Anoka loses leader, positive force in community

Leslie Clemmons died Thursday, Sept. 5 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 74.

Les Clemmons receives the Civilian Service Award from Anoka Police Chief Phil Johanson at the annual Anoka Anti Crime Commission’s fundraising breakfast last October. File photo
Les Clemmons receives the Civilian Service Award from Anoka Police Chief Phil Johanson at the annual Anoka Anti Crime Commission’s fundraising breakfast last October. File photo

A longtime Anoka resident, Clemmons is well known in the community for her dedication to many local service organizations.

Clemmons had been the chairperson of the Anoka Anti-Crime Commission for 18 years, from 1995 until her death last week.

“Les was such a positive and caring person,” said Police Chief Phil Johanson. “She gave so much of her time and energy to make the Anoka community a better place. She touched the hearts of many people through her volunteer efforts with the Anti-Crime Commission and other service organizations in our community.”

Clemmons was a strong advocate for the Anoka Police Department’s crime prevention efforts as well as the prevention programs run out of Franklin and Lincoln elementary schools each summer.

She was part of an important link between the community and the Anoka Police Department.

Last fall Clemmons was recognized with the department’s Community Service Medal during the annual Anti Crime Commission’s fundraising breakfast, which she had always taken a lead role in organizing.

Clemmons’ father had been an officer with the Minneapolis Police Department.

And she was committed to making sure Anoka’s officers had the right tools to do their jobs, said retired Police Chief Ed Wilberg.

Wilberg said Clemmons was a person who made a decision to have a positive outlook on life.

“She’s had as many ups and downs in her life as anybody else, but it was how she chose to look at them,” Wilberg said. “People are really attracted to someone who is like that.”

Leslie Clemmons
Leslie Clemmons

Clemmons continued to show that positivity through her illness.

Wilberg also said when people are involved with an organization for a long time, they can sometimes take on ownership of it. But that was never the case with Clemmons, who favored a community approach.

She was known for her big smile and her love of laughing at a good joke.

She brought her positive tone to the monthly meetings of the Anti-Crime Commission, Wilberg said, where people often came in with plenty on their minds.

“But when you left there, you always felt better about things and Les was a big part of that,” he said.

Clemmons was the daughter of Walter and Anne Piepras.

In 1956 she graduated from West High School in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Clemmons worked for 30 years in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

She had been the head secretary at Franklin and Sandburg schools before Bob Gander hired her to be his administrative assistant. Gander was the associate superintendent for elementary schools for 10 years.

“She really was my right hand person,” Gander said. “She was invaluable to me.”

The two worked together until 1995 when Gander retired.

Clemmons stayed on with the district until her own retirement in 2000.

“Les really had a good pulse of the community, which really helps in that job,” Gander said.

One of her greatest strengths was her ability to handle complaints, most of which were resolved by Clemmons without even reaching Gander’s desk, he said.

“She was loyal and very professional in her work and showed a lot of good judgment,” Gander said.

Clemmons was also known for her sense of humor.

She was also a longtime member of the Anoka Kiwanis Club, serving as the president in 2009.

Along with the Anoka Anti Crime Commission and Anoka Kiwanis Club, Clemmons was also a member of Youth First, PEO, Chapter Z and Philolectian as well as the Anoka United Methodist Church.

Clemmons served as president of Kiwanis in 2009.

“Les was just one of those wonderful, community oriented people,” said Kiwanis member Shirley Christenson. “She was one of those individuals who was always there in support of whatever needed to get done.”

Clemmons is survived by her daughter Janet Ridling (John) and grandson Brandon Spencer; daughter Beth Clemmons; sister, Janet Gatzmer (Marv); sister Marsha Stowe (John); sister-in-law Joan Rupp; many nieces and nephews; and stepmother Evelyn Piepgras.

She was preceded in death by her parents Walter and Anne Piepgras.

A celebration of Clemmons’ life will be held Saturday, Sept. 14, 10 a.m. at Anoka’s United Methodist Church.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]