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Mourning their 'brother'

Stanley Klimsky never had much, but veterans supporters want to make sure he at least has mourners at his funeral today. Klimsky, who died last week at 86, was a prisoner of war for more than two of the five years he served in World War II. His o...

Stanley Klimsky

Stanley Klimsky never had much, but veterans supporters want to make sure he at least has mourners at his funeral today.

Klimsky, who died last week at 86, was a prisoner of war for more than two of the five years he served in World War II. His obituary lists no survivors.

"He's one of our brothers that died and he has nobody to be there," said Jim Brent, Cass County veterans service officer. Brent asked several local veterans groups to spread the word about the funeral.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Klimsky never settled down after the war.

He worked as a ranch hand for many years in Montana, then traveled as a carnival worker.

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In1999, he landed in Fargo.

"He had nothing when he got here, and he couldn't go on anymore," Brent said. "He was flat broke and homeless."

Bob Stewart, who until late March was coordinator of the Veterans Affairs regional homeless veterans program, found Klimsky at a shelter.

"I tried to talk to him and all he would do is grunt," Stewart said.

Klimsky was hard of hearing, Stewart learned. He also had mental health and substance abuse issues.

But Klimsky had never signed up for any kind of benefits from the VA..

With assistance from Brent's office, Klimsky was found to have a disability that's 100 percent service-connected. He drew a pension of $2,400 a month, tax-free, Brent said proudly.

By 2003, Klimsky was living in an apartment at the downtown Fargo Lashkowitz High Rise, a building for elderly or disabled people.

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He owned hardly anything at first, said Gwen McIntyre, the building manager. She plans to attend the funeral.

As the money came in, Klimsky allowed a caregiver to buy him a new bed, bedding, a recliner and a desk.

"He thought everything was just beautiful," McIntyre said. "He thought it looked like the Ritz."

Each morning, Klimsky came downstairs and asked staff members to call him a taxi so he could go to "the office," by which he meant the Empire bar, McIntyre said. He returned home in time for lunch and a nap.

"He was a nice man, he was a kind man," McIntyre said. "And we enjoyed him."

Lyle Rasmussen, who handled Klimsky's finances and later his medical affairs, said Klimsky had two sisters.

He hadn't seen them in 50 years and asked Rasmussen to find them. Rasmussen couldn't.

"I went as far as I got a name," he said. "I went through the police department to see if they could find this person, and nobody could really find them."

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The funeral is at 10 a.m. at Boulger Funeral Home in Fargo. Klimsky will be buried at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery in Mandan.

Dave Rice, commander of the North Dakota American Legion district that includes Fargo, said he sent out e-mails and made an announcement at a meeting.

Bob Hanson, commissioner of the state Veterans Affairs Department, plans to attend the funeral.

Hanson said this is the first time he's learned of a veteran dying with no survivors. He's not sure how often they happen.

"If I knew that I would be going to as many as I could," Hanson said. "I think it's my responsibility as commissioner of Veterans Affairs to recognize the service they've done."

Veterans 16% of N.D.'s homeless

Veterans make up about 16 percent of the homeless population in North Dakota, said Bob Stewart, who served until late March as coordinator of the homeless veterans program for the Veterans Affairs office in Fargo.

Nationally, the figure is between 27 percent and

30 percent, he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556

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