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Rocky Mountain News (CO) – Wednesday, July 7, 2004
Author/Byline: Clayton Woullard , Rocky Mountain News
Edition: Final
Section: Business
Page: 13B
Tom Kleen always had a joke to tell and a song to sing.

And that was a good thing, because he spent nearly 35 years as a pastor in Methodist churches in Colorado trying to warm people’s hearts.

“He loved music,” said his wife, Irma, 81. “Of course, that goes very well with the ministry because he sang in a quartet.”

The Rev. Thomas Leslie Kleen died June 15 from prostate cancer at the Johnson Center in Centennial. He was 83.

“He was a true disciple of his faith,” said Jim Murphree, 66, who met Mr. Kleen in the early 1980s when Mr. Kleen became pastor of the Englewood United Methodist Church. “He loved people, he loved his God and he made you want to be the same way.”

Murphree joined Mr. Kleen and his wife on several trips the couple began organizing after 1968, taking tours with church members and their friends to countries on every continent.

Irma Kleen said her husband was passionate about helping young people by building youth programs and providing counseling.

“He was very logical in what he talked to the kids about,” she said. “He would ask them what they thought, and he would leave choices for everybody.”

Born in Macon, Neb., on Aug. 20, 1920, Mr. Kleen’s rural upbringing during the Great Depression taught him the importance of sharing and helping others.

Irma Kleen said he never forgot his roots.

“When we went into the ministry, he didn’t leave all that behind,” she said. “When people needed help, he was not afraid to work with them.”

Irma Kleen said her husband didn’t tell people what to do or how to be, but he often provoked people to question things for themselves.

“He always felt if you came to the conclusion to do something yourself, you were more apt to do it than because he thought so,” she said.

The couple married May 28, 1941, in Franklin, Neb.

“It was a family affair,” Irma Kleen said.

While still working toward a master’s degree from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Mr. Kleen served at a church in rural Platte-ville.

After finishing at Iliff in 1949, Mr. Kleen served as a Methodist pastor in several other churches in Colorado, including one in Julesburg for three years. He then moved on to serve at churches in Sterling and Pueblo until 1966, when he went to Wheat Ridge United Methodist Church. He worked there for 16 years.

Mr. Kleen retired in 1986.

“He cared for people; you felt that he really cared for you,” said Louise Leak, 83, who attended Wheat Ridge United Methodist while Mr. Kleen served there. “He was what I would call a real pastor.”

Tanya Accurso, 54, one of Mr. -Kleen’s three children, said her father took a more hands-on approach when exercising his faith.

“He was not one to tell people that he was better than they, or that this was the only way,” she said. “He demonstrated his religion through his generosity and his acts, I think, more than his preaching.”

In addition to his wife and daughter Tanya, Mr. Kleen is survived by a sister, Alma Huisman, of Franklin, Neb.; a daughter, Beverly Ashworth, of Colorado Springs; a son, Leslie Kleen, of Columbus, Ohio; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Services for Mr. Kleen were held June 21 at Englewood United Methodist Church. Donations can be sent to the church of one’s choice in the memory of Mr. Kleen.


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