Shorty and Leona

When I write stories for this blog, it is usually about people who lived and died a long time ago.  When I do research for these stories, it is actually easier to do so because there are privacy laws which protect the public from getting at more recent records.  For example, the last Federal census available to the public is the 1940 census. is limited on providing information on people who may still be alive.  Our museum has to be sensitive to these issues as well.  We do not make available to the public church records that are too recent.  Today’s story is about a couple that lived fairly recently, making it a little more difficult for the type of story I usually write, which includes all kinds of records which are available to the public.  Therefore, I’ve had to rely a little more on stories I have been told by folks who knew this couple.

The starting point of this story is the marriage of Arnold and Leona Kaempfe on June 20, 1948.  Arnold Kaempfe was the son of Edmund and Minna (Versemann) Kaempfe.  He was born February 3, 1920 and baptized at Zion Lutheran Church in Crosstown, Missouri.  In 1933, he was confirmed at Salem Lutheran Church in Farrar.  When he and Leona were married in 1948, that ceremony took place at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.  Arnold made quite a tour of some local churches during his early years.  Here is a later picture of him.

Shorty Kaempfe

Leona was the daughter of Rudolph and Christine (Mueller) Weber.  She was born on February 6, 1924 and baptized at Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg.  Here is a later photo of Leona.

Leona Kaempfe

Her parents are shown in this photograph of the Henry Weber family taken sometime around 1925.  The photo was made available to the Perry County Republic-Monitor by Leona.

Henry Weber family

Rudolph and Christine are found on the left side of the photo.  The patriarch of this family, Henry Weber, was the half-brother of Herman Weber who was mentioned in a recent post titled, As For Me and My House…..  The Henry Weber land was also found in the same vicinity of the Herman Weber property shown in this map.

Weber land map

When Leona was married, she was twenty-four years old.  They were married by Rev. Adolph Vogel.  Here is their marriage license.

Kaempfe Weber marriage license
Kaempfe/Weber marriage license

I need to veer off onto another topic….nicknames.  I have heard a few stories about Arnold Kaempfe since arriving in Altenburg several years ago, but I have never heard him called Arnold.  He is always referred to as Shorty Kaempfe.  East Perry County is chock full of people who go by a nickname.  We have a Gerard who is called Reggie; we have a Steve who goes by the name Grubby; we have a Donald who is almost always called Hyde.  Most of the nicknames go to the men, but it is not limited to them.  I had an aunt who folks around here never called by her given name, Melba, but always called her Mousie.  I had a cousin who was always called Bud, and I didn’t discover his real name until I was well into my adulthood.  It seems to be a cultural aspect of East Perry County for people to be given nicknames that stick with them for life.  Shorty Kaempfe was one of them.

The following excerpt from Shorty’s obituary describes his life:

“Kaempfe was a construction worker and boiler operator. He was a member, elder and trustee of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, American Legion Post 133, proud member of International Brotherhood of Operating Engineers Local 513 for over 50 years, alderman of Altenburg Town Board, charter member and past president of Altenburg Lions Club, Perry County Lutheran Historical Society, River Hills Antique Tractor Club, active volunteer in Altenburg community, and loved to garden.”

Shorty was also a veteran who served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Arnold Kaempfe gravestone war plaque

Leona’s obituary gives the following summary of her life:

“Mrs. Kaempfe worked for the U.S. Postal Service and was a homemaker. She was a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, Ladies Aid charter member, docent for Perry County Lutheran Historical Society, LWML, American Postal Workers Union, Altenburg Lions Club and American Legion Post 133 Auxiliary.”

You may note that both Shorty and Leona were involved in the Perry County Lutheran Historical Society which operates the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum.  They considered it important to preserve the history of this community.  Two other treasured volunteers we have at our museum are Doris and Betty Weber.  They called Leona and Shorty their aunt and uncle.  Shorty died in 2007; Leona died in 2009.  Here is their gravestone in Trinity Lutheran Cemetery in Altenburg.

Arnold and Leona Kaempfe gravestone

I do know this about Shorty Kaempfe.  Whenever his name is brought up in conversation around here, people’s faces light up and smile becomes visible.  Shorty was a fun-loving guy who always had a story to tell.  I know that even though I never knew the man.  He is now the subject of many stories that float around Altenburg.  And that’s a good thing.


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