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Old 12-15-2006, 11:50 AM   #1
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He Found Joy In Sharing His Riches

I know this isn't something to argue about or take different sides on and all of that etc etc-but I read this obituary in the paper this morning and thought it was something special. He had what really matters.

John Kleshinski, 55; found joy in sharing his riches

By Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff | December 15, 2006

A few weeks before John S. Kleshinski died, he heard a knock at the door of his hotel room in Ohio, where he was helping his best friend campaign for the US Senate.

In the hall stood a chambermaid, who asked if he wanted his bed turned down. He declined, but gave her $20 anyway -- a characteristic gesture from a man so grateful for his financial success that he tipped big and tipped everyone, even the ushers and hot dog vendors at baseball games.

Surprised at his generosity, she said, "I have to do something for you," according to his friend Sherrod Brown. And he said, "Just pray for me."

The woman asked for his name and said, "I'll pray for you, John," Brown recalled.

"John said she walked away feeling a little empowered. He really noticed people who are too invisible in society," said Brown.

Mr. Kleshinski, a philanthropist since retiring in his late 40s, died of a heart attack while sleeping in his Chatham home Nov. 29. He was 55 and was president of the board of the Community Music Center of Boston.

"John really believed that the wealth he had accumulated was not his to keep," said Brown, the US representative who was elected to the Senate last month. "It was given to him to pass on, so he did all the time."

"He loved to say he was just a poor boy from Ohio stumbling through life," said Mr. Kleshinski's wife, Emily Paul. "He felt very humbled by his good fortune."

Just as humbled by the positions he held, Mr. Kleshinski was a board president who made sure he knew the first names of the Community Music Center's teachers, one of whom was his own. A dozen years ago, his wife gave him five piano lessons at the center as a Valentine's Day gift. "He said he'd always wanted to learn to make music on his own," she said. "He grew up in a family that couldn't afford music lessons."

For 12 years he stayed with the same teacher. Even after acquiring the title of board president two years ago he shared the stage with other students, young and old, at recitals.

"I always said he was the only one there without a mommy," his wife said.

"He was always extremely nervous," said David Lapin, the center's executive director. "You could see his hands shaking before his fingers even hit the keys."

Mr. Kleshinski was more at ease once his turn had passed, cheering on his compatriots.

"He never envied anyone, even an 8- or 9-year-old who played better," Lapin said. "He was always their biggest fan."

Mr. Kleshinski, a native of Mansfield, Ohio, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 13.

"When he first moved to Boston, he lived on Beacon Hill and we used to walk to Fenway," Brown said. "He told me about when he was growing up. He said if you're diagnosed at that age, you don't drink, you don't smoke, you don't stay out late -- you have to become more disciplined as a teenager."

Smitten by politics early, Mr. Kleshinski was student body president at John Carroll University in Cleveland. With a name that immediately identified his Polish heritage, he campaigned with the slogan, "A Pole you can lean on."

He received a master's degree in business administration from Xavier University and lived at first in his hometown, where he served on the City Council. In the mid-1980s, he moved to Boston and worked for Medco Containment Services, where he sold group health insurance to large firms. His success there and stock investments allowed him to retire young and concentrate on interests such as the music center and the Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School in Orleans, where he was on the board of trustees.

Mr. Kleshinski and Paul met through mutual friends in 1988 and married a few years later. When he turned his attention to philanthropy, "he always told me he wanted to share what he had with others," she said. "He didn't think he deserved it any more than the next person."

An optimist by nature, Mr. Kleshinski "tried to find something every day to be joyful about," his wife said. "he just lived and died by sports, especially."

"He loved watching the Indians win at Fenway," Brown said, "although that didn't often happen."

During his eulogy at a funeral Mass in Mansfield last week, Brown mentioned that when he married, he asked his friend to take part in the ceremony and read from the Beatitudes.

"John preferred to walk among the meek and the peacemakers, among those who mourn and those who thirst for righteousness," Brown said at the Mass. "He cared far more about being a warrior for social justice than to walk among the rich and powerful."

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Old 12-15-2006, 12:00 PM   #2
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Wow. Great story. Great role model. Thanks for that.

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Old 12-15-2006, 12:00 PM   #3
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Old 12-15-2006, 02:47 PM   #4
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Great story, thanks for sharing.
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Old 12-15-2006, 02:58 PM   #5
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That's a great story.
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Old 12-15-2006, 03:01 PM   #6
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Very cool. Thanks for posting. It's good to read this stuff -- especially during this time of year.
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Old 12-15-2006, 03:36 PM   #7
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This reminds me of a story I read recently - a man had been giving out money at Christmas every year, starting with just a little but by the time he was old and wealthy, 100$ bills. I think this was in the Chicago area or somewhere in the midwest He revealed his identity because he was dying and wanted to inspire others.

We need more people like that in the world.
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Old 12-15-2006, 03:49 PM   #8
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Yeah, that guy's actually from here in Kansas City. He went to Chicago recently to help others. He's been giving money away every Christmas and the TV news crews cover it, but they never revealed who he was. He just walks up to people and gives them $100 or more. It's incredible. I'm so sad to hear he's battling cancer. Hopefully, his work will inspire many others to do the same, regardless how much money they have.
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Old 12-15-2006, 03:59 PM   #9
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An inspiring man.

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