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John August Klein J.D. ’49 died in his Santa Rosa home on Sept. 12. He was 91.
Klein was born in Kansas City, Mo., but his family moved to San Francisco when he was two years old. He grew up in a working class family in the city’s Mission District when it was an Irish and German neighborhood. He attended St. Paul’s Grammar School and Sacred Heart High School. At St. Mary’s College, he studied philosophy, where the Christian Brothers left a lasting impression on Klein.
During World War II, he served as captain in the U.S. Navy aboard the submarine Chaser PC 822. While in port in New York, Klein met Hazelita Mary Villagran, whom he would later marry.
After the war, Klein returned to St. Mary’s College, and after earning his law degree from SCU, he worked in Sacramento in the legal counsel office of the State Legislature. He also worked as an assistant city attorney for Santa Rosa and served as city attorney for Cloverdale, Healdsburg and Sonoma.
In the 1970s, Klein teamed with businessman and Catholic Church real estate advisor Cono DiPietro and Steve Burke, who at the time was the director of redevelopment and housing, to build Vigil Light Apartments, a Santa Rosa housing development for low income seniors located behind the Safeway on 4th Street. In 2011, a community center at the Vigil Light Apartments was dedicated in Klein’s name. And in 2006, the Sonoma County Bar Association gave Klein its Career of Distinction award.
After Klein retired at the age of 85, he decided to relearn the trumpet, which he hadn’t played in years. He joined an off-shoot of the New Horizons Band for less experienced players. Klein was an inspiration and a respected role model for his large family, which produced seven attorneys. Two of his grandchildren currently are in law school.
Read the full tribute in the Press Democrat.