Courtesy of MartinoBlum:
Ralph Lincoln Klein, founder of the nine-store Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland supermarket chain affiliated with the Wakefern Food Corporation, and leading supporter of the Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, died Saturday, November 22, 2014, at the Hooper House Hospice Care facility in Forest Hill, Maryland, of complications from heart and kidney disease.
The lifelong resident of Harford County, Maryland, was 88.
Ralph Klein, the only child of Maurice and Sarah Klein, was born in Fallston, Maryland, on July 29, 1926. His parents operated a general store in Fallston that served the rural farming community. Ralph Klein rode the Maryland & Pennsylvania (“Ma & Pa”) Railroad from Fallston to Bel Air every day for high school, and graduated from Bel Air High School in 1943.
Following graduation, he attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland for two years, before being drafted in 1945 to serve in the United States Army. He completed basic training in upstate New York, before deploying in April 1945 to the Europe. Following the defeat and surrender of Nazi Germany, Mr. Klein remained in the occupation forces, rising to the rank of technical sergeant. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1947, and enrolled under the GI Bill at the University of Maryland to complete his college studies.
While at Maryland, Ralph Klein pledged the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity, where he forged lifelong friendships with many “brothers,” including future Governor Marvin Mandel, Samuel Lefrak, “Speedy” Kushner, “Billy” Lewis and “Freddie” Sapperstein.
Ralph Klein graduated from Maryland’s College Park campus in 1949 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, and returned to Harford County, where he joined with his father to form “Maurice Klein and Son,” a general retail company. The company purchased all the assets of another local retailer, Eli Tucker, in Forest Hill. Trading as “Klein’s,” the company become famous for selling “100,001 things under one roof,” and for the large block-lettered “KLEIN’S” painted on the store’s expansive slate roof. The company sold perishable groceries, dry goods, feed, fertilizer, hardware and farm equipment, coal stoves, linoleum flooring, farm and western wear, rifles and ammunition and thousands of other hard-to-find items from a complex of buildings and warehouses in Forest Hill. The principal building was expanded three times until the business relocated a mile south to its present location in 1978.
In 1952, a customer at his future mother-in-law’s beauty shop on Saratoga Street in Baltimore suggested that Ralph meet the proprietor’s daughter, Shirley Snyderman. Ralph Klein and Shirley Snyderman were wed on January 4, 1953, and raised three sons, Andrew P. Klein, Michael J. Klein and Howard S. Klein, all of whom subsequently became full partners with their parents in the family enterprise. The company expanded from one store in Forest Hill to six supermarkets in Harford County, two supermarkets in Baltimore County and one supermarket in Baltimore City. In March of 2009 the company joined the Wakefern Food Corporation cooperative and began trading as Klein’s ShopRite of Maryland.
Outside of his business endeavors, Ralph Klein was active in local politics, running unsuccessfully for a seat on Harford County’s first County Council, and later serving for more than a decade on the Harford County Democratic Central Committee. As someone who had contact with many rural voters, Mr. Klein’s support was sought by many candidates, and he was frequently visited by many who aspired to elected office, including U.S. Senator Joseph Tydings, Congressman Clarence Long, Governor Marvin Mandel, Lt. Governor Steny Hoyer, State Senate President William S. James, among others. He was a leading figure in the successful battle to repeal Maryland’s “blue laws” (which prohibited retail sales on Sunday) and was awarded a ceremonial “signing” pen for his efforts.
Ralph Klein served for more than two decades as a director of Forest Hill State Bank, and led the bank through its merger with Mercantile Bancorp. He principally focused on providing start-up loans for medical service, agricultural and other local business ventures. He retired from the Board of Directors in 1997, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Aside from business ventures and local politics, Ralph and Shirley Klein were dedicated to the cause of improving the quality of health care in Harford County. They encouraged physicians to locate their practice in Harford County, and developed an office park in Forest Hill with four medical professional buildings and an assisted living facility. Mr. and Mrs. Klein were among the leading proponents and supporters of the $10,000,000 capital campaign to underwrite the construction of Bel Air’s Upper Chesapeake Medical campus. The hospital, now associated with the University of Maryland Medical System, received several leadership gifts from the couple, whose names now grace the hospital’s main lobby and the façade of the new Klein Ambulatory Care Center. Ralph and Shirley Klein also gifted property to construct the hospital’s Hooper Hospice facility.
Ralph Klein provided construction funding for the Harford Equestrian Center’s observation tower, and land for the Forest Hill substation of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company. Through many untold acts of kindness, he earned a reputation for frequently helping others in need, particularly local families or employees who underwent personal tragedies or difficult financial circumstances.
Mr. Klein was a founding member of Temple Adas Shalom in Havre De Grace, Maryland, and a lifelong congregant of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Baltimore. He was also a lifelong supporter of the Jewish National Fund, B’nai B’rith International, and Israel Bonds.
He had particular passion for restoring local farm houses and barns, and enjoyed frequent visits with small herds of cattle that he named for his favorite persons, and fed with items from his bakeries. He also enjoyed speaking on a daily basis with many local friends and customers, and held extensive “question and answer” sessions with various supermarket administrators and members of his family.
Ralph Klein is survived by his wife of 62 years, Shirley Snyderman Klein; sons Andrew of Forest Hill, Maryland, Michael of Stevenson, Maryland, and Howard of Phoenix, Maryland; by three daughters-in-law (Jayne, Clara and Susan); and by eight grandchildren (Marshall, Samuel, Sarah, Jacob, Rachel, Stephen, David and Victoria).
Services at SOL LEVINSON & BROS., INC., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane, on Monday, November 24, at 11 am. Interment at the Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery, 2100 Belair Road in Baltimore.
Please omit flowers. Contributions in Ralph Klein’s memory may be sent to Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation, 520 Upper Chesapeake Drive, Suite 405, Bel Air, MD 21014 or to Temple Adas Shalom, 8 N. Earlton Road, Havre de Grace, MD 21078 or to the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Torah Restoration Fund, 7401 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21208.