Joseph P. “Benny” Kleitch, 73, of Baker City, died April 24, 2006, at St. Elizabeth Health Services.
Recitation of the rosary will be at 7 o’clock tonight at Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St. Deacon James Watt of St. Francis de Sales Cathedral will preside. Mr. Kleitch’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the funeral home. Pastor Dennis Sams of the Boise Uclid Church of The Nazarene will conduct. Vault interment will be at 2 p.m. at Hillcrest Cemetery in La Grande. Visitations for Mr. Kleitch will be until 6 o’clock tonight at the funeral home.
Joseph P. “Benny” Kleitch was born at home in Washington, Mich., on June 15, 1932, to Stephen J. and Lillian Kleitch. He was the only boy, having seven sisters; Caroline and Bernadette died during their first year of life.
The family moved to Big Beaver, Mich., where his father, a rancher and butcher, opened a little grocery store. Ben would haul cattle to the stockyards in Detroit for his father during his teen years.
He attended Big Beaver High School through his sophomore year and finished his last two years at Troy High School. He loved mechanics and working on cars and taught himself to repair televisions, radios and phonographs. His family called him a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
He met Mary, his wife, in 1961 at a small restaurant in Clawson, Mich. They both attended the Blessed Mary devotion on Thursday nights and would meet for coffee. They were married on Sept. 29, 1962, at Guardian Angels Church in Clawson. They spent their honeymoon at Niagara Falls and in Canada.
Mary gave birth to their first daughter, Theresa on October 10, 1963. There has never been a prouder father than Benny, his family said.
The couple’s second daughter, Joanie, was born on Dec. 4, 1966, again there wasn’t a prouder father on Earth, according to his family. His wife and daughters meant everything to him.
In those early days, Ben worked for St. Joseph Catholic Church at Lake Orion, Mich. They bought a cute little one-bedroom home nestled on a beautiful country road. In time, that little cottage grew into a two-story house for their growing family. After six years at the church, he resigned his position there and went to work for the Pontiac Press at Pontiac, Mich.
In 1972, the family came out West to visit two of Ben’s sisters: Bette at Sacramento, Calif., and Lorrie at Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Ben and Mary fell in love with the growing desert town of Lake Havasu and bought property there.
On returning to Michigan, they sold their home of 10 years and moved out West. They both found employment at the local hospital; Mary as a nurse and Ben in the maintenance department, working his way up over the years to be a supervisor. He retired from the hospital in 1995. Mary continued to work until 2004 when she retired.
At that time, Theresa and Joanie were both living at John Day with families of their own. Mary and Ben fell in love with Baker City on one of their many visits to Oregon.
To be closer to their family, they decided to retire here. Since then, both Theresa and Joanie have moved from John Day, with Theresa settling in La Grande in the summer of 2004 and Joanie setting up house in Baker City in the fall of 2005.
In 1986, Theresa gave birth to Ben and Mary’s first of four granddaughters, Bethany. Mara arrived in 1988. Joanie’s first daughter, Amanda was born in 1993 and her second, Josie, was born in 1995. Bethany blessed Ben with a great-granddaughter, Savannah, on Dec. 22, 2005. Ben doted on his granddaughters. They gave him so much joy and they all loved him deeply. He loved being “Papa.”
Survivors include his wife of 44 years, Mary; daughter, Theresa Hamman of La Grande; daughter and son-in-law, Joanie and Grant Cherry of Baker City; sisters, Marie Roberts of Roscommon, Mich., Barbara Gamner of Clawson, Mich., Bette Glove of Ranch Cordova, Calif., Delores Layzell of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and Deanna Virgona of Oakland, Mich.; granddaughters, Bethany Cruikshank of La Grande, Mara Hamman of La Grande and Amanda and Josie Cherry of Baker City; and great-granddaughter, Savannah Cruikshank of La Grande.
He was preceded in death by his father, Stephen Kleitch, who died in 1964; his mother Lillian Kleitch, who died in 1985; and sisters, Caroline and Bernedette.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Leukemia Research Foundation through Coles Funeral Home, 1950 Place St., Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, April 28, 2006
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor