Somerville leads the way again with longtime Somerville resident Margaret Klessens being the first VA patient in the nation to receive the new Covid19 vaccine!

Margaret Klessens, a former Bartlett Street Somerville resident who now is a resident of the Community Living Center in the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford made headlines around the world last Monday. Margaret now 96 years old and a World War II veteran made history being the first VA patient in the country to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Please read the biography below of a real American hero!

By Sally Klessens

Margaret Tiernan Klessens was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts on August 17, 1924 to Sarah Walsh, an immigrant from Galway, Ireland and William Tiernan of Charlestown.  Her father William served in the U.S. Army searching for Pancho Villa in Mexico.  He then served in WWI in France and in the Army of Occupation after the war.  He was gassed with mustard gas in France, succumbing to his injuries after returning from Europe on May 30, 1929, Memorial Day. 

Margaret, who would turn 5 years old in August, was raised by her mother in Charlestown during the Great Depression, having 3 sisters, Mary, Annie and Frances and one brother, William who are all deceased.  She attended St. Mary’s grammer school and graduated from Charlestown Highschool in 1942.  In 1943, Margaret enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxillary Corps (WAAC).  In 1943 a law was passed changing the Auxillary Corps to the regular U.S. Army. 

Her brother William had already enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was serving in England flying sortees over Western Europe.  Margaret did her basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia and remained in the U.S. during the war.  She married William C. Klessens from Red Lodge, Montana on September 8, 1951 at St. Mary’s Church in Charlestown. William Klessens served in WWII and Korea in the U.S. Navy.  They moved to Somerville in 1962 and raised 3 sons, William, Cornelius, and Thomas and one daughter, Sally.

Both Margaret and William worked for the Department of the Navy in the Charlestown Navy Yard, retiring in 1975 when the Navy Yard closed.  Margaret worked in Communications, performing top secret work during the Vietnam Conflict/War.  After retirement, both husband and wife became reemployed by the State of Massachusetts.  William passed away in 1993 at 15 Bartlett Street leaving his beloved wife of 42 years and three sons, William, Cornelius and his wife Donna, Thomas and his wife Jean and his daughter Sally Klessens.  He also left behind four grandchildren, Michael, Christopher, Amanda and Kate. 

Margaret was left to carry on which she did bravely and courageously.  She was an avid bike rider and swimmer. She was an active member of the Holiday Inn Pool Club and the Armed Service YMCA, the Charlestown YMCA and the Malden YMCA.  Margaret also enjoyed membership and luncheons at the Mount Vernon Restaurant with the Bay State Chapter 14 Womens’ Army Corps (WAC) Vetetans’ Association. 

For many years Margaret would drive herself to the Old Soldiers Home in
Chelsea where she would have lunch with her fellow veterans, participating in group activities.  She is an active member of the Old Charlestown School Girls where her daughter Sally served as past President and is now a Director. She was chosen as the Chief Marshall of the Bunker Hill Day Parade in Charlestown 2020 that was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid-19 but anticipates serving in this capacity in June 2021 if the event is permitted. The Show Must Go On!  She really missed the parade this year as it is an annual event she cherished attending yearly along with The Old Charlestown School Girls Annual Luncheon in September and the Governor’s Women’s Veterans Luncheon in October. 

She also attended all the yearly St. Patrick’s Day events in Charlestown/Boston in the month of March.  She is hopeful that this vaccination will give her back her freedom to get out again  with her daughter Sally to participate in so many social events she holds so dear, sitting on the ocean with a Kelly’s fish plate, going out to dinners with her family, being driven through the streets where she one lived or traveled to see how drastically they have changed, or just seeing old friends. 

She is quite the trouper and really tries to enjoy life to its fullest.  Margaret participates in many activities at Bedford from swimming, bingo, one of her favorite pastimes, or pursuing artistic endeavors in the art department.  She often goes on educational and social trips with the other veterans from the Communal Living Center.
She wishes you all a very blessed Christmas and holiday season and a very Happy New Year.  Please stay safe and healthy and best of luck to all as we resume some type of normalcy in life.

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