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Obituaries » Patricia Klein

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March 23, 1925 - October 5, 2020

She will be laid to rest in a private ceremony next to George Klein at Mountain Home Cemetery, Kalamazoo. A celebration of her life will be planned for Spring 2021, to be announced later. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be sent to a favorite environmental non-profit in her name.

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Patricia (Pat) Vawter Klein passed away Monday afternoon, October 5, 2020 after a long and rich life. She was born on March 23, 1925 in Champaign-Urbana, IL to Jamison and Theresa (O’Brien) Vawter. She graduated from the University of Illinois with her undergraduate and master’s degrees. It is there Pat met her husband George Klein when they were both seeking the same book for research.

Pat had a distinguished career at Western Michigan University including developing and teaching some of the first race, culture, and status of women courses offered. Her concerns throughout her life were focused on inclusiveness and justice. She served on numerous committees earning Woman of the Year from the WMU Commission on Women in 1979 and from the Kalamazoo Chapter of NOW in 1986. After she retired from WMU, she attended SUNY-Buffalo to complete her PhD at age 64.

She maintained her lifelong zest for politics and worked to change the world to make it a more equitable and just place for all. She was known to be fierce and to never back down from speaking truth to power in order to protect the rights of the disenfranchised. In later years, she worked to preserve and protect the environment around Kalamazoo. She served on numerous boards and was a part of the grassroots group who saved Asylum Lake from development. She loved her family, her friends, and the Kalamazoo community of which she was a resident for 63 years.

Pat lived a life full of passion and adventure. She knew how to have fun. She loved people, dogs, nature, swimming, skiing, cooking, and parties. She criss-crossed the United States in her car, often accompanied by one of her rescued canine companions. She backpacked the mountains of Wyoming with close friends and family. Each summer she spent time alone at her cabin with no electricity or running water in the Upper Peninsula until the age of 90. She travelled the world on her own, with friends, and often with one of her children. She visited Russia, Czech Republic, Poland, Croatia, India, Burma, Cuba, Galapagos, Brazil, and many more. After each trip she would return to the home she loved for 52 years on Woods Lake.

Pat is survived by her children Mike (Jade Dao) Klein of Reno, NV, Kathy (Philip Woods) Klein of Seattle, WA, Karen (Peter Bittenbender) Klein of Morgantown, WV, and her granddaughter, Asha Klein Bittenbender. Pat was preceded in death by George in 1981, her parents, and her sister, Jeanne Weatherbe.