MRFD loses one of its own
Manawa firefighters remember Harriet Klemm
By Holly Neumann
Harriet Klemm will be long remembered in the hearts of Manawa Rural Fire Department (MRFD) members.
She died on June 1, at the age of 78.
“We all knew Harriett as Ma,” said Fire Chief Rob Rosenau. “Ma was always there for anyone that needed help or guidance with anything.”
“In my nearly 20 years as a member of the department, if there was a question about things that happened in the past, she was the one who had the answers,” said Assistant Fire Chief Josh Smith. “Ma had the biggest heart and would bend over backwards to help someone.”
Klemm served on the MRFD for 38 years as a firefighter and nearly 20 years as an EMT on Manawa Ambulance.
“For the past 20 years or so, she was our secretary and treasurer,” Rosenau said. “Ma would keep track of everything for us and help get things taken care of. She was a major part of our fire prevention in October with the real little kids. Not only did she have the ‘soft’ voice for them, she had the voice for us bigger kids, too.”
She remained active with the department until becoming ill in January.
“In March, she turned in a letter of resignation of her position as secretary and treasurer, which was tabled until a later date,” Rosenau said. “We will act on this at our July meeting. These will be some big shoes to fill as she did so much for the department that others did not know she did.”
“When she had turned in a letter of resignation, it was decided from the membership that she would remain in the position she held as secretary/treasurer until she was no longer with us,” said Smith. “This was the amount of love and respect that she had from the members.”
Ma thought of department as family
Klemm earned the title of “Ma” because she directed everyone at the department, just like a mother does with her children at home.
“I honestly don’t know who started that. When I joined back in 2000, she was already called Ma,” said Smith. “Through the years of being able to get to know her, it was pretty clear why we all called her Ma. The way she guided us through any hard times was that of how any mother would guide their children, and if we were out of line, she wasn’t afraid to tell us or give us a little tap to straighten us out.”
“She considered the department to be family and it was a very important part of her life,” said Brenda Busby, Klemm’s daughter. “We, as a family, were happy to ‘share’ her with the department that she loved so much. It was a part of her. And we were and are very proud of the woman that she was, with her selfless and faithful participation in the service of the community.”
The loss of Klemm will affect the department.
“If there is any question about how the department will be affected, just ask anyone that attended her funeral and watched as the members of both the fire and ambulance stood in the outside aisles while her ‘last call’ was made,” said Smith. “She was a tiny woman, but she carried us bigger boys better than anyone else could ever do.”