Sturgeon County leaders paused this week to recognize the life of a former mayor who served nearly 20 years on county council.
Former Sturgeon County reeve and mayor Lawrence Alvin Kluthe died Sept. 12 at the Valleyview Heath Centre at age 85.
Sturgeon County council held a moment of silence in Kluthe’s honour at its Tuesday Sept. 13 meeting.
In an interview, Mayor Alanna Hnatiw praised Kluthe for his commitment to public service.
“Twenty years, I mean, I’ve just been doing this for a little over five. It’s a tremendous amount of work, so I appreciate anybody who’s had the perseverance to serve the public for over 20 years.”
Father, mentor, friend
Kluthe was a lifelong Sturgeon County resident who grew up on the family farm near Alcomdale, said his son and former Sturgeon County councillor David Kluthe. He was an avid baseball player who played for teams in Alcomdale and Morinville in his younger days, and played catch and coached hockey for his children.
Former Sturgeon County mayor Donald Rigney said he first met Kluthe on council in the early 2000s and considered him a mentor and father figure. He described him as a selfless, action-orientated man who was often last to bed and first to rise.
“A lot of people were intimidated by him because he was a big man with a strong voice,” Rigney said.
Kluthe had a powerful presence and could take control of a room the moment he walked into it, David said. A stern word and a stare from him were all it took for him to get his kids to listen.
“But behind all that, he was probably one of the gentlest men I’ve ever met,” David said.
Outside of work, David said his father was an avid hunter and fisher — so much so that some joke the fish at Lake Isle are safe now that he’s no longer around. Kluthe also survived a remarkable number of accidents in his life, including one where he drove a truck loaded with lumber off a small cliff near Onoway and walked away without a scratch.
“My father, I think, had more lives than a cat,” David said.
David said his father was very community-minded, and would raise funds as the auctioneer at every Mearns/Alcomdale turkey supper.
“He was all about the community and never about himself.”
Kluthe was first elected to Sturgeon County council in 1965 and remained on it for 16 years, serving as the county’s reeve from 1970 to 1971. He returned to council in 2002 to serve two years as the county’s first directly elected mayor. (Sturgeon County councillors previously picked one of their own to be mayor.)
“He was told once, ‘You want to complain about something, young man, maybe you should put your name forward and do something about it,' and that’s what he did,” David said.
Kluthe served on a lengthy list of boards and committees, including the Edmonton Regional Planning Commission (an ancestor of the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board), the Métis Settlement Appeal Tribunal, and the county’s agricultural service board, David said. He also ran for MLA in the 1970s.
Kluthe played a central role in having a major nitrogen plant transferred to Sturgeon County in the late 1960s, Rigney said. Now owned by Nutrien, said plant accounted for more than half of the county’s taxes for many years, and employed many residents. Kluthe also worked closely with Rigney and Ian MacGregor of North West Upgrading to get the Sturgeon Refinery built.
David said his father spent much of his retirement ice fishing with Simone at a lakeside cabin. Kluthe was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in around 2014 and spent the last five years in the Valleyview care centre.
Kluthe is survived by his wife, Simone, children David, Tracy, Brad, and Lyle, 11 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. His funeral was being arranged as this story went to press. In lieu of flowers, the family asked well-wishers to make donations to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.