The Rev. Dr. William Rupert Klein died peacefully at his home in Roanoke, Virginia, on Friday, February 26, 2021. The story of his life was one shaped by the light of the gospel …a story through which he helped many people relate to the loving story God wants us all to hear.
He was born on November 5, 1929 at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia to Kathryn Kohnen and Rupert Vilas Klein, the unexpected little brother to sister, Marie, and brother, John. At the age of 16, he was diagnosed with a lympho-sarcoma in his right parotid gland and after having it removed, was told that if he lived three years, he was probably going to make it.
After graduating Boys High School in Atlanta, he attended Davidson College in North Carolina where he distinguished himself as a scholar, student leader, and athlete including being named to Who’s Who, ODK, and Phi Beta Kappa. He ran the 440-yard dash on the track team, was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and served as president of the Interfraternity Council.
During his sophomore year, he met and quickly fell in love with Dorothy Shaw MacLeod, who was a freshman at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After graduating from Davidson in 1951, he took steps to enter the ministry by enrolling at Union Theological Seminary (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) in Richmond, Virginia. After the first year of seminary, he and Dot were married.
As graduation drew near, he received a call to serve as the pastor of the Black Mountain Presbyterian Church in Black Mountain, North Carolina. He was ordained on July 25, 1954 by Asheville Presbytery. In fairly rapid succession, he and Dot became parents to two sons, Bill and David. He served the Black Mountain Church until he accepted a call to the Oakland Avenue Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1959.
Eight years later he received a call to his third pastorate, this time the Second Presbyterian Church of Roanoke, Virginia, where he served until his retirement in 1996. He was honored to have been Pastor Emeritus of Second Presbyterian Church where, because of an abiding friendship with his successor, the Rev. Dr. George C. Anderson, he continued to teach and provide pastoral leadership from 1996 until very recently.
Through the years he served beyond the local church on many boards in the Roanoke community as well as a trustee for Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia, and Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. He also served on the Board of Directors for the National Committee of Church World Service.
From 1979 to 1986 he was an Adjunct Professor in the Doctor of Ministry Program of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, influencing many classes of aspiring pastors. In 1975 Hampden-Sydney College bestowed upon him an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Bill and Dot enjoyed a wide range of friends and activities often involving bridge, suppers, book studies, gardening, and travel. When possible the two spent many happy hours at “Das Klein Haus,” their Smith Mountain Lake retreat, where they loved hosting friends and family.
Through the encouragement of his church family, he published two books. One was a book of his prayers he called, “Prayers Public and Private.” The other was a book of sermons he titled, “Clothing for the Soul.” Through his leadership, Second Presbyterian Church researched and then had built a columbarium on the church grounds, authorization of which required legislative action from the Virginia General Assembly. The church chose to name the completed columbarium “The Klein Memorial Columbarium.”
In 2016, his heart was broken by the death of his beloved wife, Dorothy Shaw MacLeod, to whom he was married for 64 years. His cremains will be placed alongside hers in the Klein Memorial Columbarium.
His family includes two sons, William M. Klein (his wife, Deborah), and David A. Klein (his late wife, Beverley Anne); grandchildren, Hannah West (Josh), Jordan Klein (Andrea Johnson), Elizabeth Klein (Yener Kutluay), Scott Snoddy (Allison), Annie Ramsay (John), Alex Stewart (Will), and Emmalee Klein; great-grandchildren, Davis and Anna James Snoddy, Walker and Cecilia Ramsay, and Baer, Everley, and True Stewart. He was a much-loved uncle to his sister’s daughters, Carol and Barbara.
Special thanks to the caregivers during his last months who were so attentive, Alice, Angie, and Katie, and to Good Samaritan Hospice of Roanoke.
A memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions go to the Second Fund of the Second Presbyterian Church, Roanoke, Va.; the MacLeod-Klein Scholarship at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, Va.; or to Union Presbyterian Seminary’s “The William R. Klein Center” at Westminster Hall. Online condolences may be expressed to the family by visiting www.oakeys.com.
Published by Roanoke Times on Mar. 2, 2021.