About Midland Empire Insurance
Clem and Sylvia Lesueur were both originally from New Jersey and had been childhood sweethearts since they were 8 years old. Clem enlisted in the Marines in February of 1942, thinking that he would be fighting in France, as he spoke fluent French because his parents were French immigrants. Fatefully the Marine Corps’ mission was not in Europe, but in the Pacific, where Clem, at Guadalcanal was bitten by a mosquito and contracted malaria and filariasis which developed into elephantiasis. This is a tropical disease in which a mosquito transfers the worm parasite to a person and the parasite blocks the lymphatic system causing the swelling of body parts. The Marines had a hospital in Klamath Falls, Oregon, because at 5,000 feet above sea level the parasite goes dormant, so Clem was transferred there on April 1, 1945 to recuperate. Clem fell in love with Klamath country and when he was mustered out of the Marine Corps in 1945, he made Klamath his home. Clem started many businesses from 1945 – 1950. Since he had joined the Marine Corps Reserve, he was called back for the Korean War in 1950. During that time, he proposed to Sylvia and they were married in 1951 after his discharge from the Marines a second time. Sylvia worked in banking and Clem worked in real estate sales until they purchased Midland Empire Insurance from Bill McKibbon in 1958. The agency grew and grew and in 1984 their son Lance and his wife, Bernice purchased the agency.
Clem and Sylvia’s son Lance was born in Klamath Valley Hospital in 1955. Klamath Falls was a booming timber town, a great time and place to grow up in. Lance was involved in scouting and achieved his Eagle Scout award in 1970. He played varsity basketball for the Klamath Union Pelicans under the great coach, Al Keck. Lance graduated from high school in 1973 and joined the United States Marine Corps, participating in the evacuation of Vietnam (Operation Frequent Wind), evacuation of Cambodia (Operation Eagle Pull) and the Mayaguez incident. He was mustered out of the Corps as a Sergeant in 1977. After attending one year at Oregon Institute of Technology, he transferred to the College of Insurance in New York City in 1978. Lance participated in their work/study program by working at Frank B. Hall, the third largest insurance brokerage house, in their Wall Street office. Lance graduated from the College of Insurance in 1982 with a Bachelor of Business Administration.
While Lance was going to school and working in New York, he met and married Bernice Meehan. Bernice graduated from Rosemont College outside of Philadelphia. Bernice was working at Hoffman-La Roche in the pharmaceutical division when she and Lance met. They were married in 1980.
In 1982 Lance and his new bride Bernice came back home to Klamath Falls to work for Clem and Sylvia in the agency. In 1984 Lance and Bernice purchased the agency from Clem and Sylvia and with the help of the best employees, and with three successful purchases of other agencies [Kirk Driver (1985), Warren Maxwell (1987), Ron Mason (2000), Jeff Clark (2011), and Rudy Hiley-Ganger Insurance (2018)], along with knowledgeable organic sales, Midland Empire grew twelve times since the original 1984 purchase.
When not involved in the insurance world, Lance is very active in the community, church, scouting and Hillah Shrine. Lance and Bernice are lovers of the outdoors including hunting and fishing and they love to give back to Klamath because it has given so much to them.
Jeff & Celia Clark ran a great local agency in Grants Pass for over 40 years. In 2010 Midland Empire merged with the Clarks, who have now transitioned into retirement. This has been a blessing for them because they now have more time to play with grandkids and explore the West Coast. Jeff and Celia Clark have left the agency in Midland Empire’s capable hands to ensure clients still receive the same great customer service that has been the Clarks motto for years: “Service is the Key.”
Lance & Bernice’s first son Lawton was born in Merle West Medical Center in Klamath Falls in 1987. Klamath Falls was not a booming timber town as it was in the 50’s, but still a great place to have a family. Lawton was involved in scouting and achieved his Eagle Scout award in 2003. He played varsity basketball for the Henley Hornets and he was Master Councilor for Klamath DeMolay earning the highest honor of Chevalier. Lawton graduated from high school in 2006 going to College for 2 years before joining the United States Marine Corps. He served in Afghanistan as the lead truck NCO guiding convoys to various patrol bases in Helmand Province. Lawton was Combat Meritoriously Promoted to Corporal while in Afghanistan. He then returned to his home base in Okinawa where he was mustered out of the Corps as a Sergeant in 2013 with an honorable discharge. Using the GI Bill, he attended and graduated from the University of Nevada with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 2015.
In 2016 Lawton joined the family business and moved to Grants Pass. He has worked as the manager of the agency and has enjoyed the challenges and rewards. He appreciates all he has learned and continues to learn. While attending college in Reno, Lawton met the love of his life, Tara Dines of Sierra City, CA; naturally, they were married in September 2017. This union has produced 3 children – Alia, Lincoln, and Jamison. When Lawton is not being a family man you will find him fishing and hunting in the greatest place on earth to be, Southern Oregon. Lawton gives back to his community by participating in the Josephine County Chamber of Commerce, the Boys and Girls Club of Grants Pass, the Marine Corps League, Young Professionals Network, and Rotary.
Lance & Bernice’s second son, Austin, was born in Merle West Medical Center in Klamath Falls in 1991. Austin was involved in scouting and achieved his Eagle Scout award in 2007. He played varsity basketball for the Henley Hornets making All State in 2009. Austin was Master Councilor for Klamath DeMolay earning the highest honor of Chevalier. Austin graduated from high school in 2009 and immediately joined the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where he received 2 Naval Achievement Medals. Austin deployed on the 24th MEU in 2012, where he was on the USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) for 9 months protecting the middle east including the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. Austin was mustered out of the Corps as a Sergeant in 2013 with an honorable discharge. Using the GI Bill, he attended and graduated with honors from Montana State University with a Bachelor’s in Business Management in 2018.
In 2018 Austin joined the family business in Klamath Falls. He has worked as its manager and has enjoyed learning all the ins and outs of the Insurance Industry and Business. When Austin is not running the agency, you can find him hunting and fishing in all parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana with his yellow lab Sloan. Austin gives back to this amazing community by participating in the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce’s, Klamath County Fly Casters, the Marine Corps League, Rotary, and the VFW.
Lance and Bernice officially handed off the torch to the Third Generation in January 2020 when Lawton and Austin purchased the Agency. The boys have continued the tradition of offering great service and knowledge while being adaptive to their new work environment. They strive to give back to their communities and employees, whom without they would not be able to operate.
January of 2022 brought on a new opportunity when Elaine Booth, owner of Booth Insurance located in Grants Pass, struck a deal to sell her Agency to Lawton and Austin. Elaine had a unique history starting as a Grange Agent until the company dissolved at which time, she moved over to be an Independent Agent, operating that way for over 20 years. The Grants Pass office moved from their old Clarks Insurance location on 6th street into the Booth Insurance location on 4th street, thus completing the acquisition.