To many in the community, Elmer Kludt was hard-working, honest and caring. He actively served Lodi through his business and involvement in community groups. For his contributions in community service, Kludt was chosen posthumously as an inductee for the Lodi Community Hall of Fame.
"The thing I remember most about my grandfather, Elmer Kludt, was his dedication and willingness to help others," said Junelle Wageman Osterlie in his nomination papers.
One of Kludt's biggest contributions to Lodi was his involvement in the Salvation Army, said Tracy Williams, who is a family friend. He helped to bring the Salvation Army to Lodi and served in the organization from 1991 to 2002. He was active on the board and also served as a bell-ringer. His encouragement to others to ring the bell earned him the nickname "Mr. Ding-a-Ling," said Osterlie.
In 1991, the Salvation Army awarded Kludt for his dedicated service, and then in 2002 he received an award called Bringing the Bell Ringers to Lodi from 1978 to 2002.
"He was very involved. He gave it his whole heart," said his son, Richard Kludt. "The Salvation Army was one organization he felt very strongly about."
Richard Kludt and Osterlie both say Elmer Kludt was athletic and loved sports. He was a member of the original 1946 Lodi Guild semi-pro baseball team. He was also very active with the Boosters of Boys/Girls Sports Organization, and coached many youth baseball teams.
Professionally, he was self-employed all of his life, first as a farmer and later was the owner and president of E F Kludt & Sons, Inc. He was fair and honest, and willing to go out of his way to accommodate his customers, said Richard Kludt.
"He always said, 'If the customers do business with you, then you should do it with them,'" he said.
If someone went to him with something and he didn't know the answer, he would work on figuring it out to give them an answer, added Williams.
Elmer Kludt was born in Lodi and graduated from Lodi High School in 1936. He was a lifelong resident, except for three years when he resided in Diamond Springs. He enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps in 1942 with 13 other Lodians, headed by Mayor Cliff Bull. Throughout his service, he received the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. He was honorably discharged as a staff sergeant in 1946. He married Irene Kludt in 1941 and they had four children, two biological and two adopted.
Williams said Kludt had a way of making people feel like a part of the family. No matter where she'd see him in town, it was like she had seen him yesterday, she said. She feels Kludt would feel honored to receive the award, and is sorry he isn't here to accept it himself.
"It's a great honor. I think he would be very humbled," she said.
Other Hall of Fame inductees this year include Robert Gross, who performs with and served as music director for the Lodi Community Band, as well as on the board for the Lodi Community Concert Association, for his contribution to the arts; Sally Snyde, who serves as the president of the board of the World of Wonders Science Museum and led the effort in opening the museum, for her contribution to community service; Mark Armstrong, who has managed the Lodi Grape Festival for 18 years, for his contribution to agriculture; Thomas Peterson, who served as Lodi city manager and was involved in the revitalization of Downtown, for his contribution in government; and Michael Stokes, the owner and operator of Stokes Brothers Farms who has played an active role in agricultural groups, as a "rising star."
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by the Lodi Boys and Girls Club. Inductees will be honored at a dinner and program scheduled for Nov. 5 at the Boys and Girls Club headquarters, 275 Poplar St., near the corner of Stockton St. Tickets are $45 each and may be purchased by calling the club at 209-334-2697.