Agnes “Wag” Rodney Kleitz, who survived the Spanish flu, grew up on U.S. Army horse cavalry posts, successfully raised four children as a widowed Army wife, and resided 68 years in Arlington, Virginia, died at home on July 19, 2022, two days after testing positive for Covid-19. Agnes was born September 1, 1917, in El Paso, Texas. Her father, Dorsey Read Rodney (a 1903 USMA classmate of Gen. Douglas MacArthur), was a Captain in the Seventh Cavalry stationed at nearby Fort Bliss following his participation in the Mexican Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa. Agnes’ family has deep roots in Colonial America, she was a direct descendent of two signers of the Declaration of Independence, George Read (DE) and George Ross (PA), and a collateral descendant of a third, Caesar Rodney (DE).
In 1918 Agnes moved with her parents and two older sisters from Des Moines, Iowa to live in Washington, D.C. for the first time, residing at the Mt. Alto Inn (site of the Russian Embassy today), while her father attended a course at the Army War College. Thereafter Agnes accompanied her family to Greenville, South Carolina, where her father joined the 20th Division in training at Camp Sevier for deployment to France. Following the WWI Armistice in November 1919, Agnes’ father was instead sent to France to assist in repatriating WWI prisoners of war and equipment. While her father was in France, Agnes’ mother, Julia Brincklé Rodney, took her three daughters to stay near relatives in New Castle, DE. Following their father’s return from France, in February 1920, the family moved to Fort D.A. Russell near Cheyenne, Wyoming where Agnes was hospitalized with a near case of pneumonia during the final wave of the Spanish Flu.
Over the ensuing years Agnes’ father’s Army career took them to Ft. Riley and Ft. Leavenworth, KS, Detroit (Ft. Wayne, National Guard), MI, back to Washington, D.C. where they lived in the new Cathedral Mansions apartments across from the Zoo and Agnes attended the James F. Oyster School, and to Ft. Meade, S.D. where the family purchased their first automobile in 1929.
In the 1920’s Agnes’ father would take the family by train on summer vacations for trout fishing in Colorado on the Cache La Poudre River and other trout streams and for two summers stayed at a ranch in the Snowy Range area of the Medicine Bow National Forest, WY. Agnes would also visit the summer home of her Aunt Gertrude Brincklé of Wilmington, DE, in Paris Hill, Maine. Gertrude Brincklé had been the personal secretary to the illustrator Howard Pyle up until his death in Italy and was acquainted with Pyle’s fellow Brandywine School artists including N.C. Wyeth, and his son Andrew, and she encouraged Agnes’ interests in art, literature and travel.
In 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression, the family moved to East Lansing, MI where Agnes’ father taught in the ROTC program at Michigan State College (now University, MSU.) Agnes recollected how her father’s employment insulated her family from the effects of the Depression whereas many of her friends’ families had little money. In 1932, at age 14, Agnes was able to accompany her oldest sister Gertrude on a 36-day “Hubbell’s College Tour” to Europe, sailing on the S.S. Laurentic from Montreal, that included her introduction to France, an 18 day stay in Paris. During this time of Prohibition in the U.S., Agnes wrote in her journal of drinking wine at French meals and seeing the show girls at the Folies Bergѐre.
Agnes graduated from East Lansing High School in 1933 and completed two years at Michigan State College (now University), where she was a member of Chi Omega, before her father returned to Ft. Riley, KS. In 1935-36, Agnes continued her studies with a scholarship from the DuPont Co. for a Junior Year Abroad through the University of Delaware, first attending the University of Poitiers at Tours for French language instruction and then living with a French family while attending the Sorbonne in Paris. This cemented a life-long appreciation for France and the romance of Paris.
Agnes planned to complete her degree at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where her oldest sister, Gertrude Rodney, was pursuing a PhD in Biochemistry. However, Agnes’ plan was abandoned after her participation in the October 1936 wedding of her sister Anjelica (“Jill”) to Lt. Laurence “Bud” Schlanser at Ft. Riley, KS. There, she too met a Cavalry Officer serving under her father, a Class of 1933 West Point graduate, Lt. Anthony Frank Kleitz (who himself was born into an Army family at a U.S. facility in the Philippines.) Agnes liked to relate how they conducted their courtship on horseback, riding together on trails along the rimrock at Ft. Riley, KS. The two were married on June 3, 1937, at Ft. Riley, KS. Their two-month honeymoon included visiting Mesa Verde, CO and Navajo Country, and a month driving through Mexico, to Mexico City and back.
In April 1938 the couple faced adversity when Lt. Kleitz fractured his leg in a Spring Race Meet horse riding competition at Ft. Riley. After five months in the Station Hospital at Ft. Riley, KS the bone refused to heal, resulting in a lengthy admission to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., lasting through August 1940. During this time Agnes resided in the Normandie Apartments with their dog, visiting her husband daily. With the advent of WWII and the mechanization of the horse cavalry, Frank Kleitz’ belated recovery resulted in a rapid series of moves for the couple to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, San Antonio, TX, Tullahoma, TN, and Camp Polk, LA. In January 1944, Lt. Col. Kleitz was sent to Camp Lopcomb, England and on June 29, 1944, he landed on Omaha Beach, Normandy, France with the Red Horse Cavalry, 113th Cavalry Group (a federalized unit of the Iowa National Guard).
