When I was in later elementary school, Mayor Ralph Klein came to visit my school’s Pioneer Days. That was my first memory of him. I don’t remember many details about Pioneer Days, nor anything about what he said that evening, but I certainly remember Mr. Klein. As one might expect, the Mayor made an address to the full gymnasium of families. Being in grade school, full of energy, and most interested in all things play, I never took note that after the event, Mr. Klein patiently stayed to interact one-on-one with the oodles of parents. On the way home that evening, my own parents remarked to each other how Mr. Klein had opted to meet and greet instead of bowing to his handlers’ wishes for him to depart for their next appointment. My parents’ observation left an impression upon me. Ralph Klein was a man of the people, and if the people wanted to talk, he was there to listen.
In early High School, a casual friend named Chris Burnie bragged about how he was chastised by the actual mayor, Ralph Klein, for making out with his girlfriend on the steps of City Hall.
A couple years later, a girl I was dating happened to live a couple doors down from the Klein’s home in Calgary’s Lakeview Community. That relationship didn’t last, and sadly we never ran into the Kleins while walking her neighborhood during those warm summer nights.
The first time I ever voted in a provincial election, Ralph Klein became Premier. Friends, out of the country during the election, came back stunned to discover that King Ralph now ruled Alberta.
Other friends I made while working in Halifax remarked to me about how offended they had been at Ralph Klein’s statement about how those “eastern bums could freeze!” It turns out that he wrongly gets credit for saying it, but actually never did say it (as reported here in Macleans). Never the less, it does indeed sound like something Ralph Klein might say; he was a fellow who spoke his mind and seldom worried about being politically correct.
I was fortunate to be an Albertan when Premier Klein sent out those infamous Ralph Bucks. I can’t recall how I spent my $400 prosperity cheque, but it sure made my friends and me smile. I still smile when I think about it.
My Uncle, who retired and moved back from Japan a few years ago, has facial features that remind me of Ralph Klein. I appreciate both my Uncle Les and Former Premier Ralph Klein, and for different reasons. Strangely, whenever I look at one of them, I’m often reminded of the other.
In Ralph Klein’s later years, things seemed to catch up with him. I remember when in 2004 the news reported about his plagiarism in essay writing. Disappointing as it was to hear, this wasn’t a surprise to me. If Ralph had been my a friend or relative, he definitely would have been the last person to ask about citing references on a paper. I was also never surprised when Klein’s alcoholism occasionally reared its ugly head in the media. Did we honestly expect differently from a fellow who ran his first shoe-string mayoral campaign out of St. Louis Hotel & Bar? Along with the good also came the bad. Flawed like one of us, once again, he was indeed a man of the people.
I’m saddened to hear that Ralph Klein passed on. He wasn’t a typical politician, and not even a typical guy, but he was good for Alberta. I doubt any parents are pointing to Ralph Klein as a role model for their children, but while he was alive, he reminded me that even average fellows can do amazing things.
I earnestly hope that Ralph knew Jesus. I think eternity would be more interesting with a fellow like him around.