Bring your best memories and stories to share as the family of Gene Klinge celebrates his life on Jan. 26, at 1:30 p.m. in a place very special to him, the gymnasium that bears his name at West Central Community School in Maynard, Iowa. The family is looking forward to visiting with everyone prior to the service from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
In spirit of the occasion, the family requests those attending wear their favorite school apparel, be it Blue Devil blue, Indian orange, Hawkeyes black and gold or Minnesota Vikings purple. Even camouflage would be appropriate. If you'd rather, feel free to wear his signature red or orange socks in his honor.
As an expression of remembrance, a memorial fund has been set up in Gene's name. The family hopes to establish an annual scholarship in his memory to award to Iowa girls' basketball players in their postsecondary education. Please mail memorials to Waukon State Bank at 22 West Main St., Waukon, IA 52172.
Gene Klinge was born Jan. 10, 1937, to Kermit and Ethel Klinge in rural McGregor, Iowa. His brother, Jim, joined the family in March 1939. Gene married Patricia Wilson on June 5, 1964, in Elgin, Iowa, and the two of them had four children, Kathy (Jon) Ehlers, Vicki (Mike) Born, Kevin Klinge and Karen Klinge.
Gene's love for the Mississippi River began when his Dad and a friend secured a one-room cabin a mile south of Harpers Ferry when he was young. It is here where he honed his fishing skills (and stories) that ran parallel with his love of hunting. An avid outdoorsman, Gene spent countless hours with his loyal dogs hunting ducks, geese, pheasants, quail, deer, squirrels, rabbits and mushrooms. He continued to fish until late in life, constantly hounding those poor walleyes in the muddy Mississippi and taking countless trips to the Canadian waters with his crew of friends.
Gene attended Luther College for one year after graduating from Monona High School in 1955. A bad car accident changed his life course and, following a long recovery, he eventually graduated from Upper Iowa University in 1962 with a B.S. in education. Gene was hired right out of school, eight miles down the road at West Central as a biology and PE teacher and assistant football coach. In another turn of events, the previous girls' basketball coach resigned two weeks before school started, so the rookie was asked whether he'd take on that job as well.
Gene ended up liking the gig (girls listened better than boys, he discovered) and coached girls basketball for 41 years at West Central, winning an astounding average of 20 games per year. He led the Blue Devilettes to 12 state tourney appearances, including a third-place finish in 1972. He served as athletics director at West Central for 30-plus years and stockpiled a number of comical stories from teaching drivers ed during the summer months.
Upon retiring to that same sweet spot along the banks of the Mississippi river, he subsequently was asked about coaching the Waukon girls team. He decided it would be a good activity to occupy his winters, and took over that program from 2003 to 2014. He eventually would realize his dream of winning a state title in 2004, and took three additional teams to the state tourney. Between the two schools, Gene became the state of Iowa's career leader in wins with 1,009, which also ranks 10th nationally. He coached girls basketball for 52 years, reaching the state tourney 16 times and sitting at the head of a bench filled with teenage girls 1,261 times.
Along the way, Gene was honored numerous times as conference coach of the year and, in 1998, he was selected National Girls High School Basketball Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Hall of Fame in 2003 and was also awarded the Morgan Wootten Award in 2011, honoring a career of success in leading high school girls' basketball. He is a member of the UIU Hall of Fame and a 50-plus-years Masonic Lodge member.
Gene, who loved cheering for the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Minnesota Twins and Vikings, was preceded in death by his parents; his in-laws; his brother; and sister-in-law.
He will be missed by his family and grandchildren, Taylor (Kelli) Friauf, Lexi Friauf, Kullan and Kameron Klinge, Amron and Bowen and Redek Born; two aunts; an uncle; numerous cousins; nieces and nephews; countless friends and generations of students and players he influenced over the years.
His was a life well lived.
Online condolences may be left at www.martinfunerals.com.