Don Kleiber, 82, of Sky Valley, GA., passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 23 with his wife Helen and son Klaus Baer by his side. He was born Nov. 1, 1938 in Hastings, Nebraska, son of Ruben and Berniece Kleiber and the younger brother of Rich Kleiber.
Don’s childhood was spent playing youth football, basketball and baseball, while playing center-field was his favorite. He graduated from Hastings High School in 1956 and from the University of Nebraska in 1960. One of his great “what if’s” in life was if he could have made it in the Big Leagues. At age 17 he was offered a chance to play with the Yankees, however he needed his dad’s permission, who had promised his mother that he would go to college first. Unfortunately, that “what if” was never realized.
After college graduation, Don served in the U.S. Army achieving the rank of Major. He flew helicopters for two tours in Vietnam, and was awarded a Purple Heart after being attacked and wounded by the enemy. Other military assignments included flying the Berlin Wall in the early 60’s, being stationed three years in Mannheim, Germany, being Commander of HHC (Heavy Helicopter Co), was an Infantry Helicopter Instructor and was also involved with the development of the Black Hawk helicopter in Combat Developments while at Ft. Benning. He was passionate about his work with the Army. Outside interests focused on Cornhusker athletics, Porches, golf, crossword puzzles, reading historical novels and being with his family. He also enjoyed supporting and watching Klaus in swim meets from the age of 10 through Division I competition as a swimmer at UNC, Chapel Hill.
After serving 16 ½ years in the Army, Don went to work with Tom’s Foods, a Columbus, GA company with which he spent 26 ½ years in various administrative positions, including the Atlanta area, Portland, Maine as well as Columbus. After retirement from Tom’s in 2005, he and his wife decided to build a house in the north Georgia mountains where they have lived since May, 2006. Once in Rabun County, Don continued his love of golf and also became involved with various local activities such as the Chapel of Sky Valley, Habitat for Humanity, the Sid Weber Memorial Cancer Fund and the Rabun Gap Presbyterian Church monthly food distributions. Outside of Georgia, one of his favorite organizations was to support the Willa Cather Historical Assoc. in Red Cloud, Nebraska.
He is predeceased by his parents and his son Donnie from a first marriage. He is survived by his wife, Helen; one brother, Rich (wife Pat) who still reside in Hastings, NE and Klaus Baer (Husband Rush Jenkins), who live in Jackson, WY. On April 9, Don and Helen celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary. Other survivors include many nieces and nephews living in various parts of the country.
Beck Funeral Home in Clayton, GA. is responsible for funeral arrangements and an additional service will be held graveside in Hastings, Nebraska where ashes will be interred next to Don’s son.
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Wednesday, May 26 at the Rabun Gap Presbyterian Church. COVID restrictions are somewhat relaxed but guests are asked to wear a mask if they have not been vaccinated.
In lieu of flowers, the family would greatly appreciate support of one of Don’s favorite recipients; Rabun Gap Presbyterian Church Building Fund; 8397 Wolffork Rd, Rabun Gap, GA 30568. The Chapel of Sky Valley Maintence Fund; #8, 817 Sky Valley Way, Sky Valley, GA 30537; SWMCF (Sid Weber Memorial Cancer Fund); P.O. Box 485, Rabun Gap, Georgia 30568; Rabun PAWS, P.O. Box 216, Clayton, GA 30525.
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