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Couple has best volunteer jobs ever

Bob and Pat Klum help out weekly at the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - PRUNING IN THE SUN IS FUN - The Washington Park International Rose Test Garden is in full bloom on June 7, when Pat Klum of King City dead-heads roses while husband Bob is nearby working as a park host.The happiest place on Earth isn't Disneyland - it is the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden on a beautiful spring or summer day when the roses are in bloom, the crowds are mellow, and the lilting strains of harp music waft through the air.

Into this paradise enter Bob and Pat Klum of King City every Friday like clockwork - he volunteers as a park host, wearing his official vest and ready to answer tourists' questions about everything under the sun, while Pat is part of a dedicated group of dead-headers who remove the old flowers from the plants so they always look picture perfect.

When Pat decided to volunteer years ago and went to a dead-head training session, she was told that sometimes the dead-headers' husbands act as park hosts while the wives cut off dead blossoms, so Bob went through host training; both became hooked and are now in their sixth year of volunteering at the garden.

"There are a lot of dead-headers - some Master Gardeners do it for their community service," Pat said. "I have always loved to garden - I used to mix mud for my kids' mud pies. My dad had a Victory garden during the war and grew lots of vegetables - I used to go out to graze with a salt shaker in my back pocket.

"In our gardens, I always had roses - roses are my favorite. When we lived at the coast, I was in a garden club. But Bob wasn't allowed in the garden except for mowing."

Bob and Pat are now 83 and 82 respectively, "so we've become warm-weather volunteers," Pat said. "We usually start volunteering at the garden around the first of June."

Park hosts may be on duty seven days a week, while the dead-headers work Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with Mondays set aside for spraying and watering the roses, according to Pat.

"Everybody who goes there has a good time," Pat said. "Everyone is happy."

Indeed, sometimes their duties expand beyond their usual volunteer work: On June 7 the couple was at the garden early to direct traffic and help out at the Royal Rosarians' knighting ceremony, when local citizens who give to their community are knighted.

When Pat dead-heads, she wears a hat she decorated with fabric photos of some of her roses, and "people have asked if they can take my photo in my hat."

Indeed, while Pat was dead-heading after the knighting ceremony, a woman came up to her to ask where she got her hat, which led to a long conversation.

"The rose garden also is the site for weddings and memorial services, and kids from camps come too," Pat explained. "There are concerts in the rose garden in August."

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - MAKING FRIENDS FROM ALL OVER - As Bob Klum leaves the Washington Park International Rose Test Garden and walks towards his vehicle, a couple asks for help trying to find a location on a map by the tennis courts. Meanwhile, while Pat is dead-heading, Bob gets asked a variety of questions about pretty much everything.

Luckily, he grew up in Portland, because "half of the questions I get are about something in the city," he said. "The most frequently asked questions I get are: Where is the Japanese garden? Where is the wine country? How do I get to the airport?"

Pat added, "Bob is so good at this - he enjoys talking to people and helping them out."

When the Klums first started volunteering, they went to the garden a couple of days a week but now go once a week for a couple of hours. "Two hours on my feet at 82 is enough," Pat said.

Dead-headers check in at the garden shed, a little-noticed tiny building tucked between the tennis courts next to the rose garden, pick up a debris bucket and check a chart on the wall to see what areas need dead-heading.

"I like to see it all nice before the weekend," Pat said. "There are large garbage cans stationed throughout the garden filled with bags where we dump our debris buckets. I bring my own gloves and clippers.

"Every visitor to the garden greets us with a smile on their face and tells us how much they are enjoying it. We have met people from all over the world, and sometimes it is hard to get our tasks completed because we have so much fun talking to the tourists."

Pat attributes her interest in volunteering to her dad, who was "terribly patriotic," volunteering to be an air raid warden during World War II while she gathered scrap metal for the war effort.

As a kid, Pat helped decorate the Multnomah float for the Rose Festival parade; she also volunteered in her kids' schools.

Bob's dad fixed the neighborhood kids' bikes, and as a teenager, Bob volunteered to fill sandbags during the Vanport Flood; after retiring, he helped at the Easter Seal pool.

When the Klums lived in Lincoln City, Pat volunteered in the schools, and Bob volunteered for the local chamber, while they both were volunteer whale-watchers there.

They have been active participants in community associations wherever they have lived - in Portland, Lincoln City and King City. They are also members of the Broadway Rose Theatre Guild supporting theater events in Tigard.

While Pat and Bob are the type of people that any organization would love to have on its roster, the Klums' story goes far beyond volunteering.

For starters, they will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in July but would never have married in the first place if fate hadn't intervened.

