Rev. Klima, longtime Shorewood pastor, dead at 72

Brock A. Stein | 7/23/2014, 8:27 a.m.
Klima, who helmed Faith Lutheran Church since 1979, was also the father of Shorewood Police Chief Aaron Klima.
Rev. George Klima with a parishioner

Longtime Shorewood pastor Rev. George Klima passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday morning. He was 72.

Klima’s son, Shorewood Police Chief Aaron Klima, said his father had been in failing health in the past few years dealing with a variety of ailments, including diabetes and heart issues.

Klima served as the first pastor of the Faith Lutheran Church in Shorewood since its founding in 1979.

Born Dec. 31, 1942, Klima graduated from Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield in 1969. He married his wife of 49 years, Nadine, in November 1965.

He served at various churches in Illinois, including the former Holy Trinity Church in Joliet as well as churches in Minnesota and South Dakota. He returned to Joliet in the 1970s to serve as a chaplain at the Stateville Correctional Center.

He celebrated his 45 years in ministry in June, with 35 of those years spent in Shorewood.

In the 1980s, Klima also began his service as a hospital chaplain for the Presence St. Joseph Medical Center, a job he held until 2007. He was also as chaplain for the Shorewood Police Department for 15 years and for the Troy Fire Protection District for five.

Shorewood Mayor Rick Chapman said Klima was a man who is irreplaceable.

“The longer I stick around, the more I don’t believe in the old adage that no one is irreplaceable,” Chapman said Tuesday night. “People can be replaced. But the spirit and talent can’t be replaced.

“Somebody else will do the sermons,” he said, “But there will never be a George Klima again.”

Though he chose to serve for most of his life in the village, Chapman said that Klima’s impact will be widespread and felt for years to come. He noted the legacy he leaves behind in his six children, 17 grandchildren, the church he built, and the people he counseled and guided in his congregation.

“The reverend’s reach was vast and it was here,” said Chapman.

Both Chapman and Trustee Jim McDonald remembered the reverend’s fun persona and ability to put people at ease.

“You could talk to him about anything. He just had something about him that was exceptional,” McDonald said.

Chapman concurred, adding, “Liking the reverend was an easy thing to do.”

Klima will lie in state at Hope Lutheran Church, 308 W. Black Road, Shorewood, from 9 a.m. until services begin at 10 a.m. Saturday. Visitation will be at the church from 2 to 4 p.m. an 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

Contact Brock A. Stein at bralst1@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @BrockAStein.