Obituary: Ray Klinginsmith

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Ray Klinginsmith obit photo V2Ray Klinginsmith, age 86, of Kirksville, Missouri, passed away on January 17th, 2024. 

Ray Edward Klinginsmith was born on June 19, 1937, in a farmhouse on the Iowa-Missouri state line, and he lived on three different farms during his first eight years, which fostered his love of farm life. His parents were Ted and Alta (Williamson) Klinginsmith, and he had an older brother, Teddy, and two sisters, Sara and Carol.

Ray attended the Fife Rural School in northern Putnam County until his parents moved to the county seat town of Unionville, Missouri when he was in the third grade. He then attended both grade school and high school in Unionville and graduated with the UHS Class of 1955, which was one of the school’s largest-ever classes with 93 graduates. He worked at the local Hy-Vee store on Saturdays, spent time as a farmhand during the summers, played football, served as the junior class president, and enjoyed spending time at Casady’s Pool Hall.

Ray went to college at Mizzou in Columbia, and he spent his summers and vacation periods delivering gas and appliances for his parents’ business, the Unionville Skelgas store. He joined a new fraternity at Mizzou, Theta Xi, at the end of his freshman year, and then lived in the fraternity house for the next three academic years. He served in all the local chapter offices and credited his various roles in managing the fraternity with being one of the best learning experiences of his life. He also worked in other student organizations, including the Interfraternity Council, and thoroughly enjoyed his college years.

Following his college graduation in June of 1959, Ray returned to Unionville and worked in his parent’s business. The Unionville Rotary Club was a very active service club in town, and the club encouraged Ray to apply for a Rotary International Scholarship, which he did successfully. He then spent the 1961 year at the University of Cape Town, which was an outstanding college with 5,000 students. The Rotarians there treated Ray very kindly, and he traveled 16,000 miles in South Africa, Southwest Africa, Northern Rhodesia, and Southern Rhodesia, and spoke to 34 different Rotary clubs during his travels. He was imbued with the fellowship and service of the African Rotarians, and his year in Africa gave him an incentive to serve as a Rotary volunteer for the rest of his life. Ray was engaged to Judie Wilkinson of Pendleton, Indiana, during his year abroad, and following his return, they were married on December 31, 1961, at the Central Christian Church in Anderson, Indiana. Ray and Judie lived in his hometown of Unionville for the next nine months, and he happily joined his important benefactor, the Unionville Rotary Club. He also helped to start the Unionville Jaycees, which was chartered with 93 members. 

In September of 1962, Ray and Judie moved to Columbia, where Ray attended law school and Judie completed her education degree at Mizzou. Judie taught kindergarten at Centralia during Ray’s last year of law school. Ray graduated with his Juris Doctor from Mizzou in 1965.

Following his law school graduation, Ray and Judie moved to Macon, Missouri, for Ray to practice law with Ronald Belt, whom Ray had met through his service with the Unionville Jaycees. Ron was also a popular member of the state legislature, and Macon had a very strong bar association, which made it a good place for Ray to learn about the practice of law in a rural community. Ray quickly joined the Macon Rotary Club, and he also served in the Macon Chamber of Commerce and the Macon County Arts Association. Judie taught kindergarten in the Macon Public Schools, and they were active in the Macon United Methodist Church, where Ray served as both Lay Leader and Chair of the Administrative Board.

Ray and Judie’s first child, Leigh Anne, was born at the Samaritan Hospital in Macon on February 1, 1967. The attending physician was the venerable Dr. James Campbell, who was truly a respected physician. Ray enjoyed his law practice with Ron Belt, and as they started providing more legal services for the Macon Atlanta State Bank, Ray was invited in 1971 to serve on the bank’s board of directors, which was a strong relationship that lasted over 50 years.

In 1973, Ray was pleasantly surprised by an invitation to serve as the General Counsel for Northeast Missouri State University in Kirksville, and his opportunity to work with the university president, Dr. Charles McClain, and his management team was an exceptional experience. Ray also served as the Dean of Administration for five years, and during that time, Dr. McClain’s vision and skill transformed the university from a former teacher’s college into the state’s leading liberal arts and sciences institution. It was an amazing achievement, and Dr. McClain remained as the president until 1988 when he was appointed as the Missouri Commissioner of Higher Education. Ray stayed as the General Counsel and Professor of Business Administration until his retirement in 1995. 

Ray and Judie’s second child, Kurt Rhea, was born at the Samaritan Hospital in Macon on July 10, 1974, shortly after Ray and Judie moved to Kirksville in May of 1974. Kurt weighed 10 pounds at the time of his birth, and although he seemed to recover from a difficult birth, he started having epileptic seizures when he was two years old. He was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis at the Mayo Clinic when he was four years old, and his condition deteriorated to the point that he was unable to talk or learn and also unsteady on his feet. When it became apparent that Kurt would need residential assistance, Ray and Judie founded the Chariton Valley Association (CVA) in 1982 to provide needed services in Kirksville for persons with developmental disabilities. The first CVA program was a preschool program for children with disabilities, and the second CVA program was a residential center in a state building. Kurt moved into the CVA center when he was 11 years old, and CVA then built a new residential center on LaHarpe Street, Kurt and 15 other children moved into the new facility in 1989. CVA then started a group home facility on Grim Drive in 1992, and Kurt moved there with three other children. He has now lived there for almost 20 years and has received exceptional care.

