Klee added that Bible stories are not the only stories that have happy endings. “Fairy tales are probably the closest to Bible stories because they end well.” He says he tells fairy tales and ghost stories to his whole congregation, not just the children. “Sometimes I think the adults enjoy the stories more than the children do”, he said, laughing. “People love adventure stories”, he said. “Why do you think so many people went to see Jaws? It was a good adventure story.” He said that during his Sunday morning services he sits on the steps leading into the pulpit instead of standing. “I like to be on the same eye level as the congregation, not looking down at them”, he said. He explains that all the stories he tells are ones that he translates from German to English – “I buy a lot of books in Switzerland and have them shipped over.”
He added that he has also found tremendous resources at the Columbus Public Library. Not only does Klee tell stories at the church but he visits classes at the Westgate Elementary School every Friday at the request of teachers and students. He says the students enjoy his stories because he doesn’t evangelize or try to indoctrinate them. Klee pointed out that the teaching of religion in the schools is a sensitive subject. He noted there is no separation of church and state in Switzerland.
“There are only three churches that exist in Switzerland – Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Christian Catholic”, he said. He added that the difference between Roman Catholic and Christian Catholic is that the latter does not recognize the Pope. He noted that Swiss churches are supported by the state. “They (the churches) are very well off, yet they are very poorly organized. Ministers don’t have secretaries. They have to do all their own clerical work”, he said. “American churches are much more active than Swiss churches, especially in politics. Swiss churches are fairly conservative. If you criticize you are biting the hand that feeds you”, he said.
The Columbus Dispatch interviewed Rev. Klee and several other Westside pastors for a story titled “Pastors stress true meaning of Christmas”. It was printed in the Neighbor News section of the paper on Wednesday, December 21, 1988. The story was a tapestry of interwoven quotes, so we will try to present those quotes from him. Here are some of the things Rev. Hans Klee had to say about Christmas.
“I stress its good news. It’s like a mailman bringing a letter and it’s addressed to you personally. It’s great news – a savior is born. Light has overcome the darkness…The hardest congregation is Christmas Eve. They aren’t with you. They come to church for sentimental reasons, not to hear the message. That’s understandable, because there are families and everything.” The article says Rev. Klee will talk about the Leo Tolstoy story called Martin the Cobbler, in which a cobbler who wants to meet Jesus finds him in other people.
In April 1999 the Westside Messenger awarded The Rev. Hans Klee as the Blue Ribbon Resident of the Month. This interview, which occurred 23 years after the one quoted above expounds on some areas discussed before. Those parts that are repeated from above may have been omitted.
Whether he’s seen at the pulpit reciting passages from the Bible or at the library narrating tales from the children’s story books, this month’s Blue Ribbon Resident has made story telling his art, his profession and his passion. Rev. Hans Klee, 65, has served the congregation of Hoge Memorial Presbyterian Church as its minister for 23 years. He said his retirement, planned to begin at the end of next month, will not dampen his enthusiasm to continue to teach and entertain others. “The worst thing for me would be to be boring and dull and to make the Gospel a boring thing. It would be an insult to faith”, he said. Anyone who has met Klee would certainly attest that he is anything but boring and dull. His somewhat shy demeanor is often overshadowed by humorous and enlightening observations of the human condition. A wall of comic strips at the church titled “Hans’ Humor” demonstrates this.
Once on the Westside his love for teaching and storytelling moved to the forefront. He recalls how he first became a professional storyteller. “My son was a student at Westgate Elementary. He was asked to bring something in for show and tell – and he brought me.” The folk tales told by Klee entertained the students so much that he was asked to come back every Friday. He said the project grew and he told German, Italian and other international folk tales to about 15 classes every Friday. Eventually other schools requested he do the same. He also became an instructor at Ohio Wesleyan University and the Junior League of Columbus’ OWL summer program for central Ohio gifted middle school students.
Klee’s interest in Stephen King novels, he said, helped gain the attention of the young students, “Kids related to it”, he said. With a smile of contentment, he is quick to recall one “ghost story telling night.” ”I remember telling some Stephen King ghost stories to group of kids. With a group of 150 kids, it’s hard to scare them all at the same time. The next day the counselor said, “don’t ever do that again, because some of the kids had to sleep in her room.” Klee jokingly admitted his emotions were mixed. “On one hand I felt bad, but on the other I felt I had done my job.”
His love for teaching children also lead him to start the Rainbow Program, an effort between six or seven churches to form a five-week day camp for area children. Held at Hoge, children from throughout the area came during the day where they received free meals, were told stories and were entertained by area personalities.
Today, despite a fight with cancer, Klee continues to work at Ohio Wesleyan University and serve as a guest lecturer at various colleges and schools. He said the cancer, which will require a bone marrow transplant next month, will not slow his drive to teach and learn. “This is one of my major fights, but I could never just sit on the sidelines and watch.”
Rev. Klee announced his retirement. He delivered his last sermon at Hoge on May 31, 1999.
Rev. Klee passed away on
“Hans was a hard line European that felt there was but one way to do things (his), reminded me of my Dad. He was a true family man that raised very intelligent and reserved children. I happened to be on the session when he came to Hoge and at meetings he would generally sway votes to his side. When a vote was called he left little time for a NO vote to count. My Dad, Charles L, became very good friends with Hans and used to travel to St. Clairville and other places with him to give communion to shut-ins. Coming back to Columbus they would stop at Max & Erma’s and have one beer and a sandwich (that European influence). These trips meant so much to Dad. His health concerns paralleled my Dads and Rev. Klee’s last official act was to preside over Dad’s funeral service – definitely one to remember.” –Gary L.