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ALS of Michigan
678 Front Ave, Suite 177
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
(866) 927-2873
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Life Story / Obituary


Niel Klein, a Traverse City resident and businessman, has passed to the other side of life after a five year struggle with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease.

Born September 7, 1938, to Lewis and Edith (Shrove) Klein, he was raised in Brookfield, IL, graduated from Riverside Brookfield High School in 1956, and Stanford University, in 1960, with a B.A. in creative writing and a Navy ROTC, LTJG commission. He served two years as a military intelligence officer and then attended UCLA for a M.A. in music composition. A true Renaissance Man, Niel had many talents and interests and not enough time to pursue them. He was also an avid tennis player and enjoyed playing wherever he went.

Niel began his business career at Proctor & Gamble in Cincinnati, OH, and then moved to Los Angeles, CA, to work at the advertising agencies of Doyle Dane Bernbach and later Keye Donna Pearlstein. He opened his own agency in 1975, which evolved into a management, marketing and communications firm. In 1993, he brought his business, Niel K Klein Corp, and family to Traverse City, MI.

Niel was best know for being an innovative thinker. When a new direction was needed, he was the one asked to find the innovative solution. Leonard Pearlstein called him, "the doctor's doctor, the lawyer's lawyer." His clients included service, distribution and manufacturing industries, including not-for-profit institutions. He had major assignments in health-care, financial, airline and machine tool industries, in consumer and business-to-business products and services, and in media, education and culture. His firm won major awards for his clients both here and abroad. He also found time to teach marketing, media and research and mentor those who worked for him.

Last year, Niel's book, The 97% Factor, The 10 Principles of No Fail Leadership, was published on Amazon. Unfortunately, the culmination of Niel's life and career was cut short by ALS. Niel was a kind and honest man with an indomitable spirit, an inquisitive mind, great initiative, and was always the observer and teacher to the very end. He helped people in businesses figure out what they did well and how to do it even better. He taught them about the potential value in the "moments of truth" happening every day on their front lines and how best to manage and facilitate the efficiency and effectiveness of those connections and situations. He loved his work, he loved to work, and his unique perspective and talents left an interesting and lasting legacy for all he touched.

Being an only child, Niel treasured his family most of all. In 1975, Niel and Valerie A. Hays, a Traverse City native, married and raised their family in Los Angeles. He is survived by Valerie and their children: Hilerie (Robert) Klein-Rensi of Pittsburg, Pa; and Tyler (Valerie B.) Klein of Cleveland, OH, and five grandchildren: Nicholas, Jonah and Evelyn Rensi; and Kate and Sophia Klein. Niel is also survived by a previous wife (Kaye Jackson) and their two children: Col. Jeffery (Janice) Klein at Fort Shafter, HI; Tracy Kromer in Petaluma, CA; and three grandchildren: LTJG Jordan and Jared Klein and Abby Kromer. Also, his sister-in-law, Elaine Hays of Traverse City, an adopted daughter, Sonja Patrick, in Philadelphia; and granddaughter, 2LT Elizabeth Schreck, in Virginia. As an involved grandfather, Niel made sure that all his children learned to appreciate old Walt Disney comic books, and they, in turn, drew and painted, sang and played music and read Calvin and Hobbes for him.

The family is forever grateful to the staff at Birchwood, nursing home, Saint Mary's Neuroscience Program in Grand Rapids, Comfort Keepers, Air Way Oxygen, Thompson Pharmacy and Medical, FYZICAL, Hospice of MI, and all who assisted in his lengthy, specialized and complex care. We also thank all the people around the country who held us in their thoughts and prayers. ALS is an insidious disease from which no one condemned escapes. If you would like to make a contribution in Niel's name, send it to ALS of MI, 678 Front Ave, Suite 177, Grand Rapids, MI. Family and friends will be assembling at Christmas time to honor his memory.

Please share your thoughts and memories with Niel's family at www.lifestorytc.com. The family chose Life Story Funeral Home, Traverse City, MI, to handle the cremation.