If you ever have a conversation with Peace member David Kleppe, you will quickly discover that
he is a well-read man who immerses himself in learning and questioning. Your conversation may
lead you to discuss authors, theologians, music, or political science. This month, we will learn
more about this lifelong learner, a humble man with a big heart and a deep curiosity about life,
faith, and community.
David was born in Boulder, Colorado, but as the son of an aeronautical engineer, he frequently moved: from Arlington, Texas, to Denver and then to Minnesota. He was raised with two brothers and two sisters. There were piano lessons, swimming lessons, camping trips, and, depending on the location, sometimes there were views of mountain peaks from the backyard. He remembers Vista Dome train trip adventures through high-altitude tracks and tunnels, staying in Colorado Springs. “It was like every valley exalted, every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight and the rough places plain,” he recounts (with words from Isaiah 40:4). This sounds like an idyllic childhood, but changing schools frequently must have been difficult. He went to many different grade schools, two different junior high schools, and two high schools: Edina and Columbia Heights. While in high school, he especially enjoyed participating in Junior Achievement. Another high school activity, Luther League gave him carefree days of hayrides and horseback riding. And then, in the summer of 1964, there was a civil rights rally at St. Thomas University after four student activists were killed in Mississippi. “We all held hands and sang We Shall Overcome.” This is a memory that has affected him to this day. He speaks highly of their pastor, Griffith H. Williams, who took the group to a football game at St. Olaf College. “Pastor Williams never put on a helmet or shoulder pads, but he sure put on a full armor of the gospel and its saving power, something I learned about in confirmation class every Saturday morning during the school year.”
At the University of Minnesota, David majored in Journalism and worked for a time at a weekly newspaper in Owatonna. Due to a military obligation, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves, went to radar school, and then served on a helicopter carrier that operated in the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic, and finally in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam. At the war’s end, the carrier went to the entrance to Haiphong Harbor to remove American mines from the shipping lanes using aerial electronic minesweeping measures. “A small group of sailors met in the ship library for Bible study and found that peace is possible even in wartime,” David shares. “I rediscovered the whole idea of being created in the image of God. It reoriented my understanding of existence.”
When David came home, he found employment at the University of Minnesota and later worked for community newspapers as a reporter and advertising sales representative. He also had jobs in retail sales. He was recruited and rejoined the Naval Reserves, attended monthly weekend duties, and served on annual temporary active duty aboard ships and at shore stations. For a time, he was placed in a chaplaincy unit working with all Lutheran pastors who were doing weekend military duty.
David studied for a few years at United Theological Seminary and had some student internships at Congregational churches. He missed the Lutheran experience, so joining Peace Lutheran Church seemed like a welcome homecoming when he moved to Plymouth. In addition to his diverse employments, David has found great joy in his volunteerism with various groups and advocacy causes. “The best part of this has been in volunteer church work, in peace and justice groups, including a Lutheran foundation providing college scholarships for students working toward careers in community wellbeing and in social justice reform,” he explains. David adds that “being active at Peace Lutheran Church in the thriving of our neighbors via Families Moving Forward, TreeHouse, the rummage sale and singing in the Adult Choir over nearly seventeen years has been great.” David has also coordinated donations to the Memorial Blood Bank, helps with Peaceful Nights, and has been a volunteer at our Welcome Desk. “I have learned more about love, hope and service from this church than I ever did in Seminary training. True grace never ends, does it?” As mentioned at the beginning of this article, David is a lifelong learner. He still has an interest in studying theology, both ancient and modern. “It seems our deepest questions about life, faith, hope and togetherness are as important as the answers,” he explains. During Lent, he participated in Peace’s book study group, reading “The Universal Christ” by Richard Rohr, and found the book eye-opening. He has also been reading some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings. He finds that there is also good faith and theology in the Lutheran hymnal. He points to a verse in the hymn, Remember and Rejoice: “In life and death we trust in God’s most holy name, forever traced by water sign and spirit flame.” David points out that “when words and music unite, it is something special.” David also cites the liturgy sung at Peace last summer as something that has spoken to him: “Have mercy on us, Lord, and hear our solemn prayer/ We come to hear your living word, it saves us from despair.”
David, you have given of yourself to your church, community, and country. You have lived your faith and vocation selflessly, and your Peace family thanks you for all you do as we continue to learn in your well-read company!