Longtime Chi-Town Squares member and COBOL computer programmer William "Bill" Michael Klein died Sept. 5 due to health complications after he fell down in his home a few days prior. He was 70.
Klein was born May 4, 1950, in Evanston and graduated from New Trier High School in 1968. He received his bachelor's degree in linguistics from Indiana University and master's degree in dance education from Northwestern University.
In 1998, Klein moved to Wilmette, where he was living at the time of his death. Klein previously resided in San Francisco and London for a number of years during the '80s and '90s.
Klein worked for several companies throughout his career, including his last job as a COBOL and mainframe issues senior consultant for Micro Focus until he went on medical leave and then long-term disability due to vision issues. His declining vision resulted in him only at times being able to discern between light and dark spaces.
This did not stop Klein from his online COBOL community participation, which he did until his death. Klein's loss of vision spurred his involvement with the Village of Wilmette Commission for Persons with Disabilities, where he pushed for greater accessibility accommodations for all disabled people.
When Klein was not working, he was a very active member of Chicago's LGBTQ square dancing club Chi-Town Squares. He joined the club immediately upon returning to the Chicago area in 1998 and stayed active with the group in various capacities for the next 20 years.
Klein was one of the top C4 ( challenge level ) square dancers in the United States. He was known for his expertise on the dance floor and taught many square dancers no matter their dance level.
Additionally, Klein was instrumental in the creation of Western Star Dancers, in San Francisco, and taught the group's first two mainstream ( entry-level ) dance classes. Klein introduced modern Western square dance to the LGBTQ community in San Francisco.
Klein was also featured in chapter six of the book Ten Years IAGSDC: A Collection of Pages From Our Memory Book. The International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs ( IAGSDC ) history project wiki website has created a page in honor of his life with quotes of remembrance from fellow members. The site also mentions that Klein got 10-year and 20-year medallions at their annual conventions to commemorate the number of years of his involvement with the association.
Among the many other things Klein loved were musicals, reading science fiction and fantasy novels, using white zinfandel to make macaroni and cheese and taking naps. According to family members, Klein made the world's best scrambled eggs.
Klein was preceded in death by his parents William Henry Klein and Ruth ( Goldman ) Klein as well as his sisters Lori Adamek and Barbara Klein. He is survived by his nephew Donald Adamek, his wife Heidi and their daughter Jennifer; his niece, Elizabeth ( Don ) Adamek Ayres; and countless chosen family members and friends.
"He was especially close to his sister Barbara," said Donald Adamek. "The two of them spoke on the phone at least once a day, no matter what else was going on in their lives. Barbara nominally lived in Tucson, but it seemed like she was in Wilmette to be with Bill more often than not, and when she was in Arizona, Bill would often go to visit her.
"Bill was a brilliant man with a passion for genealogy, and this led him to trace our family tree back for at least nine generations. He also loved square dancing, music theater and computers. Bill's dry wit is something everyone who knew him will miss. We will miss having this human anthology in our lives tremendously."
"Bill was passionate about square dancing for a long time, achieving the highest levels in the late 1970s and early 1980s here in Chicago, and was integral in the formation of one of the first LGBTQ clubs in San Francisco," said longtime friend and Chi-Town Squares Secretary Bob Siegel. "Despite his many ailments including a nearly complete loss of vision, he kept dancing as long as his health allowed, and continued to work as a COBOL programmer.
"Bill was instrumental in getting his late sister Barb involved with square dancing, both in Tucson where she lived, and with Chi-Town Squares. Just last month Bill arranged her interment ceremony, welcoming people to his home afterwards. He also supported the local theater group Music Theater Works, and organized groups to see shows. I will miss him dearly."
"Bill was a unique blend of practical and theoretical in all parts of his life, including dance," said Chi-Town Squares member and longtime friend Phil Davis. "He was an odd mix of 'what is' and 'what could be' that always left you with a better understanding of all the factors that made him tick."
"Bill's generosity of his time was amazing," said Chi-Town Squares member and longtime friend Michael Maltenfort. "He designed square dance flash cards used by many, many people including me. In other square dance activities, he was an active member of the Definitions Committee ( of which I was vice-chair ), and his contributions were often quite insightful. His determination to do things the 'right' way was always impressivesomething that strongly affected how he taught square dancing. Those who learned with Bill learned square dancing thoroughly."
"Bill was the first high-level challenge square dancer I met while taking square dance lessons in 1977 with the Fascinatin' Singles square dance club of Wilmette, a club he helped found" said Chi-Town Squares member and good friend Barb Jarvis. "He was an 'angel' ( experienced dancer ) who supported us. Not only was Bill instrumental later in launching gay square dancing in San Francisco, he executed a huge boost to the Chicago scene when, in 1988, Bill recommended that my now late husband, Lindle 'Lin' Jarvis, be named instructor for the newly-formed Chi-Town Squares.
"From Bill's earlier time on the North Shore, he had danced to this prominent teacher-caller even swaying his parents to take lessons from Lin. As Bill lost his eyesight, he danced admirably for a long time due to his remarkable mental imaging ability ( seeing within one's mind where dancers are positioned ). Upon his return to Wilmette, Bill drilled higher-level dancers, including his sister Barbara, whom I met at a local square dance. This led to a strong friendship that lasted until her passing in May. I now mourn both losses."
"Bill was a marvel of persistence," said Chi-Town Squares member and longtime friend Rick Simkin. "Once he had his mind set on a project, he saw it through to the end. I once saw a paper he wrote about an expansive new version of COBOLhis commentary ran to 75 pages. He reviewed a 200-page dictionary of square dance calls, and had something to say on almost every page. After his sister got started in square dancing, he helped her advance by setting up a plan of instruction, collecting a group to dance with her ( since a square needs eight people to dance together ), and running the practice sessions."
A joint celebration in honor of Bill and Barbara Klein will be held in Wilmette at a later date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The family has asked that donations be made to St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Wilmette ( staschurch.org ), Chi-Town Squares ( ChiTownSquares.org ) and/or Music Theater Works ( MusicTheaterWorks.com ) in his memory.