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James Joseph Clune


1936 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
James Joseph Clune Obituary
June 8, 1936 - June 30, 2017 James Joseph Clune had a saying, "No need to be the richest man in the cemetery." But when Jim died on June 30, 2017, he was a rich man indeed. No one could argue with his success. He founded Klune Industries in 1972. It started with what he knew, welding. He grew the company from one employee to 700. But his true wealth went far beyond the number of purchase orders he received. His riches came in the way he did business and lived his life. Clune was born in Woodenbridge, County Wicklow, Ireland, June 8, 1936. The fifth born son in a family of 17 children, he might have stayed in Ireland if not for the death of his father. He was 17 years old, too young for a role in running the family's farm. Instead, young Jim set off for America. He bought a one-way ticket to New York aboard the ship SS United States, but didn't stay long. He took the train to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he'd heard the city was more welcoming of immigrants. There, he met and married AngelaLizakowski. The couple had two sons; first William and then four years later, Gordon. While working for Air Canada, Jim took a trip with his family to sunny California to visit Family. Once there, he was immediately smitten. In 1967, he moved his family from Winnipeg to La Canada-Flintridge, a suburb of Los Angeles. He continued his career in aerospace but dreamed of starting his own business. He mortgaged the family home in 1972 to get started. His nascent company needed a name and someone suggested he name it after himself. A humble man, he took the suggestion, sort of. Jim wanted to convey the company was bigger than just one man, so he changed the C in Clune to a K and Klune Industries was born. A year later, a fire destroyed the business and everything in it. That might have been the end for Jim Clune and Klune Industries, but those around him refused to let him give up. One of his customers let him set up in a corner of one of his buildings, another gave him material, free of charge. His one employee offered to work without pay, until the company started making money again. Jim never forgot that generosity. He was an Irish immigrant, trying to achieve the American dream and from those days on, he tried to help others as he had been helped. He hired men that might have been passed up by others. He believed in second chances. A notable example, Jim hired a former gang member, who hadwhat some might call a checkered past. That man rose through the ranks and became one of Klune's treasured managers. He was just one employee who felt Jim offered more than just a job at KluneIndustries. Jim inspired his employees to reach beyond the workaday. Become an engineer. Start your own company. Jim took pleasure and pride when his people acted on his mantra, "Go big or go home!" Klune was a family business. Through various business entities, both sons worked to help propel Klune Industries to a multi-million dollar business, until it sold in 2010. Jim made every employee feel like family. He'd walk the floor of the factory to talk to his employees; point to their work and ask, "What's dis?" He remembered their stories and loved to tell them jokes. His sons think the world of their father; modeled themselves after him, followed his lead and live to emulate his character. But in 1980, Jim followed his son Gordon. Gordon convinced his parents to become U.S. citizens. Jim was already American by culture, laughing heartily while watching "All in the Family" and realizing California was all he wanted. . He once believed he'd return to Ireland, but over time, his motherland was a place to visit family, a place to holiday, but no longer home. There was too much to love about his adopted state. He had his regular table at The Smokehouse, memories of that shared snifter of Louis XIII with Gordon to celebrate Klune's first million dollar contact, the Napa Valley reds that always tasted better than any French Bordeaux. They don't make men like Jim Clune anymore. He was all character, all integrity; a man who could make big deals with just a handshake. He believed in his people, took on the big projects and together his team stepped up and succeeded, no matter the challenge. Once he spent more time on the links at Oakmont Country Club than at Klune, Jim applied his competitiveness to his golf game and his gin rummy bets. He was a regular there for some 20 years. Jim gave the advice and applied to his own life, don't forget to stop and smell the roses. He is a Husband, Father, Grandpa, Great-Grandpa, Uncle and Friend. He lost his beloved Angela over eight years ago, after which he met and married MarginiaKelly, a native of Southern California. He leaves behind his wife Marginia, sons Bill and Gordon as well as Grandchildren and Great-Granchildren, along withinnumerable people who were inspired by, influenced by, changed by, James Joseph Clune. Funeral services will be held on July 10, at 10 a.m., at St. Bede's Catholic Church, La Canada, California. May he rest in peace.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from July 8 to July 9, 2017
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