When Andy Klein saw a problem, he got it fixed. He either did it himself or rallied the community to do it.
The 65-year-old was behind Harford County getting a new hospital in Bel Air 20 years ago, Temple Adas Shalom being renovated, the Senator Bob Hooper House being built and the new Upper Chesapeake Behavioral Health Center, say those who know him.
“Andy wasn’t a slick motivational speaker, but he was totally sincere, totally committed. You picked up on it and felt moved to join his causes,” Rabbi Gila Ruskin of the Havre de Grace temple said. “That happened at the temple and all over the county.”
Ruskin is among the many in Harford County and beyond mourning Monday’s death of Mr. Klein, president of Klein’s Family Markets. The company operated nine ShopRite stores in Maryland — seven in Harford, one in Baltimore County and one in Baltimore city.
The entire county will feel Mr. Klein’s loss, said Lyle Sheldon, president and CEO of Upper Chesapeake Health.
“They’ve just been big supporters of the county over the years. It started with [his parents] Shirley and Ralph [Klein] and he has carried on that tradition,” he said. “People will find the generosity of not only Andy and his wife, but his entire family. There was obvious philanthropy, but so much more under the radar screen that will be evident.”
Last spring, Klein raised more than $80,000 for Boy Scouts in Harford County as a Good Scout Award recipient.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the Scouting program,” Klein said last year at a banquet honoring him with the award. “I firmly believein what Scouting does for young men, and soon to be young women.”
‘Truly an incredible person’
Rachel Klein said her dad was pretty special.
“He was just irreplaceable. He’s an incredible father, an incredible brother, an incredible son,” she said. “He did and gave everything to anyone that needed anything. He was just a truly an incredible person.”
Her family will continue to carry on his legacy and continue his work, Rachel Klein said. Her brother Marshall and sister Sarah have taken over day-to-day operations of the family supermarkets.
The three siblings grew up with their father at the store, watching him work.
Rachel Klein learned from her father that making an impact on the community is the most important thing.
“That, and family,” she said.
Mr. Klein was her “No. 1 fan. He came to every single game of mine,” she said. “And he still occasionally would text her former teammates about the games they were getting ready to coach. He would remember the little things, like that you liked strawberries or a certain kind of cookies, and he would bring them to you.”
He adored his granddaughter, Sasha, who is Marshall’s daughter and would often go to work a little later so he would read her a book or watch a cartoon with her.
Mr. Klein and his wife Jayne were married for 41 years — they were introduced by her grandparents.
She and her children are “still pretty much in shock,” Jayne Klein said.
“It’s hard to believe this happened,” she said.
Mr. Klein was on his way to a meeting in New York of the Jewish National Fund, an organization he was very passionate about, she said.
“The whole irony of the way things happened, to have a ShopRite truck run into him, is crazy,” Klein said.
Her husband lived a good life, she said, and helped a lot of people accomplish a lot of things in his life.
“Whatever he did, he put his whole heart into it,” Klein said. “I think he left a great legacy, that’s the best thing a person can do.”
They also sent their condolences to the family of 7-year-old Tripp Johnson, of Joppa, who was also killed in the crash.
“We want to acknowledge him and his family and tell them how sorry we are he had to lose his life,” Klein said. “It’s not just about Andy.”
A spiritual man
Mr. Klein’s parents, Ralph and Shirley, were among a group that founded Temple Adas Shalom. With very few Jews in Harford County, the Kleins thought it was important there be a synagogue, Ruskin said.
“That was a big important part of Andy because throughout his life he felt he was called upon to carry on the legacy of his parents in many ways, including support of so many institutions of Harford County,” she said. “The Jewish community was one of those.”
Mr. Klein was a very spiritual man, a part of him not many people understood, Ruskin said. He studied Jewish texts and attended services regularly, and often led them.
“He was a man who prayed and who felt very close to God and felt that he had a mission,” Ruskin said.
Mr. Klein likely realized the need to fulfill that mission a few years ago when he was diagnosed with leukemia, she said.
“He had a sense he needed to get the work done God wanted him to do and he was very committed to that. He talked about it to everyone,” Ruskin said.
Among that work was a major renovation of the temple, which included new classrooms, a refurbished sanctuary and a new parking lot, as well as new flooring and lighting.
In addition to donating a substantial amount of his own money to the project, he motivated others to donate as well, she said.
It wasn’t just the big projects though — if Mr. Klein was at a service and saw a light out in the parking lot, or that the trees needed to be trimmed, he would have someone come out and take care of it.
“It’s a small congregation, without a lot of means, but he took good care of us because that was his religious home and his sense of community,” Ruskin said.
The business started as Klein’s Family Markets in 1925, according to the grocer’s website, when Maurice and Sara Klein opened a general store in then-rural Fallston. Their son Ralph, his wife Shirley, and their sons, including Andrew Klein, continued the business.
Mr. Klein was known for his philanthropy, involvement in charities and a “great” singing voice, said Jeremy Diamond, a Baltimore-based food retailing consultant and director of Diamond Marketing Group.
“It’s a great loss to the business community and the grocery community and to Harford County,” Diamond said. “He really put down his roots there and … provided jobs for thousands of people in his stores. He’s going to be missed.”
Klein’s Family Markets joined New Jersey-based Wakefern Food Corp., which distributes food to member stores from New Hampshire to Virginia, in 2008 and began operating under the ShopRite banner the following year.
Klein was a member of the Upper Chesapeake Health board and vice chair of the Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation and worked closely with Sheldon, who was with Klein at a fundraiser Sunday afternoon in Havre de Grace, he said.
“I’ve known Andy and his family for 31 years I’ve been in this county,” Sheldon said. “He was a rich addition to Upper Chesapeake and a rich addition to this community.”
Klein played an instrumental role in helping get the Senator Bob Hooper House, the county’s first hospice facility, and the Harford Crisis Center, a newly opened facility to treat mental health and opioid addiction issues, up and running, Sheldon said.
Tony Meoli, who owned several McDonald’s in Harford County for years, said Tuesday he was still in shock over Mr. Klein’s death.
“Andy, the whole Klein family, they’re very good friends of mine,” Meoli said.
He and Mr. Klein always sat next to each other at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health board meetings.
“Andy was a great guy. He would do anything for you,” Meoli said. “And he would save me a seat right beside me at all our meetings because he knew I was always late.”
Mr. Klein had a very dry sense of humor, Meoli said.
“I guess it depends how well he knew you. With me, who I’ve known for a long time, he was very good with me, very open with me, very honest with me,” he said. “And when he would tell jokes, whether they were funny or not, you laughed.”
Mr. Klein, who was born in Baltimore, attended Harford Day School, John Carroll School, graduating in 1971, and the University of Maryland, graduating in 1975.
During his time at John Carroll, Mr. Klein was an extremely involved student with a wide array of talents. He played football and lacrosse all four years, but was also a standout singer, performing in Glee Club and school plays.
Perhaps Mr. Klein’s greatest lasting contribution to John Carroll was his role in bringing Holocaust programming to the school 25 years ago. The Class of 2019 will participate in the annual senior class trip, funded by Mr. Klein and the family’s foundation, to the Holocaust Museum on Wednesday, the day of his funeral.
Mr. Klein was recognized in 1985 with John Carroll’s Riepe Award, the highest honor that can be bestowed on an alum.
Survivors include his wife and children; two brothers, Michael Klein and Howard Klein; and a granddaughter.