Although he was 81, Bill Kleine (pictured) wasn't on that hurry-up list. Bill was always full of life, right up til the end when a blood clot after knee surgery took his life. He died June 25, 2010. If it's possible that an 81-year-old was taken too soon, it certainly applies to Bill.
At his funeral at St. Ann's last week, his daughters tearfully described their daddy as their hero. The pictures that were painted of Bill in his memorial Mass made him an even larger figure. He didn't attend Notre Dame University, but he got up every year at the St. Ann's Mardi Gras and sang the school's fight song with gusto with his close friend Joe O'Neill, and it always made for one of the high points of the annual fundraiser for the Catholic school, and a tradition that may not be repeated in his absence.
Bill Kleine was deeply ingrained in both his community and his church, so much so that I was able to visit with him on May 19, about both the history of Midland, and for a book I am working on about the history of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Angelo. He was sought out as a community leader because of his generosity, his gentle nature, his heart and his undying spirit. He was a wonderful man. He simply made the room a better place to be whenever he walked in.
Before he passed, we talked at length about MIdland. Here are a couple of this thoughts.
"When I moved to Midland (in the 1950s) it was a young person's town. And it was a wonderful place to be. The optimism was everywhere; there were so many things happening, a lot of parties. ... "I wouldn't trade my life in Midland in the oil business for anything."
Bill Kleine made Midland a richer, better place to live for 60 years. This town already misses him dearly.
Jimmy Patterson's book, "A History of Character: The Story of Midland, Texas" is currently in the research phase. It will be published in the Winter of 2011-2012.