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Courthouse will see a changing of the guard

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Marilyn Leiker will be watching her Kansas Jayhawks -- maybe even go to a game in person. Alberta Klaus is thinking about taking up another musical instrument.

Leiker and Klaus, with a combined 85 years serving Ellis County, will have time to pursue their passions in retirement. Leiker retired in December after 43 years working in the Ellis County Health Department. There was a retirement reception planned for Klaus today after 42 years of service, first in the county treasurer's office, then in the county clerk's office.

Leiker, 62, started as a secretary in 1969, then moved up to administrative assistant in 2002.

Back in the day, the health office used typewriters and had a mimeograph machine. It was years before computers and copying machines came along.

Switching to computers was a brave, new world for Leiker.

"For me, it was, because I didn't really have any computer experience," she said.

Klaus had taken some computer classes, so upgrading to computers wasn't a problem, she said.

"Just going to computers sure made a lot of difference," Klaus said. "Just the ease of doing your job."

Klaus, 70, remembers when she first started working part-time in the treasurer's office as a clerk in 1961; there was no air conditioning at the Ellis County Courthouse, and they worked on Saturdays, too.

"In '61, we didn't have air conditioners," Klaus said. "We opened the windows; we survived."

In 1962, Klaus started working part-time in the clerk's office. She worked there until taking approximately four years off to raise her children when they were small. She also operated a preschool.

"After they were a bit more grown up, I was just ready to come back to work," said Klaus, who returned to the clerk's office to work part-time in 1974.

A few months later, a full-time secretary position opened up. Klaus was in that position until becoming Ellis County Clerk in 1997.

"I have always liked my job," Klaus said. "County was good to work for. I like the people. I like doing service for people, researching things for people."

Leiker enjoyed going to schools to give children vision and hearing checks, and there always were outbreaks through the years to contend with as a department, such as the Swine Flu in 1976.

"Seemed like every year, different things came about, there was a reason to stay, see a program through. It was just real interesting," she said.

Leiker is interested in sports, especially when it comes to KU basketball. She also enjoys watching KU and Kansas State football on TV, and follows the Kansas City Chiefs, but Bill Self's Jayhawks are the team for her and her husband, Art, a retired Hays firefighter.

"We kind of like sports," she said. "Try not to miss a KU basketball game."

Leiker saw the Jayhawks play in person once, in the 1980s, when Danny Manning was the star. She has a stepson who lives in Topeka, so another trip to Lawrence might be in the offing. Leiker still remembers her visit to Allen Fieldhouse.

"It was wonderful; it was loud," she said. "The fans were so energetic; everybody stood the whole game."

Klaus also has ideas on how to fill her time.

"I've got so many things I want to do," she said. "I'm thinking about maybe taking some music lessons to learn how to play a new instrument."

Klaus, who already plays the accordion, piano and organ, wants to add the guitar and violin, maybe even the saxophone.

Then there is her granddaughter's dog, Macie, a yellow lab which stays with Alberta. They take walks together.

"I love that doggie," Klaus said. "Just a big companion."

Now, Klaus can enjoy time with her husband, Bob, who also is retired. She can sleep easy at night.

"Just let someone else take home the worries," she said. "I saw myself wake up in the middle of the night and jump up and write something down."

Klaus said she is leaving the clerk's office in good hands. Donna Maskus, the deputy clerk who won November's election to become clerk, has been in the office since 1979.

"In all those years, we never had an argument," Klaus said. "I think Donna's going to do a good job.

"I told her if there wasn't something she remembered, or didn't know for sure, just give me a call."