January 18, 1922 - April 21, 2009
Los Angeles, CA: Joseph Klass, died on April 21, 2009 at the age of 87.
Born January 18, 1922 in Akron, OH he grew up and lived most of his life in Ohio until he moved to Los Angeles, in 1945. He was a self-taught sign painter and show card printer for most of his adult life spending his early years on the boardwalk in Pacific Ocean Park and befriending the local boxers of Venice and Muscle Beach. He worked at Baxter Art Service, then had his own sign shop on Hillhurst in the 1960's called Klass and Associates before taking a job making signs for Pep Boys. He finished his career at Curcio where he made the transition to the 21st century by digitally creating parking structure directive signs. His fascination with computer technology inspired him to work well past typical retirement age. He was very saddened when a mild stroke prevented his continued employment at Curcio where he always enjoyed his friends and associates.
His determination and discipline allowed for his greatest love as an accomplished runner. Joe trained and enjoyed the challenging trails of Griffith Park for over 40 years. As president of Griffith Park Athletic Club, he coordinated the infamous Tetrick Trail race. He completed multiple marathons, more than one 50-mile race and was the world champion competitor for his age group. Most of all he loved the camaraderie of his running partners who still meet every Sunday near the pony rides where he personally reserved their parking places early in the morning. His discipline was so extraordinary that for 8 years of his life, in order to continue working, he meticulously arranged his schedule so that he awoke at 2:30 in the morning, ran his 8 miles through the streets of Glendale, returned home, showered, napped and read the paper, all before leaving for work. In the afternoon, he would return for his daily bike ride along the LA River and through the park. Such was his great love for exercise, the outdoors, and especially his park and his friends.
Aside from the park and running, Joe's dearest love was his family. Joe is survived by his devoted wife of 48 years, Mary Jean Dondale Klass, his first wife and mother of his daughters, Marian Garsen, his daughters, Teri Klass, Kim Klass, Melissa Garsen and husband Mark Arevalo, and grandchildren, Valerie and Casey Lane, Camille and Lucas Culebro, and his sister Anita Paul. Joe was very proud that he maintained a friendly and loving relationship that often brought the family together for holidays, birthdays, graduations and other family outings.
His unique and often shocking sense of humor was his greatest strength and his greatest weakness, depending on the company, who Joe never allowed to censor his jokes or comments. Joe was often outspoken, writing his opinions in letters to the editor of the LA Times. Those whose lives he touched will miss Joe; by the example he set, his generosity to the underdog, and his unconditional love for his family and friends.
Though no formal memorial is planned, there will be a celebration at Griffith Park (near the entrance parking lot) tentatively scheduled for May 31st at 9am. No donations please. Life is for the living. You know the rest.
Published in Los Angeles Times on Apr. 29, 2009.