While her husband fought across France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, earning a Silver Star Medal, Agnes resided with her parents who had returned to East Lansing, MI, where her father retired from the Army and became the first Dean of the School of Business and Public Service at Michigan State University. In September 1944, Agnes’ first son was born, Anthony “Tony” Frank Kleitz, Jr. The next year, on April 29, 1945, the 113th Cavalry Group established first contact for the Ninth Army with Russian forces 25 miles beyond the Elbe River. Following the Nazi surrender in May 1945, Lt. Col. Kleitz stayed on with the occupation forces, in charge of Information Control for the Military Government. The following year Lt. Col. Kleitz returned to Michigan to collect his family and on July 25, 1946, Agnes and Tony arrived in Wiesbaden to live with him amidst the rubble of occupied Germany. In July 1947, the family left Germany for Ft. Leavenworth, KS, where a daughter, Katherine Agnes Kleitz, was born. The family thereafter moved to Ft. Knox, KY and then Norfolk, VA.
In July 1950 Agnes and her growing family moved from Norfolk to Arlington, Virginia where they purchased a home within walking distance of the Pentagon in the Aurora Hills neighborhood, Tony attended the former Nellie Custis school, and another son, Dorsey Rodney Kleitz, was born. In 1953 the family rented their Arlington house and moved to Heidelburg, Germany, followed by tours of duty at Carlisle Barracks, PA and Ft. Hood, TX. In December 1957 the family returned to Germany on the S.S. United States. Shortly after the family’s arrival in Germany tragedy struck when Col. Kleitz, Chief of Staff of the Fourth Armored Division, was killed when the Army helicopter he was traveling in hit a power line while landing in fog near Beimerstetten, Germany. Agnes, who was expecting a fourth child, and her children relocated to their home in Arlington, VA.
In September 1958 Agnes’ daughter Christiana “Crystal” C. Kleitz was born. For the next 64 years of her life Agnes called Arlington, VA home. She had the support of a circle of friends from the Old Army who resided in the Washington, D.C. area. Agnes focused her energies on raising her four children and supporting their education at the local Arlington schools, Oakridge, Gunston and Wakefield. In September 1970 Agnes rented her home and took her youngest daughter Crystal and their dog to live for a year in the small medieval French village of Yvoire, near Geneva, Switzerland where her son Tony was doing graduate work. Every school day she drove back and forth across the border to take Crystal to the Lycée des Nations in Geneva. All of Agnes’ children went on to attend Universities and all received advanced degrees including three PhDs.
Agnes was an avid reader and particularly fond of history, murder mysteries, travel guides and the Washington Post. For many years she subscribed to French magazines to keep up her fluency in French. She was a keen follower of international events and political news. Agnes enjoyed good wine, experimenting with gourmet cooking, antiquing, playing her piano including duets with friends and family, and the companionship of a series of Shelties. She was a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in Arlington.
Agnes was a life member of the U.S. Cavalry Association, where her late brother-in-law, Maj. Gen. L. E. Schlanser, served on the Board of Directors and her sister Jill designed its insignia. In 1988 Agnes had an article, Sound Off, published in their Journal Crossed Sabers describing the sounds of life growing up on horse cavalry posts. At their 25th Anniversary Bivouac at Ft. Riley, KS in 2001, she was awarded the “Recruiting Sergeant of the Year” award.
Agnes spent most of her summers in Paris Hill, Maine where she had inherited the old 1815 - 1895 Oxford County Courthouse which she used as a summer home. Her last visit to Maine was for her 102nd Birthday Celebration. When she was not in Maine, Agnes loved to travel to Europe with her children and their friends, especially to France to practice her French, where her oldest son had a long career with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. In 1977 she made a memorable trip to N’Djamena, Chad, to visit her son Dorsey and his wife Sandra Lucore, who were serving there in the Peace Corps, and traveled on to Cameroon, Senegal and Morocco. Other memorable trips with family were made to the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Hungary and Japan. Agnes made her last trip to France when she was nearly 95, renting a house near Beaune in Burgundy with three of her children and her two grandchildren.
Agnes was pre-deceased by her parents Col. Dorsey Read Rodney and Julia Brincklé; two sisters, Gertrude Rodney and Anjelica Duval Schlanser; and her husband Col. Anthony Frank Kleitz. Agnes is survived by her four children, Anthony F. Kleitz of Paris, France, a retired international civil servant with OECD; Katherine A. Kleitz (Iris Marcus) of Stow, MA, a flutist and the Artistic Director of the Row Twelve Chamber Ensemble; Dorsey R. Kleitz (Sandra Lucore) of New Harbor, ME, Professor Emeritus of American Literature and English at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University in Tokyo, Japan; and Christiana “Crystal” C. Kleitz (Marc Kasischke) of Arlington, VA, President of TRQ Services, LLC; and two grandchildren, Christopher Kasischke of Arlington, VA and Katherine Kasischke of Alexandria, VA. Agnes will be buried next to her husband in Arlington National Cemetery.
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