm and worked in the fields while attending Sacred Heart School. In her obituary, Vickie's family wrote, "It was very difficult to balance that life style with getting an education. She would tell us stories about how far she had to walk to school and how physically demanding farm life could be." She was certainly cut from a different cloth than women of my generation.



My cousin Ryan with his grandmother, Miss Vickie,
and a beautiful batch of klobasniky.
Later, she met Robert Klimitchek, was married on January 9th, 1945 and raised two children, one of which was my Aunt Pat who married my mother's younger brother Joe. She worked at Weingartens for 25 years, Lavaca Medical Center for 11 years, and then "retired" in 1993. I used quotation marks around "retired" because she was one of those people who just did not stop.

Her family shared that she was like the “Little Energizer Bunny” always on the go and very active right up to the time of her sudden illness. She took people to doctor's appointments, bought groceries for others, brought kolaches to Father John at the rectory, and visited with shut-ins. Apparently, she never had an idle moment. As niece Debbie Fishbeck stated, "Aunt Vickie could throw a batch of kolaches together before breakfast, pick vegetables out of the garden, then proceed canning those veggies for something good to eat down the road, or share them with her family and friends as her way of saying she loved you." My cousin Ashley wrote to me that "at the Klimitchek reunion last weekend, ONE quart of her pickles sold for $92!  Grandma Vickie would have been apalled by that amount. LOL." 

Miss Vickie in her kitchen working with my cousin Ashley.
Miss Vickie was a loving, caring, sweet person who was compassionate and always willing to help others. She was a person who never missed a birthday, anniversary, or other special occasion for which a card was sent. Her faith in God was an inspiration to others. She often came to our Kallus Christmas celebration, going from table to table visiting. You never would have known that she was battling cancer.
Miss Vickie laying out noodle dough on the bed to dry.
I had the honor of speaking at her funeral. I spoke in two capacities... first as a member of the Kallus family. Mrs. Klimitchek was a friend to my grandmother, Anita Kallus, for decades. When my grandmother couldn't leave the house any more, Miss Vickie ran errands for her, brought church bulletins, and may very well have saved her live by checking in on her. Keep in mind that my grandmother was in her early 90s and Miss Vickie in her early 80s by this time. 

I also spoke at the funeral on behalf of the Texas-Czech community. I’ve always been inspired by the way Mr. Klimitchek embraced her Czech heritage. She was a member of KJZT, the Altar Society, and the Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Hallettsville. Czech was her first language. But she especially shared her heritage with others through traditional food. In 2001, I worked for an organization that produced some cooking demonstrations at the Winedale Spring Festival in Round Top. I invited Mrs. Klimitchek to demonstrate baking kolaches to a live audience. I remember her being very nervous and so humble, but you could not keep Vickie down. She was so knowledgeable and so generous that she did just fine. She actually enjoyed teaching her special techniques for baking kolaches (and klobasniky and making noodles), particularly to grandchildren. 


I would call her a cultural treasure. (Certainly her kolaches are the work of a master.) From recipes to farming practices to jokes in Czech, it’s because of people like her that people like me feel a genuine and meaningful connection with our Czech heritage. I know I’m not alone when I say that’s a precious gift she gave and shame, shame, shame on me for not interviewing her when I had the chance. She will be truly missed.




Vickie Klimitchek's Coffee Cake via my mom via Aunt Pat 

Cake: 
1 1/2 cup flour
3 teaspoons backing powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk

Topping:
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup pecans
 
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. For the cake, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the milk and egg. When blended, add the flour mixture and blend again. For the topping, mix all ingredients together until mushy. Grease and flour and 8x8" pan. Spread the cake mixture and then drizzle/spread the topping mixture on top. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

*Thank you to my cousin Ashley for sharing photos, to Mrs. Klimitchek's family for writing such a sweet obituary from which I borrowed for this post, and to my Aunt Pat for having faith in my ability to speak at the funeral.

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