Fritz Klocker
of  Navarro County, Texas


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Service in World War II has left Fritz Kloecker, 87, with a lot of stories to tell, about cooking, the Army and General Patton. Courtesy photo

4/6/2003 YESTERDAY'S SOLDIER: Corsicana man remembers WWII service

By DEANNA PAWLOWSKI/Daily Sun Staff

How many people are there walking around today that can boast about knowing Gen. George S. Patton?

There is one -- and his name is Fritz Kloecker.

As a cook in the army, Kloecker was presented with a unique opportunity.

One day Kloecker found himself with several 100-pound bags of Irish potatoes, and decided the best use of the potatoes was in a "poor folks potato salad." In his house growing up, it was called this due to the inexpensive, always-on-hand ingredients. The recipe called for salt, black pepper, apple cider vinegar, hard boiled eggs, sour pickles, onion and butter.

While making the potato salad, word began to spread that Gen. Patton was on his way for dinner. Patton entered, and everyone snapped to attention. Patton was a big man, with two pearl handled pistols at his sides, Kloecker said. He always had one scotch whiskey before a meal -- no water, no ice.

"After the meal, Patton came into the kitchen and barked, 'Who made that blankety-blank potato salad?,' " Kloecker said. "Of course, everyone in that kitchen looked straight at me. Then Patton looked right at me and said, 'Best blankety-blank potato salad I've ever tasted.' "

Patton then requested that Kloecker please make that potato salad for him whenever the general was in the area.

Fritz Kloecker was born in 1916 to parents of German descent, in Hempstead. Since German was the language spoken in their home, young Fritz didn't know much English, and spent three years in the first grade before his mother pulled him out of school to home school him.

The oldest of 13 children, Fritz was enlisted to help his mother cook for their large family. Later, he had a fishing buddy who taught him even more about cooking.

Kloecker left home at the age of 17, going to work for a Ford dealership there in Hempstead. By the age of 20, he had married a woman named Marietta. This union lasted seven days. This was followed by a nine day marriage to Gladys.

"When World War II started, my cousin and I immediately went to Freeport, Texas and went to work for Dow Chemical Company," Kloecker said.

He worked there until his induction into the Army.

"I was on the plant protection force," Kloecker said.

After receiving several draft notices, which he ignored, Kloecker finally took one to show his boss, John Deere.

"Deere said, 'I can't do nothing for you -- you're gone,'" Kloecker said.

And off he went to Abilene.

While at Fort Barclay, Kloecker was asked what he had done before entering the army. When he replied, "Plant protection for Dow Chemical," it was decided that he would become a Military Policeman.

"Every morning about 7:30 a.m., they would come pick me up, give me a rifle with no bullets, and take me out to the desert to guard a post," Kloecker said. "Only there wasn't any post -- just heat, snakes and quail."

After doing that for a while, Kloecker was ready for a change. One day when they were all lined up, the sergeant asked if anyone wanted to volunteer to be a cook, please step forward two paces.

"My buddies all said, ' Ole Fritz didn't step forward two steps -- he jumped 15 feet!,' " Kloecker said.

And thus began his culinary career with the Army. Kloecker worked one month as a cook, and went from a buck private to sergeant.

During his time in Abilene, Kloecker met a young lady named Mabel Beauchamp, who worked at the Western Union office. They began dating, and Fritz had a hard time tearing himself away when his leave from the base was over.

"I lost my stripes three times," Kloecker said. "Each time it was for being AWOL after going to see Mabel.

"Of course, I was AWOL many more times than that -- I just got caught three times."

He was able to earn them back each time, however.

Fritz and Mabel married, and two months later he was sent to Germany.

Kloecker said that he had many experiences during the war, met a lot of interesting people, and enjoyed working in the kitchen.

"Spent the whole war in the kitchen, and never washed a dish, " Kloecker said.

After the war was over, people got out on the point system.

"I could have gone home -- I had plenty of points -- but I was declared essential, and stayed on cooking," Kloecker said.

When he did return to the states, he and Mabel settled in Corsicana. They owned and operated Kloecker's Grocery Store on South Seventh Street for 36 years. They also became parents to one boy, Fritz (or Bubba, as they called him), and Cassie, a daughter who is named for Kloecker's mother.

Following the sale of the store, Kloecker didn't think retirement was for him, and went to work for Haynie Drilling Company as a pumper for 14 years.

"My ambition was to be the inside man, and Mabel to be the outside woman," Kloecker said. "In other words, I did all the cooking, and she did all the mowing."

Mabel suffered a stroke about 10 years ago, and Kloecker had been her only caregiver until recently.

About three weeks ago, Kloecker was informed that he has lung cancer. He knew that he'd lost weight, and food just didn't taste as good as it once did. He also discovered one day when he tried to pick up Mabel that he was very weak.

The prognosis was not good.

Kloecker has packed a lot of living in his 87 years. He has done many things, been many places, and never met a stranger.

"I've had one failing all my life," Kloecker said. "I talk all the time."

xxx

Deanna Pawlowski may be contacted via e-mail at deannap@corsicanadailysun.com

 

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