Due to his work with CVA, Ray was accorded the 1988 Parent/Caretaker Award by the Missouri Planning Council for Developmental Disabilities, and he served as one of the initial trustees for the Missouri Family Trust, which was created by the Missouri legislature in 1989. He also was active in the Boy Scouts as an adult leader and was awarded the Silver Beaver award by the Great Rivers Council. He also was accorded the Thomas D. Cochran Community Award by the Young Lawyers Section of The Missouri Bar in 1983, and he was named a Man of Distinction by the Theta Xi National Fraternity in 2018.  This past year, The University of Missouri Alumni Association presented Ray with the prestigious Faculty and Alumni Award for Distinguished Service. 

Following his retirement from the University, Ray operated a part-time law office, and during that time he was asked by Judge Bruce Normile to serve as the chair for a Board of Jail Visitors to evaluate the local Adair County Jail. The committee found many problems in the jail such that it recommended the construction of a new jail, and the voters approved a new tax levy to pay for it. However, the Adair County Commission made some mistakes in its plans for the new jail, and Ray then became a candidate for the Adair County Commission to address the problems. He was elected as an Associate Commissioner in 2000 and then served on the commission for four years while the new jail was successfully constructed. He became good friends with the other two commissioners, Gary Jones and Sid Osborn, and they cooperated to update the Prosecuting Attorney from a part-time to full-time status and to assist in supporting a new Senate Bill 40 tax to provide additional services for local citizens with developmental disabilities. It was his only time to run for public office, but it was a good experience for him – and Adair County.

One of the things that Ray always enjoyed was reunions with his friends, and he first became involved in school reunions, when his UHS Class of 1955 held its 25th reunion in 1980. Ray served as the committee chairman, and the reunion attracted a large number of classmates and former faculty members, It was held in the empty building that had housed the high school when Ray was in school. He then served as the committee chair for the quinquennial reunions for his class in 1985, 1990, and 1995, and he kept adding other alumni friends who had been in UHS at the same time. Then in 2000, he served as the reunion chair for all the UHS alumni in the 1940s and 1950s, and it attracted a crowd of more than 400 people, many of whom had not been back to Unionville for decades. It was a special event and one of Ray’s proudest achievements. Then after a brief respite, Ray and other alumni organized an all-school reunion event on Labor Day weekend in 2003, and those UHS/PCHS reunions have continued on an annual basis. As a result, Ray was selected as the first graduate to be inducted into the

school’s Academic Hall of Fame in 2010.

Ray was always active in Rotary clubs, due to his year abroad as a Rotary scholar in 1961, and after serving as president of the Macon Rotary Club in 1970- 71, he served as the governor of Rotary District 605, which included all of northeast Missouri and the St. Louis area, in 1975-76. He then served on the Rotary International (RI) Board of Directors in 1985-87, as the moderator for the International Assembly in 1989, and as a Trustee for The Rotary Foundation in 2002-06. Then as the Vice Chairman for the 2005 RI Convention in Chicago and as the Chairman for the 2008 RI Convention. In August of 2008, he was selected as the RI President for 2010-11, and he and Judie then moved to Evanston, IL for the two years that he served as the President-Elect and then as the President. Rotary has 35,000 clubs around the world with 1.2 million members in about 200 countries, and as a result, Judie and Ray traveled extensively to about 75 countries throughout their Rotary travels.

During his presidency, Ray instituted several improvements in the Rotary organization, and he was aided by a progressive board of directors with Tom Thorfinnson as Vice President, Ravi Ravindran as Treasurer, and John Blount as Chair of the Executive Committee. He and Judie also received constant support from their presidential aides, Duane and Pat Sterling, of Warrensburg, Missouri.

The Kirksville Rotary clubs were very supportive of Ray and Judie’s service to Rotary, and the amphitheater in Rotary Park is named the Ray Klinginsmith Amphitheater. Large delegations of Rotarians and their spouses from Northeast Missouri attended both the 2010 Rotary Convention in Montreal and the 2011 Convention in New Orleans to show their support and encouragement. Ray’s chief claim to fame was the ability to formulate good ideas for progress and then recruit friends and colleagues to help him make the needed improvements. All of which was aided by his sense of humor, his use of Cowboy Logic, and his wish to make things Bigger, Better, and Bolder!

Ray is survived by his son, Kurt, of Kirksville; by his daughter and her husband, Leigh, and Bob Perkins, of Liberty, Missouri; and by his three grandchildren, Morgan (Perkins) Dawson, Grant Perkins, and Sydney Perkins. He was preceded in death by his wife, Judie; his parents, Ted and Alta (Williamson) Klinginsmith; his brother, Teddy Klinginsmith; his two sisters, Sara Stockton and Carol Mills; his parents-in-law, Bob and Ruth (Heerdt) Wilkinson; and by all his uncles and aunts.

A Celebration of life will be held on Saturday, February 10th at Dukum Inn in Kirksville, MO from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. Please wear apparel that represents your connection to Ray (Putnam County, Truman State, Mizzou, Rotary, CVA, Kansas City Chiefs, etc.).


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