A woman who brightened every room she entered, Eudene (Dena) Mae Kleinsorge went to be with Jesus on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, at her home in Delta after suffering a final stroke.
Dena was born to Emily and Joe Phillips of Gridley, Kan., on March 29, 1927.
God had big plans for her life. As the middle child, she fought for attention and ultimately earned it. She was a small-town girl who took life by the tail, teaching all 12 grades in a one-room school by the time she was 17. She had velvet ivory skin, blue eyes and red hair and a figure that could cause auto accidents when she went out walking in the city.
Her oil-pumping father always told her to marry ANYONE but a farmer. But she didn't listen to Daddy. Her teaching career was cut short in 1946 when she met, and soon after married, Earl William Kleinsorge from Burlington, Kan. Earl always joked that he had to marry Dena because he had borrowed $50 from her to buy a manure spreader and couldn't pay her back. If you knew Earl, you know why he needed the spreader. He had a twinkle in his eye and was nine years her senior. His heart fell at her feet from the moment he saw her. They worked side by side building a successful cattle farm as well as a ranch and farm equipment sales business in Chase County, Kan.
Dena and Earl were blessed with three children, Ilene, Bill and Mary. Ilene is the dean of the business college at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore., and has two children, Matt and Amy. Matt is married to Marleah with two children, Madison and Quinten. Amy is married to Ryan with three daughters, Morgan, Emily and Sophie. Bill has a cabinet business in Buda, Texas, and is married to Kay. They have three children, Kirk, Jamie (husband Michele) and Emily. Mary is a chiropractor, artist/musician, and happy mother and is married to Dr. Craig Hammes. They have two daughters, Nikaila and Stephanie. Dena was preceded in death by her husband, Earl, and son-in-law Tom Walmsley.
Earl and Dena spent more than 50 years together and during that time many heard Earl exclaim, "Hell, Dena!" For a woman of her era, Dena's independent streak brought her adventure and often left the people around her in awe. Her spirit was always forefront and her smile infectious. At one time or another she had a stocks and securities license and sold shares in a holding company. She sold Fashion 220 make-up. She wrote many articles for local newspapers in the 70s and 80s: The Wichita Eagle, The Chase County Leader News, The Emporia Gazette and more. Well into her 80s she was working on a fictional book based on fact about her life and her family's historic beginnings in Iowa when her grandmother shamed the family by becoming pregnant. She and her new husband were banished from Iowa and told never to return or to contact the family again.
Dena worked hard on becoming an accomplished artist, painting mostly in oils and especially loving to paint personalities into her masterpieces. You can see her remarkable works hanging in the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., and on the rodeo grounds in Strong City, Kan., where she painted two of the portraits in her late 70s of Gerald and Ken Roberts, local boys who became world champion cowboys. Other portraits of ranchers in front of their spreads and children playing at amusement parks were painted for many others, mostly in the Kansas area.
After Earl's death in 1999, Dena was searching for purpose. She found that purpose by moving to Delta to be near her daughter, Mary and her only young grandchildren. She quickly made many friends and brought chuckles and spirited fun to bridge clubs several times each week. She lived close to Mary and they spent lots of time together as a family. Until her first stroke in 2009, at age 81, she was completely independent. We called her "The Little Grandma that Could" and we were all reminded of a poem that Dena would recite over our childhood called "Someone Said that it Couldn't Be Done, So He Did It." They gave her little hope after the stroke and once again Dena defied the odds, walking and remembering and laughing and loving. She even spent time traveling back to see family and friends in Kansas. Here are some of the things friends have written about Dena:
• "Dena and Earl were always so good to us."
• "..loved your parties, lots of singing and dancing...so much fun"
• "One of our premier artists"
• "You and Earl were always so very special to me. We always had a good laugh about something..."
• "You gave my husband a job...if a person was given a second set of parents, God gave YOU to Larry."
• "You have been a dear friend."
• One mother wrote about Dena babysitting their son when he was 4 or 5 years old. When he came back he was full of energy and telling all the games that he played with Dena. Then he stopped right in the middle and said, "She's got the biggest BOOBS!" and then went right on talking about the fun evening...
• "Thanks for your encouragement. Dena, you've been a great help to me."
• "Memories are to be treasured for a lifetime, We love you..."
• "I'm heartbroken this a.m., as I learned that one of the finest human beings I've known, and one of the most influential in my life, has passed on. God speed, Dena Kleinsorge. JW"
Eudene, the oil-pumper's daughter, made such a difference and will be missed...
A memory-sharing reception for Dena was held at the Delta Senior Center, 247 Meeker, on Sunday, Jan. 6, beginning at 2 p.m.
View the Internet obituary and sign the online guest registry at taylorfuneralservice.com. You can also view pictures of Dena's life at tinyurl.com/denapics.
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