Museum volunteer retires after nine years of service
July 9, 2013
By Erin Hoffman
In 2004, Karen Klein thought she had retired, but then she saw a newspaper advertisement for a volunteer position at the Issaquah History Museums.
Nearly a decade later, Klein is retiring for real from her position as volunteer coordinator, and according to Museum Director Erica Maniez, she will be difficult to replace.
“It’s been delightful,” she said of her time working with Klein, whose last day was June 27. “She’s been my right-hand person in developing many things in the museum.”
Klein grew up in Davis, Calif., where her father was the head of the Department of Viticulture and Enology, and she graduated college with a Bachelor of Arts in art history. Klein and her husband Joel, who is a winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, moved to Issaquah from California shortly before the birth of their first child.
In her 38 years as an Issaquah resident, Klein has been a legal secretary, the owner of Snoqualmie Winery and the owner of a chocolate business prior to her work at the Issaquah History Museums. Behind the scenes, Klein helped Maniez develop the volunteer program as it currently stands, but her primary contribution was her passion for connecting with people.
“I do enjoy the history aspect,” Klein said, “but one of the things I enjoy greatly is the people I work with.”
Klein appreciated an awareness of history and understood the importance of interpretation in the community, Maniez said, adding that the outgoing and personable Klein always seemed to know intuitively what each museum guest needed, and she found joy in the happiness of others.
Klein recalled one specific incident that encapsulated her time at the museum, when a man came in looking for information about his family history, which Klein helped him find.
“Each thing we found was like a gift,” she said, recalling the way his face lit up with every discovery. “It was really exciting. By the time he left, we were all thrilled.”
In her time with the organization, Klein enriched the lives of patrons and her co-workers. Over the years, Klein and Maniez have developed a close relationship. Maniez reminisced about the little moments she spent with Klein, from getting stuck in the doorway of a supply closet to making up games to play while sorting mail. For several years, it was just Klein and Maniez together in the office, before the organization expanded, and the two became great friends. They often make fun of each other, “to everyone’s general amusement.
“I tease her a lot about her first performance review,” Maniez said. “I could tell she wasn’t worried because she brought a corn dog.”
Every year, Klein and Maniez put on a volunteer awards night to honor the hard work of everyone who donated their time and enthusiasm.
“It’s something she and I really enjoy doing together,” Maniez said. “It’s kind of like Christmas for us.”
Klein’s retirement is bittersweet for all involved. She said she will miss the work, although she is glad to have more time to spend with her family and her pastels. Klein and her husband have two children: Josh, an independent technology expert who has authored three books, and Devon, a tenured psychologist at Green River Community College. She is an accomplished artist who has been involved with Issaquah’s artEAST since its inception, and she also makes jewelry.
“Although I’m looking forward to endless hours of free time, I will miss regular exposure to local history and the wonderful, supportive people I work with,” Klein said.