After discovering the Kline name in an excerpt of the Bill Holm book, "The Heart Can Be Filled Anywhere on Earth," I made the very short journey to the Minnesota Historical Society, in St. Paul, Minnesota.
I admit it, I am lucky, the Minnesota Historical Society is less than 12 miles from my home. So I used the clues from the excerpt to find her death record and then, her obituary. Her obituary indicated she was survived by a sister in Robbinsdale, Anna Hughes, and then I knew I had found the family. I almost heard that brick wall fall. With the new information, I spent the rest of the afternoon, searching the state census records and church records and building the family tree forward.
The original excerpt had explained that as a young boy, Bill Holm accompanied his parents when they visited the town of Minneota on Saturday evenings. Sara Kline was always on the sidewalk near the spot they always parked their car. There, before he was allowed to run off with friends, his parents instructed him to greet her by "...shaking her hand, greeting her courteously in Icelandic, and, worst of all, bending down to kiss her on the cheek." His mother had short conversations with her in Icelandic, also.
So my husband's maternal grandmother was Icelandic? Why didn't my husband know that? Why didn't my mother-in-law, Anna's daughter, know that? Anna Hughes, Sara Kline's sister, died in 1971 at the age of 88. My husband would have been almost 23 years old. Surely Anna must have spoken about her Icelandic heritage the same way my grandparents spoke of their Norwegian heritage.
But when I queried my mother-in-law on our Christmas visit her response indicated otherwise.
"Was your mother's family Icelandic?" I asked.
"Well, maybe a little," she replied, after some thought.
Hmmm, my research indicated that Anna Kline Hughes' parents and older siblings arrived from Iceland three years before she was born. For whatever reason, my mother-in-law never talked about her Icelandic heritage even after I explained that her mother was 100% Icelandic. She also couldn't remember if the women with whom her mother often visited were aunts, cousins or just friends.
Apparently her mother was raised by another family after her father died. The family that raised her, the Christiansen's, may have been related but I have not yet found that family link.
After buying Bill Holm's book, "The Heart Can be Filled Anywhere on Earth," and re-reading the entire chapter that mentioned Sara Kline, I felt I needed to write to him. He had written that Sara Kline had "no family to sit in the mourner's pew." I wanted him to know that she did have family, and now, 45 years later, to thank him for singing at her funeral.
However, I was a little intimidated to write the letter as I knew he was a college professor at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota which is not far from Minneota. I wrote and re-wrote that letter until I thought it was acceptable to send to someone who teaches writing at the college level. It was a painful experience - I almost felt like I was going to get a grade at the end, which I almost did.
Bill Holm replied with a postcard greeting and did acknowledge my feeble attempts at writing.
Dear Lynn, You deserve a longer reply to that magnificently written letter on Sara Kline. Darren G. is trying to dig up some more facts for you, but I am only stunned with admiration for your detective work. Come to Minneota in spring. You honor Sara with your prose!
I wish that I could say I took him up on his offer and went to visit him in Minneota. I sincerely regret that I didn't although I intended to. Life got in the way and I thought I might have more time after retirement. Sadly, Bill Holm passed away in February of 2009.