The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

A Catholic You Want to Know: Frank Klein

Klein a multi-talented Catholic school volunteer in Fort Smith

Published: February 8, 2021   
Karen Hollenbeck
Frank Klein builds a walkway for teachers in September from Trinity Junior High’s rear parking lot to the school during the pandemic.

Why you want to know George Franklin “Frank” Klein: After retiring in 2001, Klein completed many maintenance projects at St. Boniface School, including rewiring the school cafeteria. When the school closed in 2019, Klein turned his attention to Trinity Junior High School, fixing its automated clock system and building a white marble sidewalk to the school’s rear parking lot. In 2004, as a member of St. Boniface’s endowment board, he began a football fundraiser that raised $405,000 over 16 years. In 2020, the fundraiser was transferred to Trinity’s endowment trust. Klein also began a chess club at St. Boniface School in 2013, coming in first place in the Fort Smith School District’s tournament four times. In 2020, Klein started a chess club at Trinity.

Parish: St. Boniface Church

City: Fort Smith

Age: 80

Family: Widowed after 59 years of marriage to Virginia; three daughters, one son (deceased), four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Career: A licensed plumber, electrician and welder, he worked as a maintenance supervisor at Weldon, Williams and Lick.


What feeds you spiritually?

Until the pandemic, I attended Mass at St. Boniface all the time. My close friendships with the priests, especially Father Placidus Eckart and Father Jon McDougal, helped me through many hard times, such as my son’s death from cancer. At home, I pray with the Brigittine rosary, a six-decade rosary worn by discalced Carmelites, which carries a special blessing.

How have you coped with the pandemic?

My wife, Virginia, died in a nursing home last March after having been bedridden for four years. I visited her every night, ate supper with her and talked about family. Suddenly I was quarantined, unable to attend Mass in person and help at Trinity, completely alone. I had outlived most of my close friends and my wife. My daughters would visit and make sure I had everything I needed, and I was able to go to my middle daughter’s small farm and walk in the woods and get fresh air, but I need to be active. This week I got my first dose of vaccine, and I can’t wait to get back to Mass and volunteering again.

Why is the football fundraiser so close to your heart?

I love kids and support Catholic education no end. I went to St. Boniface, my children went to St. Boniface and two of my grandchildren attended Immaculate Conception and Trinity. At St. Boniface, we used the money to start helping children who couldn’t afford the extras like school supplies and baseball programs. We bought school laptops and overhead projectors and funneled money into the school itself. My daughter, Laura Palmer, chaired the Trinity Endowment Fund once or twice, so it seemed natural to help there when St. Boniface closed.

How did you get involved with the chess club?

My oldest brother, who went to the University of Arkansas, taught me chess when I was in high school. Chess is a thinking man’s game. When I was at St. Boniface one day, Karen (Hollenbeck, principal) mentioned that the school district had started a chess tournament and she wanted to send students. Our students were very intelligent and came in or tied for first place in four out of six years. The school district started a junior high chess program in 2019, but due to the pandemic they didn’t have a 2020 tournament, and we haven’t been able to meet at Trinity very often.

How have you been blessed by your service to the schools?

“If you bless others, you will be blessed in return.” I like helping the schools and I get so many blessings from the kids. At St. Boniface, they called me “Mr. Frank.” Once on St. Joseph’s Day a little third grader stopped and told me, “Mr. Frank, I think St. Joseph would be really proud of you.” You can’t buy those kinds of blessings, and I’ve been paid back by what I do so many times it’s not even funny.

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