Special to the EagleHerald
This photo from the 1939 Menominee High School yearbook shows Loren Klar, who along with his wife, Irene, have bequeathed $3.8 million to the City of Menominee. Loren died in 2011, while Irene died earlier this year.
Special to the EagleHerald

This photo from the 1939 Menominee High School yearbook shows Loren Klar, who along with his wife, Irene, have bequeathed $3.8 million to the City of Menominee. Loren died in 2011, while Irene died earlier this year.

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MENOMINEE — A former Menominee couple who cared deeply for the city has donated $3.8 million to the city.

Last Friday, Menominee was bequeathed $3.8 million from the residual estate of Irene Klar, who died in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in January. Klar’s late husband, Loren Klar Lt. Col. USAFR (retired), was a native of Menominee. Both Klars had a deep passion for the city, according to Menominee Mayor Jean Stegeman.

According to former local historian Larry Ebsch, Klar attended Michigan Technological University after graduating. While he was there, the U.S. entered into World War II. Klar joined the Army and was a member of the Army Air Force, before the two branches split. He served as a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot in the 8th Army Air Force, performing bombing raids in Europe. He continued in the Army Air Force Reserve after the war and went back to school in 1948, graduating with a degree in chemical engineering. He retired from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Klar was a volunteer for the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Museum in Albuquerque and active with the Freemasons. Ebsch said Klar was also an avid singer active in chorus and opera from high school through college, and was a member of a few barbershop quartets. He died April 9, 2011. His wife died Jan. 12, and they are both buried at Riverside Cemetery. Ebsch said the Klars didn’t have any children, but they did have a deep-seated love for Lt. Col. Klar’s hometown.

Stegeman said the City Council would meet to hold a special meeting to discuss how best to utilize this major gift to the city, however she said her first inclination before talking with the council was to use the money primarily for capital improvements and immediate needs. “We need to be very judicious with how we use this gift. We’re not going to let it burn a hole in our pockets,” she said.

Stegeman’s personal wish for the use of the money is to only use a portion of the money at a time for some immediate needs, but otherwise “live on the interest” from the saved money so that it lasts for future generations. “It is incumbent upon us to use (this money) wisely and look past our own mortality to save this windfall for future generations.”

The Klars desired that the money be split between Spies Public Library and the Menominee Recreation Department. Stegeman said some of the money for the library could be used on a new HVAC system. “Humidity control is very important for a library,” she said.

Library Director Cheryl Hoffman said this came as a huge surprise. “I’ve been here for 33 years, and we’ve never had anything like this happen before,” she said. Hoffman said the library building is 116 years old, so there are some capital needs. However, what is most important to her is that the money be diligently managed.

One of Stegeman’s hopes for the Recreation Department’s share of the gift is that it goes in part to improving playground equipment at the various parks. “Playground equipment is expensive, but it’s a good place to start,” she said.