They are proud of the fact that Pat's family came to Oregon in 1843 and Bob's came in 1846; Pat grew up in the Multnomah area and attended Lincoln High School, while Bob grew up in Southeast Portland and graduated from Franklin High School.

They met for the first time at the Starlight Club weekly dances held at the YWCA for students from all the area high schools.

"I had a big crush on him," Pat said. "I admired him from afar, but I was a wallflower. There was a dance coming up, and I had a friend at Franklin, so I told her to sell Bob Klum a ticket and tell him that someone wanted to meet him.

"The night of the dance, I was holding up the wall as usual, and he came in. I went up and introduced myself, and he said, 'So?' because my friend hadn't mentioned me. He asked me to dance, but I stepped on his feet."

Despite all that, Bob did ask Pat out, and their first date was watching the movie, "The Bride of Frankenstein." Soon he went off to college, and after writing back and forth for a while, they lost touch.

Bob studied architecture in college and got a job at the American Can Company one summer, but he was laid off in October because he was "draftable." But Continental Can Company hired him, and he worked there three months before getting drafted into the Army during the Korean War; by law, the company had to hold his job for him.

Bob spent two years driving 50-foot amphibious landing craft that were used to transport troops and supplies between ship and shore, and he was stationed at Fort Warden near Port Townsend, Wash. Fearing an enemy attack on the West Coast during World War II, an anti-submarine net was stretched across the Straight of San Juan de Fuca with troops and artillery stationed in the hills above.

"They closed the base after WWII and reopened it during the Korean War," Bob said. "I spent one year learning how to drive the landing craft, and then they decided not to use it. I spent the second year teaching others to drive it who were going to be stationed in France where there were no docks for ships to unload. My last four or five months, I went back and forth to Portland whenever I was on leave."

Meanwhile, Pat's dad died, and she moved in with her grandparents, switching to Jefferson High School for the last half of her senior year and graduating there. While in downtown Portland one day waiting for a bus, a friend of hers named Dan who happened to be stationed with Bob at Fort Warden offered her a lift, and when Dan got back to base, he mentioned to Bob that he had seen Pat.

"Bob came to Portland to see me, and it was magic," Pat said. "The crush was back on! Is that an 'aha' moment that we got a second chance because his friend gave me a lift? We had grown up, and it was meant to be the second time around. We were married July 18, 1953, had five children in seven years - three girls, a boy and then another girl - and now have 10 grandchildren."

Bob returned to Continental Can after his Army service and went from shipping clerk to supervisor to the outside warehouse, then was in sales for 18 years - first doing inside sales and then becoming inside sales manager. "I was with them for 42 years and got my pension," Bob said.

Pat "mostly stayed home" with the kids when they were growing up but also worked part time as a "call girl" doing temp work, such as working in credit departments at Christmastime and in the Portland School District. Where she really excelled was in high tech, noting, "I set up the first automated scheduling system for Portland Public Schools."

Pat added, "I got my first data-processing job in 1966 compiling agricultural data for keypunchers in Washington, D.C. In 1979, I found a better paying job in finance with First Interstate Services, the data-processing division of the bank, and discovered the dynamic ever-changing world of automation. I moved to the telecommunications department, handling all repairs for Oregon, and then into network services, where I developed online programs and handled all network access requests for several states as well as setting up ATMs on the network.

"I was never bored! Bob eagerly followed the progress of our company's automation efforts because we were on the leading edge of new technology and updated his company's telephone system and computer equipment. Our kids gave me an iPad for my 80th birthday, and I use it a lot. And Bob and I got iPhones this year."

During the course of their careers, Bob and Pat remodeled two homes and built two more, putting Bob's architectural skills to good advantage. They lived on Mount Scott for almost 20 years before selling the house, putting everything in storage and taking off in their motor home to make "2 ½ trips" across the United States.

"We took off like two kids on bicycles after all our chores were done," Pat said. "After we came back, we lived at the coast until 2004, when both of us got hit with cancer. Bob was diagnosed with stage 3 lymphoma, and I had early-stage breast cancer. We decided to move back to the Portland area, where our four daughters were living, and rent for a while.

"We had looked at King City the year before. We had a dog, and went to an apartment complex in West Linn, where they wanted to interview the dog. I said, 'Let's drive through King City again.' All the homes for sale had 'Sale Pending' signs until we saw this one for sale."

Needless to say, they grabbed that house and have now lived there happily for nine years, finding King City a good jumping-off point for wherever they want to go, including the rose garden.

One event the Klums always look forward to is the annual end-of-the-season potluck for Washington Park volunteers, with Pat noting, "If people like to garden, they like to cook."