Obituary of John Klemens
~~John F. (Jack) Klemens, 95, a driving force in the establishment of St. Lawrence University’s hockey program and an active coach and organizer of youth hockey in Canton for most of his life, died Saturday at Maplewood Campus in Canton.
There will be a funeral mass 2 p.m. Friday at the Lawrence Funeral Home, 21 Park Street, Canton. Calling hours begin at noon at the funeral home. Burial will follow in St. Mary’s Cemetery.
He is survived by his wife, Barbara; two children, Ann (husband Greg) Sloan, Heuvelton and Mike (wife Natalie Davila), Springfield, IL; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. One son, Robert, died in 2000, and another, Richard, died in infancy.
Born December 28, 1921, in Woodhaven, Long Island, son of Harry F. and Ann Kelly Klemens, he played roller hockey in Brooklyn and ice hockey at St. Francis Prep in Brooklynand with the New York Rovers, an amateur team in the New York Rangers organization. He attended St. Lawrence University and played football, baseball, and was player coach in the infant St. Lawrence hockey program.
His attendance was interrupted by World War II. He enlisted in the U.S. Army, served as a corporal in charge of a mortar battery,was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and liberated from a German POW camp by advancing allied forces.
Following his discharge from the army in 1945, he returned to St. Lawrence and encouraged hockey players he knew from Brooklyn to attend St. Lawrence under the GI Bill. The group, called the “Boys from Brooklyn,” formed the nucleus of teams that would push SLU to the forefront of college hockey.
After graduating with the class of 1948, he married Barbara Griffiths of Massena on June 10, 1948 in Massena. He directed youth programs in Lake Placid where he was involved in beginning youth hockey and then took a job as building manager at the RPI Arena in Troy.
He returned to Canton in 1955 when he took a job representing the Fitzgerald Brewery of Troy. He later worked as a claims adjustor for Utica Mutual Insurance Co., retiring in 1983.
Upon his return to Canton he became involved in organizing and coaching in the Pee Wee Hockey Association. He filled many roles, from teaching very young boys to skate to coaching older teams that went to state and national tournaments. No young man who played from him escaped the speech that while hockey was important, family, school and church needed to come first..
He was an avid golfer and long-time member of the St. Lawrence Golf Club where he played in the men’s league. He held season’s tickets for St. Lawrence Hockey. He was inducted into the St. Lawrence University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1980. In 2007 the Canton Minor Hockey Association honored him as, “The Father of Modern Hockey in the North Country.”
After his retirement, he learned to be the stern paddler in a canoe and became proficient at setting up a pop-up camper throughout the Adirondacks.
He was also a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Memorial contributions are suggested to a charity of one's choice.