Mary Jane L. Klein

Mary Jane L. Klein passed away Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, at Belgium Gardens, her home of the past six months.

Mary was born in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., on Nov. 16, 1931, the first of the five children of Frank and Ethel (Paschke) Lautenbach of Jacksonport, Wis.

Mary was born and raised in the scenic countryside of Door County on the family’s dairy farm near Egg Harbor, Wis.  

Growing up on a farm in the 1940s, Mary certainly became accustomed to hard work.  She spoke fondly of some of her daily chores such as watching over and tending to the cattle as they grazed in unfenced areas.

She also had some less-than-fond memories of the more arduous chores such as picking stones from the fields and stacking them in the fence rows. Years later, she showed her children the miles of stone fences that still stand as testament to those days of hard work.

Mary was an excellent student and graduated as valedictorian of her class at Sevastopol High School.

She enjoyed music and dancing and became a very good polka dancer.

Growing up knowing how to work, Mary didn’t mind spending her summers picking cherries in the orchards and waitressing at resorts in Door County. She especially liked her job at the resorts, where she was able to meet and share stories with vacationers from nearby cities. In talking with them, she began to realize that city life sounded appealing to her.

As a single young woman in the 1950s, Mary was happy to leave the hard work of the farm in the capable hands of her brothers as she eagerly set out for Milwaukee. She found employment as a bookkeeper at the American Bowling Congress and made her home in Shorewood, Wis.

City life was definitely a new adventure for Mary and she was enthusiastic about the city’s social life and the opportunities that she craved while growing up. She learned to bowl and became an avid participant in the sport. She was truly enjoying all that life in the city had to offer and especially enjoyed attending dances at various venues around town.

 It was at a dance on Thanksgiving Eve 1960 at the Eagle’s Club that she met the man she would marry, George Klein. In one of life’s ironic twists, George couldn’t wait to get out of the city and back to a farm.

Mary and George were married at St. Robert’s Church in Shorewood on Aug. 5, 1961. They honeymooned in Niagara Falls and settled into married life in Milwaukee.

As the years went by and they started a family, they both agreed that city life was no longer for them. They began construction of a new home in Grafton, Wis. The family lived in Grafton for several years before deciding to move to a farm. Mary was reluctant at first to trade her modern home for a farmhouse, but her husband and children were so excited about the thought of living on a farm that she agreed.

Despite her initial reservations about moving to the farm, it was Mary who embraced the lifestyle the most wholeheartedly. She grew a big garden and canned the produce from it. She also had her own flock of chickens, ducks and geese. “Mom’s chickens” knew who fed them and they would come running when they spotted her.

She also took charge of maintaining the large farmyard and abundance of flowers. She even took a flower arranging class to get ideas on how to display the blooms.

As the years went by, Mary enjoyed watching her children and grandchildren work around the farm and she continued to participate, helping George and “the boys” with the tree business when they needed her. She did the bookkeeping for the farm and kept meticulous records and files. Any document, no matter how old, could be found in minutes under Mary’s system.

Mary loved sharing pictures and stories of the many family vacations. She recalled her most memorable was a drive along the California coast in 1963. She shared details of that trip well into her later years at Belgium Gardens.

Mary was a quiet woman with a wry sense of humor and amazing comedic timing. Just when you thought she wasn’t paying attention to the conversation, she would add something that would make everyone laugh out loud.

She will be dearly missed by her five children, Carolynn (Tony) Strauss, Catherine (Kevin) Wilkins, Michael, Jerome (Candice Shafer) and Cheryl Klein; grandchildren Diana Rehman (Chris Cleveland), David Strauss (Heather Modra) and Brian Strauss; and great-grandchildren Zaara, Daniel and Sumrah Rehman.

She is also survived by her siblings Artie (Pat) Lautenbach, Delores Schuyler, Wayne (Dianne) Lautenbach and Leslie (Jeanette) Lautenbach.  

She was preceded in death by her parents, husband George and her grandson Nathan Schmit.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Saturday, Feb. 22, at noon at Divine Savior Catholic Parish, Holy Cross Chapel in Belgium.  

She will be laid to rest next to her husband George at St. Mary Parish Cemetery, Lake Church.  

Visitation will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the church from 10 a.m. until the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association (  

Eernisse Funeral Home, Belgium, is honored to serve the family.  

Online condolences may be left at

The family would like to thank the staff at Belgium Gardens and Allay Hospice for their competence and compassion while she was in their care.    




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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