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Published: Sunday, 7/31/2005

Civil War, Reconstruction were teacher's favorite eras

TIFFIN - Carl G. Klopfenstein, who taught history at Heidelberg College for 35 years and specialized in subjects ranging from the Civil War to British history, died Thursday in Hearth and Home at Friedman Village. He was 87.

His son Kris said Mr. Klopfenstein died of complications of heart disease in the assisted living home, where he had lived for three years.

Mr. Klopfenstein joined the faculty at Heidelberg, his alma mater, in 1948 after receiving a master's degree in history from Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He was chairman of the school's history department in the 1960s and 1970s, his son said.

During his time at Heidelberg, Mr. Klopfenstein also was active in civic affairs. A Democrat, he served on Tiffin City Council from 1969 to 1973 and was vice chairman of Tiffin's sesquicentennial celebration in 1967.

Mr. Klopfenstein was a board member at different times for the Seneca County Health Department and the Seneca County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Mr. Klopfenstein's work with the MRDD agency was motivated in part by the fact that his son Kurt was mentally retarded, Kris Klopfenstein said. He added that his father generally became involved in public affairs at the urging of others.

"He was a very humble person," Kris Klopfenstein said. "He never wanted the limelight."

Mr. Klopfenstein earned a PhD in history from Western Reserve in 1956, writing his doctoral dissertation on the forced removal of Native Americans from Ohio in the early 19th century.

But the Civil War and the Reconstruction era that followed the Confederacy's defeat were his favorite area of study, his son said.

"The Civil War was just a fascinating period for him," Kris Klopfenstein said.

Mr. Klopfenstein retired from Heidelberg in 1983 but remained active as an archivist for the college for about 15 years afterward. He also worked as a researcher for the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont.

He was a member and former president of the Ohio Academy of History; he belonged to the Seneca County Historical Society.

Mr. Klopfenstein was born Nov. 30, 1917, in Cleveland to T. Grover and Clara Belva (Hamilton) Klopfenstein. He moved to Attica, in eastern Seneca County, when he was about 3, and graduated from Attica High School in 1935, his son said.

Mr. Klopfenstein received a bachelor's degree from Heidelberg in 1939. During World War II, he served with the Army Signal Corps and was stationed aboard the USS Catoctin. The ship was stationed in the Mediterranean off the coasts of North Africa and Italy in 1944 and 1945.

Kris Klopfenstein said his father, a communications officer, recalled that President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent a night aboard the ship while returning home from the Yalta Conference in February, 1945, though he didn't meet the American leader.

Mr. Klopfenstein shared few other stories of his wartime service with his family.

Mr. Klopfenstein met his future wife, Esther Willoughby, a Heidelberg music instructor, on the campus of the Tiffin school and married her Dec. 18, 1949, in Trinity United Church of Christ. She died Aug. 2, 1992. Surviving are sons, Kris, Kurt, Bruce, and Kraig, and five grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. today in the Hoffmann-Gottfried-Mack Funeral Home, Tiffin, and from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. tomorrow in Trinity United Church of Christ.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. in the church.

The family requests tributes to Heidelberg College, Trinity United Church of Christ, or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.



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