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Thank Him for Coolers

Photo: Jane Klein


By Wendy Jalonen Fawthrop

Schussing down the slopes at Kirkwood. Sipping a wine cooler at the beach. Watching a baseball game in Stanford sunshine. (The location's formal name is Klein Field at Sunken Diamond). In activities that could define California recreation, Bud D. Klein, '50, is there. If you haven't noticed his legacy, it's because Klein's enterprises and philanthropy weren't aimed at building an empire but at enjoyment of life for his fellow Californians—especially those at Stanford and his hometown of Stockton.

"He always helped people both big and small. But he never took credit for it," says his oldest son, Tom Klein, '73, MBA '79. "It's a little unusual that he ended up with two baseball stadiums named after himself."

Klein died of cancer May 5 at home in Stockton. He was 83.

His roots and livelihood were in the fruits of the Central Valley—beans, raisins, wine grapes. He met his wife, Jane, there on a blind date. After a stint in the Navy, he started college at University of the Pacific (where baseball now is played at Klein Family Field).

After he transferred to Stanford, the Kleins lived in the old track house on the edge of Angell Field. He played baseball and football and was a first-round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox. But he passed that up to return to Stockton to care for his ailing father and expand the family farm. In 1980 Klein put together a landmark deal in beans with Mexico. He traded one success for another—moving into packaged snacks, such as Sun-Maid raisins, and the wine business, including Rodney Strong Winery.

When two young Lodi men hit upon the idea of bottling white wine and fruit juice, Klein bought a glut of Chablis and backed them in bringing California Cooler to market in 1981.

A statement from Kirkwood Mountain Resort praised Klein's spirit and vigor in converting a wilderness outpost in the early 1970s into a ski resort: "Bud saw opportunity where others saw challenges—developing not only the resort, but all the roads and infrastructure that would become our community."

He is survived by his wife, sons Tom and Steve, daughter Kathy Jackson, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His son Richard died in 2003.

WENDY JALONEN FAWTHROP, '78, is a senior copy editor at the Orange County Register.

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