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Former state legislator in Hastings area dies at the age of 100

When Walter Klaus celebrated his 100th birthday last April, the topic of redistricting came up. In another gathering it might have been idle political banter, but for Klaus it was serious business. He had some ideas.

Klaus, who moved to Hastings four years ago, was a Minnesota Representative for 14 years and an active participant in redistricting discussions for much longer than that. Both in the House chamber and behind the scenes he helped shape Minnesota politics for decades.

"I was just fascinated with doing it," he said in April.

Klaus was living at Hastings' Augustana Health Care Center when he celebrated his birthday Aug. 19.

Walter Klaus graduated from Farmington High School in 1928 and earned a bachelor's degree in English from Hamline University. He lost his first statewide political race, finishing third out of four candidates in a Senate contest. But he beat incumbent Frank Gallagher by 40 votes in the 1956 House race. He began serving in 1957 and continued until 1970. He served again from 1973 to 1974.

Klaus wrote a column for the Farmington Independent for many years. Many days, he'd arrive at the newspaper there with the typewritten copy - not bad for a man who lost one arm during a farming accident long ago.

"I rather enjoyed doing that most of the time," he said in April.

The column was titled "Klaus on the House."

"I used to watch him type it," his longtime friend Connie Knack said. "He was always going at it with that typewriter. Then he got a computer, and he would get so disgusted. It would break down on him every time."

He was also well-known for his long annual Christmas letter, which would often surpass 10 typewritten pages.

Klaus lived for years on a farm near Empire City, west of Highway 52. He married his wife, Virginia, in 1968. She died of cancer in 2005.

Klaus moved to Regina Medical Center in Hastings four years ago. In January a bout of pneumonia weakened him and forced him to move to Augustana.

His mind was still sharp as he celebrated his centennial birthday, however. He vividly recalled details of his early political career.

"He's got the memory of a 30-year-old," said Alan Knack, who helped organize Klaus' birthday party. "He can remember way back when he was in office, and what happened."

Right up until the end, politics were important to Klaus.

Funeral is Saturday

The funeral service for Klaus is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Faith United Methodist Church at 710 Eighth St. in Farmington.

Visitation is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23, at the White Funeral Home at 901 Third St. in Farmington and one hour prior to the service.