CCC Camp Vale Enrollee Fred. H. Kluemper's Signature on Murals at the Willowcreek Community Church - Vale ORThe Willowcreek Community Church is housed in the former CCC Camp Vale's Rec/Commissary Building and is decorated with murals painted by a former CCC enrollee.
In 1949, the Willowcreek Community Church purchased the former CCC Camp Vale’s Recreation/Commissary Building for use as their gathering space. Renovations changed the building soon after its purchase, including the addition of a living space in the back of the building and placing sheet rock on the church’s interior walls. Over thirty years elapsed when, in the 1980s, an effort to insulate the building required removal of the sheet rock. That renovation work revealed the original walls and, to the church members’ surprise, the murals painted by Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) enrollee Frederick H. Kluemper.
That discovery sparked an interest among members of the congregation in the story of the murals’ artist. Church member Frances Rempel documented Kluemper’s life story before, during and after his time in Vale OR. As noted in her research, Fred. H. Kluemper was born in Covington KY on the 14th of September 1910. At the age of twenty, Kluemper lived in Park Hills, KY and worked as an interior decorator. With eligibility to join the CCC, Kluemper joined up and was sent to work as a “soil soldier” at CCC Camp Vale in 1935-1936. At that time, he would have been among the first enrollees to use the camp since it was established in the fall of 1935 under the supervision of the Bureau of Reclamation to extend irrigation to area ranchers. In the evenings, Fred took up his paintbrush and his fellow CCC camp boys said he painted the murals on the Rec Hall while others played cards or other games. Mrs. Remple’s research found evidence that Kluemper died in WWII as an Army private. Another source that she located suggests that he may have died in 1941 in Palacios, Matagorda TX.
Members of the church mentioned that when former CCC Camp Vale members would return for a reunion they often asked to see the murals as an important part of Camp nostalgia. The legacy of “Soil Soldier”/artist Kluemper is a valued part of local history and church members are seeking to preserve the murals. Since the murals are painted on Beaverboard, a fiberboard material made from compressed wood fiber, the murals are fragile and require care in conservation. The majority of the murals are currently stored in the Willowcreek Community Church. One framed portion of the mural, however, is on public display in the cafe across the street from the church.
"Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Painting Exhibit," Video Project - Four Rivers Cultural Center, December 19, 2014. Malheur County Historical Society, Vale OR.
Interview with Roy Obermeier, minister of Willowcreek Community Church, Vale OR. Interviewer Jim Reed, July 31, 2022.
Project originally submitted by Jim Reed on August 12, 2022.
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