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County historical society hires a director

The coffee is on at the Carlton County Historical Society. What may seem like a small gesture means a lot to the society's new director, Carol Klitzke. It's been 19 months since the museum on Cloquet Avenue has been able to freely entertain visitors and ask them to come by to just chat. That's how Klitzke would like to mark her tenure.

"Come in and say hi," she said this week, her first officially as the director.

She was happy to talk with a visitor Monday who eventually said she knew Klitzke was busy and didn't want to take up any more of her time. Klitzke was having none of it. "I'm at work and talking to people is part of my job," she said.

The idea is to make the museum a community gathering spot. Klitzke also plans a push in introducing young people to how history is preserved at the museum.

There have been history events in the past month with good attendance, said society board president Susan Zmyslony. It shows that people are hungry for the museum to get back on its feet in what everyone hopes is a waning pandemic, she said.

The board is happy to have Klitzke in the director role after a trying few years. Beth Lyle was director starting just as the pandemic began. She left for another job earlier this year. The society had been planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its building, the old Shaw Library, as it continues to make improvements on its infrastructure.

Zmyslong said now is a good time to reset, and Klitzke joined a nice group of qualified candidates for the director job.

"It fits her enthusiasm and her strong work ethic," the president said. "She's not afraid to dig in."

Klitzke retired as a professor at Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin last year and moved to Cloquet with her husband. Her brother and mother lived here.

She recalled seeing an ad in the Pine Knot News about the society's barn calendars. She got one and was delighted by the fundraising idea. It inspired her to fill out a membership form and to volunteer.

"I was done painting at the house," she said with a laugh about settling into life in Cloquet. She soon became a super volunteer, helping organize volunteers for the society's exhibition spaces at the Carlton County Fair. "That's not an easy task," Zmyslony said. "Especially when you're not from here. She worked hard and jumped in with both feet."

"I love history and I love museums," Klitzke said. The volunteer work was a great way to introduce herself to the area. "I knew where Cloquet was," she said of visiting her parents and brother here over the years. Now that she's a resident herself, she's realizing "it's beautiful here" and "there's a lot of cool things going on."

She and her husband Pete drive around the county in their spare time, looking for interesting nooks and crannies. Pete is a grouse hunter, so he's been happy to find some places to hunt.

Klitzke laughs again when thinking about being a mere visitor to the area. "I knew where Walmart and Walgreens were when I came to see Mom," she said.

Her cheery demeanor is sure to match her goal of making the museum a place to meet and talk history. She mentions the coffee pot again. "I hope this becomes a hub of the community," she said "We'd love to see more people come in the door and attend events."


Meet the new director

Carol Klitzke taught for 34 years at Viterbo University, specializing in nutrition and dietetics education. She said her work with students is what drives her efforts with the Carlton County Historical Society. She did a lot of organizing of events, including an annual apple pie sale and a spaghetti dinner, which drew 400 to 500 people annually. She also took students on trips to South Korea, helped to design the foods lab on campus, and guided the construction and use of a hydroponic garden.

She and Pete have two grown sons - one lives in La Crosse and the other recently moved to Duluth. Carol's parents, Irvin and Jeanne Peter, moved to Cloquet in 2001 to be near their son Ken, who lives here. Irvin died in 2014 and Jeanne in March of this year.

Carol and Pete have two yellow labs and love to explore the wilds of Carlton County.