WILLIAM RICHARD KLINE, 70, of Grant, NE, passed away Tuesday, February 1, 2022, at the Imperial Manor in Imperial, NE.
Rich was born on January 13, 1952, in Atlantic, Iowa, to Merwyn and Angela Anne (Sandahl) Kline. Rich and his family moved often in his early youth, spending time in St Joseph, MO, West Des Moines, IA, Omaha, NE, Kansas City MO, St. Louis, MO and Wakefield, NE where he attended and graduated from high school. Many of his formative memories involved his brothers, cousins and friends in rural Wakefield and playing sports as a Wakefield Trojan. After high school, while attending UNL, Rich received an appointment to the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, from which he graduated on June 4, 1975.
Shortly after graduating, Rich married the girl he'd loved since the beginning of high school, Mary E. Peterson. Rich successfully completed Army Ranger school and spent time serving his country throughout America and Europe. Rich and Mary were blessed with two daughters, Jennifer, born in Stuttgart, Germany, and later Tiffany, born at Fort Riley, Kansas.
Rich moved to Papillion and worked in the early 1980s as an Army recruiter and ROTC instructor at Creighton University. He made Papillion LaVista his community of great friends. He enjoyed supporting kids from all area sports and activities. Following his discharge from active duty, Rich continued his line of service with the Veterans Administration. He worked for the VA from 1992 until retirement. Until the day he died, he loved serving and talking to veterans. In the past ten years, he's enjoyed western Nebraska.
Rich had many talents. He was a gifted athlete; starring in year-round sports, his favorite being baseball. He played at Army and later for Omaha teams, playing for nearly thirty years throughout the metro and in midwest tournaments; finally giving up the grand game when his health (cancer and eventually a brain tumor) forced him to become a spectator. He loved the game and the brotherhood.
Rich was also gifted with an engaging personality, which allowed him to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds. Perhaps a testament to this uncanny ability was the variety of nicknames he garnered from his many social circles; some knew him only as Duda, Captain, Hound-Dog, Cochise, and Papa Rich; others knew him as all of the above. He had an endearing way about him that was authentic, and he made people feel like they mattered. He was steady, forgiving, and sometimes positive to a fault. His quick wit and one-liners were a hallmark, some of which you would miss if you were not paying attention.
He loved competition, friends, road trips, and telling stories. He didn't know a stranger and thrived on the unexpected. All of these things did not compare to the love he had for his family. He couldn't wait to car pool his kids, grandkids and their friends not just in Omaha or Nebraska but across many states. Automobiles were a passion and he enjoyed driving them, often test driving the latest models. Dealers were impressed with his knowledge and would invite him to take her for a spin.
Rich beat the odds with many health challenges. Rich's life changed dramatically when his qualities of physical and cognitive strength began to diminish. But his loving heart and vibrant spirit were strong to the end. Rich leaves a beautiful legacy of love and memories that light up the dark moments of grief like the stadium lights on a twilight ball field; as if to invite everyone to keep playing ball.
William was preceded in death by daughter, Jennifer E. Welch; parents, and stepfather, Robert Busby.
Survivors include daughter, Tiffany Long and her son, Magnus Long of Grant; son-in-law, Dan Welch; grandchildren, Johanna "JoJo" Epp, Madeline Epp, Kennedy "Kate" Epp, Wyatt Welch, and Barrett Welch of Elkhorn; siblings, Kim (Debra) Kline of Papillion, Jono (Joni) Kline of Omaha, stepbrothers Mike (Lou) Busby of Alaska and Kirk (LuJuan) Busby of Colorado; along with many nieces, nephews, beloved cousins, other relatives, and friends.
A Celebration of Life will be held Friday, May 6, 2022 at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in La Vista, NE at 9:00 am, interment of cremains with Military Honors will be at 11:00 am at The Omaha National Cemetery. Lunch will be served at the church. A 4:30 pm tailgate prior to the Omaha Storm Chasers game at 6:30 pm, all times are Central.
Memorials may be sent to Tiffany Long at PO Box 421 Grant, NE 69140, or to American National Bank in Omaha. Condolences may be shared at bullocklongfuneralhome.com.
Bullock-Long Funeral Home of Grant is in charge of arrangements.