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Robert Vernon Klein died peacefully in his sleep on April 6, with Barbara—his wife of 70 years—by his side. He was 95.
He spent his professional life as a merchant and a realtor. He owned Brett’s, an upscale department store which was a family-owned and operated institution in Altoona since the early 1900s, founded by Barbara’s grandfather, Jacob Brett. But like so many long-time institutions in the late 1970s, Brett’s did not survive the economic downturn. Bob began a career in real estate with John Hill—later Exit Realty. He retired at age 85 and moved to Naples Florida.
A Penn State alum whose college life was bisected by World War II, Bob’s war-time service was a defining period and his proudest accomplishment. From ROTC at Penn State, he entered the theater as a combat infantryman in the 36th Division (Texas National Guard). He fought in the invasion of Southern France, living in a foxhole for 104 days—the last 74 without a break. He remembered, “...when the clothes I was wearing were so filled with dirt and bugs that I started calling them by name—like pets.” He received many commendations, the highest of which is the Bronze Star.
Bob was fastidious for the rest of his days and was known as a natty dresser. He was a gentleman of a different era that is underappreciated in today’s world. His compliments were legendary, as were his use of old-fashioned tropes like “darling girl”.
After the war Bob returned to Penn State, and his last semesters were some of his happiest days. He served as president of Phi Epsilon Pi fraternity and of the Blue Key Junior Honor Society. He wrote many songs and shows for the Thespians and was an avid Nittany Lion until his final breath. Nothing gave him more pleasure (or angst) than watching Penn State football.
After graduation Bob followed in his parents’ footsteps and became a merchant. He owned Klein’s of East Liberty, a couture salon in Pittsburgh. Through a friend he met Barbara; They were married after five dates and had three daughters who all survive him.
With 2017’s hurricane Irma, Bob and Barbara moved north to Teaneck, NJ, to be closer to family: Ellen Weiss; Susan and Derrick Luppino; Jodie and Steve Reznikoff; grandchildren Ryan and Stephanie Luppino; Christopher (Weiss) Welles; Lindsay and David Krasnica; and great grandchildren Sean and Tyler Luppino; and Ben and Peter Krasnica.
A funeral with military honors will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.