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Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Cherokee native's unique gift to depot

Friday, February 15, 2008

John and Joie Kledis pause in a scenic setting in Asheville, N.C. A Cherokee native, John recently made a sizeable donation to the Cherokee Depot Renovation group in memory of his late father and grandfather who worked for the ICRR in Cherokee. Photo contributed
A family history with the Illinois Central Railroad in Cherokee, a treasured boyhood roaming the halls of the local ICRR Depot, and being "blown away" by the dedication and resolve of this community to salvage and restore the historic Depot has led a former resident to pay the rent for two meeting rooms for a year.

The unique gift from Cherokee native John Kledis to the Cherokee ICRR Depot Renovation group came as a surprise to Jim Adamson, president of the Cherokee Depot Renovation group and avid community booster for all things great and small.

"This past year, John learned that our depot group lost a tenant, received notice of higher gas prices, and struggled to pay monthly bills," explained Adamson. "John discussed the situation with a high school classmate and came up with the idea of how he might help the depot project financially, and at the same time get people to the depot to better appreciate the historic building and the local railroad heritage the grand edifice represents."

This 1934 photo of the Illinois Central Railroad workers includes Nick Kledis, front row, second from left (with dog). Kledis's grandson, John, a Cherokee graduate now living in Asheville, N.C., recently made a unique financial contribution to the Cherokee depot in memory of his late grandfather Nick, and father John, who worked for the ICRR in Cherokee. Photo by Ed Skinner
Kledis, a personable and popular 1965 Washington High graduate, then agred to pay the rent for one year for two adjoining rooms (Trainmaster 1 and Trainmaster 2) on the second floor of the depot, but not to use the rooms for himself. Instead, he invites local community groups to use the rooms on a scheduled basis, rent free!

Kledis, who now calls Asheville, N.C. home, made the estimated $4,000 contribution in memory of his late father, John, and grandfather, Nick, who both worked to retirement for the ICRR in Cherokee.

During the past few years, Kledis has visited Cherokee and the depot on numerous occasions to visit family and friends, and to participate in class reunions. He has made financial contributions in the past for the depot as the renovation has played out through the years.

Kledis also wants to help the depot group continue its effort to maintain the depot and Express Building as community resources to teach about Cherokee's railroad heritage, and places people can visit to just enjoy being in the presence of history.

In a telephone interview, Kledis reminisced that as a boy he would go to the depot often to see his dad and grandfather. "I grew up running around the depot. As kids, that's where we played. It's a special place," said Kledis, who is married to his college sweetheart, Joie. They have three adult children - Joe, 32, a CPA in New York City; and Holly, 34, and Johnny, 30, both who live in Asheville and work in their dad's accounting firm.

Although he now calls Asheville home, Cherokee remains his cherished home for life. "My memories of Cherokee are fantastic. My childhood there, the quality education I received couldn't be beat. I love Cherokee and I simply wanted to do something positive for my home town - something different to help remember the depot."

Although John moved to Asheville in the beautiful Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in 1971 to start his own business, 36 years later the fond memories of his home town persist.

"I remember riding the ICRR passenger train back and forth to Fort Dodge in the sixties to go to college (Iowa Central Community College)," recalled Kledis, who later graduated from Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb. in 1969 with a B.S. degree in Accounting. He then worked for a firm in Cedar Rapids before relocating to Asheville.

"Cherokee will always be home to me. Just because we leave, doesn't mean we ever forget the place," concluded Kledis.

Adamson and Kledis encourage civic groups, social clubs, card clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc. to take advantage of the Kledis gift and use the depot rooms rent free. Adamson said a couple local groups already have booked the rooms because of the Kledis donation.

For information about using the rooms at the depot as a meeting place, or family gathering, contact Adamson at 229-9502, Dollie Morton at 225-5669, or Mick Samsel at 261-3823.

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