A Father's Legacy

The Life of Dr. Klein Has Been a Gift to Our Whole Community

by Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director – United Way of Charlotte County

When my father died five years ago, there were many emotions that went through my mind and heart. For years and still now, I pondered the legacy he left and even that of his father. This has been on my mind as our community has experienced the loss this week of what I will call a father to this Charlotte County community. Hearing the news this week that Dr. David Klein had died was a literal kick to the gut.

Exactly one year ago this weekend, United Way of Charlotte County (UWCC) featured a column on him and his legacy to the nonprofit community. He and I planned the content of the column together and he sent me pictures that were special to him. That column link will be listed below with words straight from his heart.

As I began reviewing text messages saved in my phone from Dr. Klein and saw all the beloved comments on social media, it hit me that he has been a father figure to so many of us and those text messages will forever be cherished. These interactions with Dr. Klein express so much about the man he was. His text messages were acts of kindness, joy, enthusiasm and encouragement.

Case in point, last month, I had taken my daughter to see him as an ophthalmologist for the first time. Since she is focusing on pre-med for her career, he shared at the appointment what his field of medicine was like and of course told her it was the best one to have. He offered her to come and shadow with him and I sure wish we had taken advantage of this. His simple text after we left was exactly the reason why we all loved him as he noted “It was great to see you today. Your daughter is a delightful young lady.”

The last time I saw Dr. Klein he met me at the UWCC office to share with a donor the importance of the endowment fund that was created close to twenty years ago from a distant relative of his, Viola Odenheimer-Reiss. He was always excited and especially that day to share why he cared so much about UWCC and the legacy of that fund. Often, he would text me to check in and he never stopped caring about the work being done through our mission. Of course, that day after leaving he sent me a text saying, “Great meeting today. Always good to see you.”

Later that afternoon, I received a message where he was sharing on a group text how many nonprofits he had interacted with that day --- Military Heritage Museum, Peace River Wildlife Center, Cooper Street & YMCA, Punta Gorda Symphony, UWCC and Virginia B. Andes Clinic. My hunch is not one of us knew he had been with the other, but this Dr. Klein said it all here, “…one of the most fulfilling weeks of my life and you [all] made it happen. I am one lucky old guy.” The folks in the group chimed in how much they appreciated him and his contribution.

Dr. Klein’s cell phone is likely full of his encouraging messages to others. We are all the better for it. Sending these messages brought great joy to him and to all who were on the receiving end. How many times have I thought to reach out to someone but have not? That person would have surely been lifted up by the simple gesture. One way I can honor this wonderful man and his legacy is to pick up the phone and send that message.

My prayer for his sons as they journey this loss is that our love for your father somehow offers a healing balm. This love will carry on forever through each person who experienced his gift of caring and for the multitude of lives he so positively impacted. We are all praying for your comfort and healing.  

To read the column posted one year ago this weekend, featuring this wonderful man, Dr. Klein, Vision for Sustainability - Celebrating Dr. David Klein's legacy in Charlotte County please visit https://www.unitedwayccfl.org/news/vision


For more information about United Way of Charlotte County’s mission:  Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty, please contact Angie Matthiessen, Executive Director. She can be reached at director@unitedwayccfl.org.