Mrs. K. will always have a special place in our hearts in New London
New London — She was the town matriarch, the Everymom, the woman who never saw race, color or status. Just plates of food. Which she gave to everybody who entered the town’s de facto nerve center on Summit Avenue.
You needed to eat? Go see Mrs. K. Cleats for the baseball game? Go see Mrs. K. A ride to the game? Mrs. K drove the bus. (No, really.) You need a place to stay? See Mrs. K.
It was the little things.
The million little things that create legacies.
“Mrs. K.,” otherwise known as the great Patty Klinefelter, died earlier this week from health complications in Florida. She was 69.
A city mourns.
“She reached her happiness by making other people happy,” her son, Will Klinefelter, the principal at Mohegan Elementary in Montville, was saying Thursday from Deltona, Fla. “When you walked through the doors of our house, you felt loved. I can’t tell you the number of people who stayed with us.”
News of Mrs. K’s death prompted hundreds of tributes on Facebook and other social media outlets.
“My heart is broken,” New London High softball coach Missy Parker wrote. “I'm forever grateful for all you did for me and all the other lives you've touched. Your kindness can't be measured. The world won't be the same without you in it. RIP Mrs. K.”
Casey O’Neill, the play-by-play voice of “GameDay” on theday.com and city native, wrote, “Mrs. K was a New London mom. Community mom. Big heart, big family, room for everyone.”
Will, a former football and baseball player at New London High, likened his mom to the late Barbara Major, who, like Mrs. K., opened her home to the city and its people. Faithfully. With food and fun.
“The epitome of a New London mom,” Will said. “Just like Barbara Major. My mom never wanted acknowledgment. Whatever needed to be done. She made sure every kid had what they needed, not just me or my sisters. A lot of kids who grew up in New London didn’t grow up having what we had. But they did when my mom got involved.”
Mrs. K. retired from the state and worked for another long while at Seaside. She was a bus driver for many years, somehow always managing to provide one for a long trip to some game somewhere.
“New London kids didn’t always have transportation,” Will Klinefelter said. “My dad had a van, which helped. They always made sure kids got to games. I remember once she got a bus for us to go to Putnam for a youth football game. And she drove it.”
Mrs. K. wasn’t just a chef and a driver. She was the secretary of this league and that. A champion bowler. Secretary of the bowling league, too.
“All the jobs somebody had to do,” Will said, “but nobody wanted to do them.”
Mrs. K. made her place … a better place. There is no more enduring legacy. Maybe that’s why the tributes to her have been so profound. People come and go in all our lives. It’s the Mrs. Ks you never forget. For who they are and what they stand for.
“I’m truly humbled,” Will said. “I’ve always known my mom to be a special person. But the outpouring and support from people on Facebook … how she touched so many lives … it’s almost overwhelming. I don’t think she ever realized the impact she had on the youth of New London and beyond.”
So many people will spend the rest of their lives missing Mrs. K.
But then, that’s the best evidence yet of the good life lived.
May we all learn from her and help whenever we can.
And may she rest in peace.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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