March 2, 1944 – July 23, 2020
Claus Sass has passed away after a gutsy eight-year cancer battle that did not spoil the substance of his 76 years of life.
Born in Oakland, Nebraska, to Claus and Calista (Pearce) Sass, he sorely disappointed his sister Ida by not sharing her birth date by just 15 minutes.
Claus flourished in a Norman Rockwell-like childhood and shared colorful escapades: riding his horse to grade school; learning the joys of farm work from his Uncle Bill; helping a buddy change 1950s film reels at the downtown movie theater; dreaming up appalling Halloween pranks; celebrating the 4th of July with a large boisterous extended family. Claus was considered a key athlete in his senior class of 36 — 14 boys — at Lyons High School.
After graduation, his brother Arthur (who had established his family in Albany) convinced him to attend an accredited college in Oregon. Claus studied mechanical drafting at OTI in Klamath Falls and served in the Oregon Army National Guard for six years.
He moved to Albany, worked in area mills but ultimately landed a position with Northwest Natural Gas as a serviceman. During this time, he married Kathleen Powers and together they welcomed sons Jonathan Powers (1969) and Eric William (1972). He and Kathy divorced after 15 years but remained lifelong friends.
His career refocused in 1978 when he was hired by Jenks-White Seed Company and eventually Northrup-King as a seed production specialist/manager. He found great satisfaction in agribusiness and rediscovered his own rural roots.
Against all odds as “40-something” entrepreneurs, Claus and Marshall Peters of Silverton began their own company, The Seed Connection, in 1992. Together they grew the business by inviting additional grower family partners, purchased the Jenks-White firm and renamed the company The Jenks Seed Connection. The company was sold to DLF International (Denmark) in 2000 and Claus remained the US DLF Division Manager until his 2008 retirement. He facilitated the purchase of several smaller North American seed companies and established new American and Asian markets.
In 1986 Claus married Kim Lillengreen. Because of the international nature of the grass industry, the couple was fortunate to travel to more than 50 countries and made friends around the world. His sister Peg and husband Loran Sell joined them to visit the Danish/German border towns where the Sass grandparents immigrated from in the late 1880s and then to Bridport (Dorset UK) where the Pearce clan originated.
Claus championed mid-valley agriculture through various seed commissions, the Oregon Seed Trade Association and Pacific Seed Association. He also volunteered for the governing boards of St. Alban’s Episcopal and Faith Lutheran churches, Albany FISH, the Community Services Consortium Advisory Board, Albany Partnership for Housing and the Linn Benton Community College Board of Education.
Claus tinkered on old houses, designed and improved his ‘fishing shack’ on the Alsea, drove red Ford pickups, golfed and hunted, faithfully walked his numerous dogs and devoured braunchweiger sandwiches with sweet pickles. He was friendly and happy. He volunteered for six OHSU cancer trials and described those bittersweet medical experiences as big bowls of rocky road ice cream.
Claus loved God, his family, and neighbors and friends that became for him a wider authentic family.
He has left for now: wife Kim; sister Yvonne Weeces of Blair, Nebraska; sister Peggy (Loran) Sell of Tidewater; brother of his heart Gordon (Mary Sabatka) Gamet of Albany; sons Jon and Eric of Albany; children of his heart, Mackenzie McPhate of Albany, Josh Waltman of Woodburn and Dara Hartman of Philomath; numerous nieces, nephews and cousins; his ‘GB’ kin; his coffee guys and his church family at Faith Lutheran in Albany.
If you are so inclined, consider a donation in his memory to FISH of Albany, the Evergreen Hospice House or the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. You can send donations directly or to Fisher Funeral Home for processing (www.fisherfuneralhome.com).
At some time in the non-pandemic future, Kim will host a peach pie social at the Masonic Cemetery on Broadway Street in Albany where he is buried. Please bring a lawn chair, your dog on a leash and a sense of humor. We can celebrate Claus as well as the precious gift of life God has granted each of us.
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