Stephen Joel Klein|
Stephen Joel Klein died on January 11, 2013, in Seattle, surrounded by family in the house where his youngest child was born. He had an extraordinary ability to adapt to life's vicissitudes with grace and equanimity, and he taught us that the secret of life was human relationships.
Steve was born on March 30, 1942, in the Bronx, to Pearl and Martin Klein. His childhood was profoundly disrupted by his mother's long illness and premature death in 1954, as well as by his father's absence and the dispersal of his nuclear family. These sorrows were eased by the love and care of his older sister Laura and his aunt Gert.
His time living at Manumit School in Pennsylvania gave him rich connections and memories he treasured always. Following graduation from New Lincoln High School in New York, he went to Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, OH, where he met his first wife, Denise Atkinson, at age 17. They were married in 1962, and had three children: Daniel (1963), Pearl (1966), and Amanda (1969). Steve earned an MS in Mathematics from Purdue University in 1970.
After divorcing in 1971, Steve moved to Indianapolis. There he met Carol Klein (no relation). As Steve told it, "Carol came looking for me at folk dancing one Thursday in February of 1975. She found me. I haven't been lonely since." They wed in February 1976, relocating in 1977 to Seattle ("my destiny"), where his children were living.
In 1980, Steve and Carol moved to a house on 5th Avenue NW. Their son, Adam, was born at home in 1982 while his big sisters and brother slept in another room. 5th Avenue evolved into a close-knit extended family, where neighbors had keys to each others' houses, bicycled together, raised children as friends, and doted on each others' grandchildren.
Paid work, for Steve, was not an identity but a means to live the way he wanted: designing a custom tandem, bicycle camping in the Pacific Northwest, attending classical music and opera, communing with gorillas at Woodland Park Zoo. Though he worked doing "computer stuff" (for such employers as Honeywell and Boeing), the best job he ever had came after retirement: volunteer Long-Term Care Ombudsman, where he was "highly paid by appreciation from the [nursing home] residents" for whom he advocated.
In 1991, he began to show symptoms of a neurological disease that, while clearly degenerative, remained unnamed until the last months of his life. Though he first lost the ability to bike, then to dance, and then to walk, he adapted to each change by focusing on what activities he could still do and adding new ones (kayaking, chair yoga). Remaining strong, active, and independent were tremendously important to him.
Following a year of multiple hospitalizations and declining health, he entered home hospice care in the fall of 2012. During this time, he received a late-breaking diagnosis of his underlying condition: Adult Polyglucosan Body Disease (APBD), a rare genetically recessive condition most often found in Ashkenazi Jews. APBD was ultimately what ended his life. (His beloved sister Laura died eight years earlier of the same condition.)
Though confined to bed in his last few months, Steve emphasized that he had no pain. He was impressively happy even as his sphere shrank to one room. He spent many joyous hours reviewing his life, visiting with loved ones in person and on the phone, and sharing jokes. As he described being cared for at home, "Carol figured it all out. She got this hospital bed and she got these two daughters, which I already had, and got them to come take care of me." The amazing team at Group Health Hospice supported us and earned our enduring gratitude.
Steve's inclusive concept of family made it hard to limit the list of his survivors to: his wife, Carol; offspring Daniel (Debbie Raichelson), Pearl (Steve Campbell), Amanda (Bryan Carr), Adam (Rebecca Stecker); "just family" Jonathan Crimmins; grandchildren Emma, Nathaniel, Leo, Mara, and Gabriel; siblings Jerome Klein, Michele Finkel, and Robin Gilden; aunt Malvin Klein; cousins Melissa Baer and Nina Klein.
A memorial will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 16, at Seattle First Baptist Church (1111 Harvard Avenue, 98122), followed by a reception at the church. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Steve's memory to one of the nonprofits that inspired him and were recently on his mind--Access Northern California (www.accessnca.org) or AXIS Dance Company (http://axisdance.org).
Published in The Seattle Times on Feb. 10, 2013