Kathleen M. Klemmer, Hampden activist, dies

Kathleen M. Klemmer, a veteran Hampden neighborhood activist who was a former supervisor and manager in the Mayor's Office of Employment Development, died Sept. 30 in her sleep at Union Memorial Hospital.

She was 58.

Kathleen Mary Klemmer, the daughter of a firefighter and a homemaker, was born and raised in Philadelphia.

She was a 1969 honors graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School and earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1973 from the Johns Hopkins University.

"She was a member of the first graduating class at Hopkins that had women," said her sister, Maryanne Klemmer of Margate, N.J.

During her college years, Ms. Klemmer was a volunteer tutor in the chaplain's office, and after leaving Hopkins joined Project Found as a tutor and later was promoted to educational coordinator.

"The tutorial program was sponsored by the state's attorney's office and helped first-time offenders learn to read, write and get their GEDs. She helped them go in a new direction," said Joe Baum, a former Hopkins classmate who worked with Ms. Klemmer at Project Found, and is now a senior project manager with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The program's tutors basically worked with their students on a one-on-one basis, Mr. Baum said.

"She did a good job and was able to motivate hundreds of our enrollees. One of the important things was that they were able to find themselves in the program," he said.

"Kathy would never send them for their GED exam until they were ready, and she used her own background as a motivator," he said. "She was the heart, soul and core of the program. She was a very noble and very genuine person."

"Kathy had a tough exterior but a good heart and was always there when people needed her," said Marc Sober, who had worked in the program and is now an Enoch Pratt librarian.

Ms. Klemmer headed the program until 1979 when she went to work at City Hall in the Office of Employment Development. She later rose to be a supervisor and was department manager at the time of her retirement in 1996.

At her death, Ms. Klemmer was a part-time programmer and database administrator in the Central Applications Department of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

"Her general computer knowledge and experience made her an extraordinary asset to my unit," said Bryan Goff, who was her supervisor. "This incredible mind coupled with her human and humble demeanor made her the guest you did not want to see leave."

Mr. Goff said her "greatest gift was an uncanny ability to absorb the whole concept, the whole of a problem, or the whole of a need. And after a few moments of thought, she would suggest a range of possible solutions, everything from the practical to the ridiculous."

A longtime Union Avenue resident, Ms. Klemmer had been a community activist and had been a member and secretary-treasurer of the Hampden Community Council.

She also had participated in local politics for nearly three decades.

In 1982, she joined the campaign of James W. Campbell, who served in the House of Delegates from 1978 to 2002.

"Kathy was one hard worker and kept the organization together. She was a very passionate person, enjoyed life and knew how to have a good time," said Mr. Campbell, who is currently communications manager at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

"She was always very direct in her approach and had great integrity. You could take that to the bank," he said. "She was an honest person. … She was very giving and very community-oriented."

Mr. Campbell added that Ms. Klemmer was "very happy to be a part of the changes in Hampden."

"We've known each other for years. Hampden was her home and heart," said City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, a former City Council president.

"She had a low, gravelly voice and had a way of telling you exactly what was on her mind, and we still loved her. She may have had a low voice but high commitments. She was just great," Mrs. Clarke said.

"Kathy was the Hampden Community Council and you could always count on her to handle the hard jobs. She had high energy, was very smart. She knew more about computers at a time when most of us only knew how to plug them in," Mrs. Clarke said, laughing.

Ms. Klemmer was a familiar presence on the streets of Hampden, where she enjoyed walking her dog, Chewy.

When she was divorced from her husband, Bill Bratcher Sr., she took on the task of raising his four children alone, family members and friends said.

Ms. Klemmer enjoyed spending summers at a second home she owned in Ocean City, and visiting her sister and nieces at Cape May and Margate. She also was an avid tennis player and reader.

She was a communicant of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church in Hampden, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Wednesday.

In addition to her sister, she is survived by a brother, Stephen Klemmer of Rockledge, Pa.; a stepson, Bill Bratcher Jr. of Kenosha, Wis.; three stepdaughters, Elizabeth "Beth" Krauss, Priscilla Light and Jessica Miciche, all of Parkville; and five grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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