Idyllic is a perfect word to describe Gaia Ranch, Karl and Roxane Clauss’ 140 acre spread in Cumby that features Katahdin sheep, Angus cattle and a winding rock road that leads past a guest house/art studio to their ranch-style home tucked behind a grove of trees.
The setup is so prototypically Northeast Texan, you might not guess that Karl is from Germany, or that the Clausses spent more than 30 years living as “city folk” in a Dallas suburb.
But that’s not surprising, since there is more to Karl, who has just begun a term as president of the Commerce Rotary Club, than meets the eye.
Born in East Germany, Karl and his family emigrated to the United States when he was in his early teens. His father worked as an aviation engineer in California after a short stay with relatives in New Jersey. For the first six months, Karl’s family stayed in the California villa of his father’s employer, with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop.
“It was a dream come true, coming to America,” he said. “That was an adventure.”
Karl attended UCLA for three semesters before his father, who had served in the army for Germany, decided Karl should enlist in the American military.
“I was obedient, so I went,” he said.
Karl entered the military in 1959, and was eventually stationed in his hometown of Suttgart in Germany. Being a German serving in the American military a decade after World War II was hardly the easiest thing, but Karl said most of the Americans he interacted with were very nice. Following his stint in the military, Karl completed an accounting degree with his GI Bill and began working for a petroleum company.
Karl’s career eventually took him back to Germany, where he traveled all across Europe. But the travel was difficult on a family man with a young child.
“After a while, traveling became a problem,” he said. “I would leave on a Sunday afternoon and get back early on Fridays.”
Earning a steady job based in Munich, Karl worked on the communications system for the 1972 Munich Olympics as a consultant with Siemens.
“It was an interesting project,” he said. “I was able to work with Mark Spitz.”
Karl later moved to Richardson and worked for a number of companies before starting his own. Focusing on industrial coatings and polyurethane foam, his company had major contracts with Raytheon and Texas Instruments, and other large companies.
“The company did well, then in 2006 I sold the company and came out here,” he said.
The ranch, which Roxane had purchased three and a half years before telling Karl, (she thought it was a good investment, he said), did not have running water or any structure on it when Karl and Roxane moved onto it in 2006.
“There was a culture shock,” he said. “For six months, we didn’t know whether it was going to work out. But now, no 10 horses could get me out of here.”
The Clauss’ two daughters, Jacqueline and Natalie, work in the computer science industry and are based in Dallas and San Francisco.
Karl will be the president of the Commerce Rotary Club for the next year, after serving on a club in Richardson for decades.
“Rotary does so much internationally, so I really want to get that out into the community,” he said. “I want the club to integrate with the community more so that the community can get to know us.”
The first major event the Rotary Club is planning is a Concert in the Park, which the club is sponsoring in partnership with the city.
“[City Manager] Marc Clayton has very enthusiastically supported this project, so we’re working together,” Karl said.
The concert, which will take place on Sept. 21 from 2 to 5 p.m. in the City Park, will feature bands from Commerce High School and Texas A&M University-Commerce.
Karl also serves as the Convention Coordinator for Rotary International District 5810 and is the Master of Masonic Lodge 180 in Cumby.
For more information on the Commerce Rotary Club, visit www.commercerotary.org.