By Cornelia de Bruin
Triplicate staff writer
A traditionally sad occasion turned to one with sweet and happy moments for the surviving members of a local family because of a Crescent City business' honesty.
Walter Klever, 79, had died Saturday. In anticipation of the myriad tasks ahead during the days to come, Klever's daughter, Kamalee Shurden, dropped off two suits later that day to be dry cleaned.
The harsh, cold weather that day probably mirrored the family's mood.
Family members had agreed on the choices for he clothes he would be buried in because Klever wore them most often.
"I went through the pockets of one jacket," Shurden said. "I was supposed to get them back on Monday."
When she stopped at 101 Laundromat and Dry Cleaners to pick them up a day later, owner Dottie Linville first asked her for identification, then verified her telephone number and asked her to come into the office.
"I thought the ID and phone number might be because so many prison workers take their uniforms there," Shurden said.
Regarding the office request, "I thought that maybe she knew my dad and wanted to give me her condolences or give me my dry cleaning for free, I don't know."
Instead, Linville explained that one of her workers had found a large amount of cash in the pocket of one of the suits. She then handed Shurden an envelope containing nearly $5,000 and a plastic baggie containing mementos her father had put in his pocket with the thick wad of cash.
"We think that he wanted us to find them," said Kimberly Klever of Palmdale, another daughter. "It's like he put them all there because he was trying to tell us something."
The baggie contained funeral memorial mementos of both of Klever's parents, another of his first grandson, Jordan Klever, who died in a motorcycle accident. It also had Austrian currency that Klever kept as a memento of a trip he'd taken to Europe with Kimberly.
"He called it funny money," she said. "He liked foreign currency because it was so colorful."
A couple of peppermints, something Klever was never without, and a penny "for more peppermints" were also in the baggie along with a news article about a boyhood friend, John Bradley of Antigo, Wis., one of the men who helped raise the American flag on Iwo Jima.
"We know where he had it, it was with a penny in his jewelry box," Kimberly said.
The family is convinced their father wanted to help them pay for his funeral arrangements. They also think his reminders indicated which suit he wanted them to dress him in the "pink" or "mauve" suit, not the blue one that had also been a choice.
"She cried and cried," Linville said. "She wanted to know who found the money."
To her new employee, Tony Pires, goes the credit. He is a part-time college student who Linville said "really could have feathered his nest very well with the cash."
"What a commendation for him," she said. "As an employer you wonder if your employees are honest, and sometimes they're not."
Kamalee said she "immediately peeled off $50" as a thank-you to the business that found her father's belongings.
"In a big city we never would have gotten this," family members said. "We never would have known what he was telling us."
"Maybe he decided to do this during his chemo treatments," they said. "He was really sick then, or maybe for his retirement or because he'd had a stroke and realized he might have another. He was putting it away for a long time. He never had any cash."
The musty smell of the money frightened Linville and Pires, who feared it might be drug related or worse.
"We figured that if we said nothing, maybe someone would come back," Linville said. "I hope that it never happens again, it was too nerve wracking."
Like Klever's family, she also thinks that "this person had a reason to let his family know."
And like the weather, the sparkle of sunshine that greeted Crescent City Tuesday afternoon also may have mirrored the family's mood.