Remembering Klein

Albertans are mourning the loss of one of the province’s most popular premiers.

Ralph Klein passed away last Friday. He was 70.

A celebration of life will be held at the Jack Singer Concert Hall this Friday at noon. The family was offered a state funeral but declined saying it was important for Klein to be honoured in his hometown of Calgary and where he first stepped into City Hall at the age of 26 as a reporter.

Klein was Alberta’s 12th premier. He served 1992 to 2006. Before that he was mayor of Calgary from 1980 to 1989.

Whether Albertans liked his policies and style or not, one cannot argue that he didn’t leave his mark on the provincial political landscape.

Klein, a journalist before entering the world of politics, knew how to communicate to Albertans and he was always very relatable to the average citizen – even when he made headlines for his controversial decisions and sometimes controversial behaviour.

Other political foes have acknowledged his influence and input over the years despite of their significant differences of opinion.

On the ground level for media he was always very quotable and entertaining and a lot of times humourous and relaxed. He took his time carefully answering questions and you never wanted to miss an interview opportunity because you never could predict what he would say.

That accessibility is one of the things Klein will be remembered for. Politicians these days are often very guarded and closed off. Media is lucky to get a few questions in before they are whisked off by their handlers.

Klein was one of us. He didn’t try to hide his imperfections or personal problems and he was never afraid to say sorry or admit that he wrong.

At his passing, Klein was surrounded by family and close friends at a Calgary care centre. He had been in hospital and later receiving continuing care since September 2011 for frontotemporal dementia, complications from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and, more recently, complications from pneumonia.

In a statement from the Klein family, his wife Colleen said “The nature of his illness made it very difficult to express his thoughts these past years which I know was a real challenge for him, but Ralph very much knew and appreciated the well wishes and warm messages he received. I want to thank everyone for their support and especially of the caregivers who helped us throughout. It has all made a tremendous difference.”

An online tribute page has been created for Albertans to share their memories of the former premier at http://alberta.ca/ralphklein.cfm.

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