Monday, August 13, 2004,

Industrialist John Klein

Former president of Klein Manufacturing was 82, active in community; collapsed after badminton game.

John Klein, former president of Klein Manufacturing, died Monday during an act of good sportsmanship.

Klein, 82, who in 1993 sold the family business which now operates as Flint Cliffs Manufacturing, had just finished an early afternoon badminton game at the Burlington YMCA/YWCA and was walking to the net to shake hands with his opponents.

"He never got there," said Larry Paule of Burlington, another regular badminton player at the Y, who was watching when Klein collapsed onto the gym floor.

Attempts to resuscitate Klein, first by Y staff who performed CPR and then by Burlington paramedics using an external defibrillator, were unsuccessful. Paule said Klein, who played badminton at the Y every Monday and Friday and just last week switched to racquetball when the gym wasn't available, never moved or showed any sign of life after his collapse.

Klein is survived by his wife of 56 years, Mary, their four children and five grandchildren. Funeral services are planned for Saturday at Zion United Church of Christ.

A 1939 graduate of Burlington High School and of the College of Business at the University of Iowa in 1943, he was a first lieutenant in the Navy in the last years of World War II, and was on deck of the USS Skagit in Tokyo Bay during the Japanese surrender in 1945.

He returned home and began a 47 year career at Klein Manufacturing, a company started by his father, Arthur, in 1909. During his years there, John Klein served as purchasing manager, treasurer and president.

At the time of its sale, Klein Manufacturing's primary business was producing stainless steel livestock confinement feeders, tanks and waterers.

There were purchase offers for the company that would have taken the jobs out of Iowa, but Klein sold to a pair of local buyers in order to keep the plant and the jobs in Burlington.

"I've got mixed feelings," Klein said at the time of the sale. "It's going to be hard to disassociate after so many years."

Aside from his business interests, Klein was active in the Burlington community, serving his church and participating in numerous community and professional organizations.

Professionally, he was involved with an Iowa/Illinois purchase managers organization, and was a member of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry.

Klein was campaign chairman for the United Way in 1978–1979 and United Way president in 1979–80, and was a member of the Burlington Kiwanis Club. An avid skier, he was a founding member of the Skiowans Club of Burlington, and was a longtime supporter of Burlington–area Boy Scouts.

Besides raising three sons who went on to become Eagle Scouts, Klein was board president for both the Blackhawk district and Southeast Iowa Council of Boy Scouts of America in the 1970s.

"He was a valuable scouter for many decades," said Don Lofgren, assistant executive director of the Mississippi Valley Council, of Klein.

Jim Nagel, who was scout executive during part of the time that Klein served on the board, said Klein was the sort who could be counted on to put in a solid effort on behalf of the scouts, and come through when he promised to. Nagel said Klein helped to lead a major improvement project at Camp Eastman, and always wanted to be sure the local scouting organization had money to send scouts who couldn't afford it to camp.

Paule, who graduated from BHS the same year as Klein and attended UI at the same time, said the two were acquaintances until they became involved in activities together at the Y, where Klein started a senior men's group called Keenagers.

Paule played badminton at the Y on Wednesday, but Klein will be most missed there on Friday. Wednesday was Klein's regular day on the golf course, playing with fellow Kiwanians.

His absence on the links was noted Wednesday, said Kiwanis Club member Jim Garnjobst.

It will also be noticed in the Burlington chapter of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, where Klein was secretary. Calling it a thankless job, Garnjobst, the SCORE president, said Klein did a good job as secretary to handle the administrative needs of the chapter so other members could devote their time to counseling would–be new entrepreneurs.

"John was just a really nice guy," Garnjobst said.