William L. Klender

The Baltimore Sun

William L. Klender, an award-winning photographer whose images of life in Maryland graced the old Sunday Sun magazine for decades, died Tuesday of pneumonia at Ellicott City Health and Rehabilitation. He was 90.

Mr. Klender, the son of a printer, was born in Baltimore and raised in Irvington. He was a graduate of Polytechnic Institute.

Mr. Klender's interest in photography and film began early in his life, and by the time he was 16, he had made his first motion picture.

"It was a black-and-white movie that featured his younger sister and scenes of home life. He incorporated such touches as stop action in order to be creative," said his daughter, Karen K. Heist of Ellicott City.

During the 1930s, Mr. Klender was an apprentice to several photographers.

"He said he'd sweep the floor or do anything that needed to be done if they would only teach him what they knew," Mrs. Heist said.

"Also, he became friends with Carl Welker, who was the projectionist at the Irvington movie theater and became his mentor," she said.

During World War II, Mr. Klender was an Army staff sergeant at a base photo lab in Orlando, Fla.

He joined The Sun as a staff photographer in 1946.

"He knew exactly what he wanted to do, and The Sun was his dream," his daughter said.

"He loved telling the story about his first day on the job. There was a house fire in Catonsville, and he was given a streetcar token to get there," Mrs. Heist said. "By the time he arrived at the scene, the fire was out and everyone was gone.

"Still, he was able to get a picture of a mother and daughter with their burned-out house as a background. He had the ability to always find something in a story that he could photograph."

Richard Stacks, a prize-winning photographer whose evocative photojournalism graced The Sunday Sun magazine from the mid-1950s until he left the newspaper in 1969, first got to know Mr. Klender when Mr. Stacks was a student at City College.

"I very much admired Bill's work because he was such a talented photographer. When I was in high school, I used to go to the football games, and one day, there was Bill. I was so impressed," said Mr. Stacks, who lives in Pacifica, Calif.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'There's Bill Klender from The Sun,' and never did I think I'd ever be working with him one day," Mr. Stacks said. "Over the years, I learned a great deal from him."

In 1961, Mr. Klender joined The Sunday Sun magazine staff, where he remained until retiring in 1982.

One of the popular magazine assignments that Mr. Klender handled for years was the "House of the Week" feature, in which he worked with magazine staff writer Helen Henry on profiling Maryland homes and their owners.

"Bill was a very serious photographer, and his ability at storytelling with pictures led him to the job on The Sunday Sun magazine," said Walter McCardell, a Sun photographer who retired in 1990.

"He was quiet and kind of reserved and very easy to get along with," Mr. McCardell said.

Clarence "Curly" Garrett was also a longtime photo colleague at the newspaper.

"Bill was good, and the magazine editors were always pleased with his work," he said. "He was a very sincere person, and all the guys liked working alongside him."

Mr. Klender's work earned him numerous awards from the Maryland-Delaware Press Association, and he was named Photographer of the Year in 1965 by the Baltimore Press Photographers' Association.

His work was also published in The New York Times and Life magazine.

After retiring, Mr. Klender volunteered at Catonsville Community College.

In 1988, he moved to Okeechobee, Fla.

Mr. Klender, who still enjoyed video filming, volunteered at an elementary school media center, where he produced, filmed and edited a daily news show for the students.

He enjoyed using his Hasselblad square format analog camera and remained actively engaged in photography, keeping up with the latest technical innovations until the end of his life.

"He learned Mac software and last summer started using a digital camera," his daughter said.

In 2007, Mr. Klender and his wife of 65 years, the former Jeane Shaw, returned to Ellicott City.

Mr. Klender was an active member of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Columbia, where a memorial service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday.

In addition to his wife, a retired Baltimore County public schools educator, and daughter, survivors include two sons, Richard L. Klender of Paso Robles, Calif., and James W. Klender of Ellicott City; another daughter, Janet D. Noweir of Concord, Calif.; a brother, Louis Klender of Los Angeles; three grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

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