Former POW Kittleson built an interesting life

SHERBURN – Truman Kittleson was a prisoner of war in World War II but made it back to rural Sherburn to be a husband, father, farmer, rancher, stable owner and musician.

“Truman’s appreciation of his freedom and life was evident,” his wife Millie said. “Every day, he would say, ‘Wonderful, I get another day.'”

Kittleson passed away last week at the age of 97. Private family services are being planned.

Born in August 1916 in Ceylon, Kittleson grew up helping his family on the farm and was always intent on finding ways to make things easier.

“He came up with and built an automatic shift, and he hitchhiked to Detroit to see if Henry Ford would be interested in it,” Millie recalled. “However, Henry Ford was gone, so he did not get to see him. He then gave his drawing to an inventors group.”

But before Kittleson could follow up on his design, he was drafted into World War II. Family members say that when he returned, he found a design similar to his had been used in automobiles in Sweden.

After being drafted into the Army, Kittleson was shipped to North Africa, captured by German forces and became a prisoner of war for 26 months.

“He didn’t share his experiences until years later when, with tears in his eyes, he told about crawling along the fences and eating dandelions to stay alive,” Millie said.

Kittleson shared his POW experiences with the Sentinel in a 1999 article.

“I got so weak I could hardly walk,” he recalled in the article. “There was a slit trench for a bathroom and it took a soldier on each side of me to get me there. … When spring came and the dandelions started growing, I would crawl around the fence and eat these dandelions. Along with that, lying in the sun, I got so I could walk pretty good.”

Kittleson and his fellow POWs were eventually rescued by American troops as the war reached its conclusion. Once home, he married Millie Larson of Armstrong, began farming, ranching and raising their two daughters. The family also created Goldmount Stables.

“Truman was always interested in horses,” Millie said.

The family purchased a stallion named Boubon’s Golden King, with the idea to breed its golden color into the American Saddlebred horse. The venture was a success, with the family selling horses all over of the world.

At the same time, Kittleson and other family members formed the country-western band, “Millie and the Saddle Pals.”

With Millie as the lead singer, Kittleson and his brothers – Ted and Norman Kittleson – along with Roy Healey and Cap Kurseth, performed throughout the area, and had a weekly radio show on KSUM-AM during the 1950s.

Kittleson played the stand-up bass. The original band disbanded after the death of Kurseth, but members pursued their own musical projects. The band was inducted into the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame in 2009. Kittleson also was recognized by the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition in 2008 for a song he wrote and performed about the I-90 Expo in Sherburn.

During all this time, Kittleson also had other projects he was accomplishing.

“He was a salvager and saver of things abandoned,” Millie said.

Kittleson designed and built two homes, including daughter Shirley’s veterinary clinic and outbuilding, with 90 percent salvaged material.

“He truly believed, ‘To replace, conserve, save, recycle and reuse,'” Millie said.