John Joseph Kleaver Sr., 1888–1972
John Joseph Kleaver Sr. was born on 14 August 1888 in the City of St. Louis. His father, Louis Kleaver, was born in Ohio in 1858 and died in 1947. His mother, Catherine (Leonard) Kleaver, was born in Missouri in 1863 and died in 1925. John was referred to as “Senior,” although he really wasn’t one, as his son John’s middle name differed. John Joseph was the firstborn of five. After him came sister Katie in 1890, brothers Martin in 1892 and Elmer in 1893, and sister Birdie in 1898.
In 1900, the family was living at 926 Tyler Street in a neighborhood north of downtown St. Louis referred to by residents as the “near northside” In the 1960s, city government referred to it as the “Murphy Blair District” and later the neighborhood was renamed “Old North St. Louis.” Whatever its name, John lived virtually his entire life in that neighborhood. After his marriage to Mary Loretta Joyce in 1912, the newlyweds lived on La Beaume Street, one street south of Tyler. John had lived on Chambers Street, one block north of Tyler, prior to his marriage. In 1913, they were living in a flat at 1118A Tyler, in a three-building complex built in 1901 known officially as Tyler Estates, but unofficially as “Honeymoon Row” because shortly after its construction, seven newly married couples all resided there, more such couples than on any other single block in St. Louis. By 1919, the young family included three children: John Joyce, born in 1913, died in 1988; Loretta Margaret born in 1915 and died in 2006; and William Robert, born in 1919 and died in 1993. Around the year of William’s birth, they moved to 928 La Beaume, only to return to Tyler in 1923, this time to 1121 Tyler, a two-story house owned by Mary’s parents, Austin Joyce, who died in 1923, and Margaret Mary (O’Donnell) Joyce, who died in 1924. Here, John and Mary remained until near the very end of their lives when they moved into a nursing home.
John worked primarily as a salesman for companies such as the old St. Louis Star newspaper, Proctor & Gamble, Miller Brewing, and Anheuser-Busch. In retirement, he was known for making and eating a hearty breakfast each morning with a full pot of coffee, finishing it off with the first of many hand-rolled cigarettes he smoked during the course of the day. He regularly sat on a bench in the backyard, reading the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to which he often wrote letters to the editor. Back then, the Post didn’t verify the identity of the letter writer so he used pseudonyms. Always to the point, some of his letters were hilarious, although they’d now probably not be published as they were not “politically correct.”
John died on 16 December 1972, of acute bronchopneumonia and a fracture of the right femur, with burial in the family plot at Calvary Cemetery.
Written by Patrick Kleaver
John Kleaver Sr. and his son, John Jr.
Photo in the collection of Patrick Kleaver
Used with permission
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Last Modified: 18-Jul-2023 13:08