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City shaped by Klinzing, his memory
Monroe Parks Director and City Forester Paul Klinzing helps out Monroe High School students Jenna Wehinger and Jahir Valentin during service day at Twining Park May 10, 2017. Klinzing worked for the city for over 38 years before his death Tuesday. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - When Parks Director and City Forester Paul Klinzing applied for his position with the city of Monroe in 1980, he could not have known the ways it would impact his life and the difference he would make in the lives of its residents.

Klinzing spent just over 38 years planting countless trees and shaping the parks of Monroe before his life ended Tuesday at the age of 60. He had been experiencing kidney problems since the beginning of March and had received dialysis. He had been moved to rehabilitation at Select Specialty Hospital in Madison on March 14 with family and friends looking toward recovery.

Then suddenly, he was gone.

Originally from New London, Klinzing attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse to obtain a degree in his specialty: parks and recreation. Though he attended the university at the same time of his future wife, then Marge Summerfield, Paul first met her when he was being considered as one of the top three candidates for his job in Monroe.

He began as Monroe parks director Jan. 9, 1980, Marge said. It was fitting that the couple was introduced by the Park Commission, since they would spend the rest of their lives together contributing to the city; Marge as the recreation director and Paul in charge of parks and forestation.

"This is where we met and fell in love," Marge said, recalling the day she and Paul approached then mayor Cliff Reasa before getting engaged to make sure they would be able to stay employed with the city if they were to get married.

"He said, 'If you two get married here, maybe we'll keep you here for another 20 or 30 years or so,'" Marge said. "And here we are."

Marge said though the two worked in separate departments with different supervisors, she knew Paul was the person to approach if she was in need of another opinion to help her formulate ideas. They supported each other in complementary ways, she noted.

"It's going to be very hard to go back to work," Marge said. "I'm losing a husband, but I'm also losing my co-worker. I always went to him for advice. We made a great team together."

Marge said Paul was a meticulous person, both in his personal life and professional life. He took note of playground equipment, making sure things were updated and plant life flourished.

"He really took a lot of pride in what he did, in the beauty of the parks," she said. "You can just see that."

She said Paul "thought the world" of former director of public works Nate Klassy, who helped find Paul for his job while still serving the city as streets supervisor, and current Director of Public Works Al Gerber.

"He did an excellent job," Klassy said. "He will be hard to replace, I know that."

Former mayor Bill Ross said in his 18 years in the office, he knew Paul to be exemplary in his excitement for the city and its parks, calling Paul one of the best department heads to ever serve the city.

"He really was Monroe," Ross said.

Dave Weckerly, park maintenance, said he has known Paul for more than 30 years because they were both employed with the city. But until Weckerly transferred to parks from streets six years ago, he did not know Paul was a great boss too.

"You could talk to him about anything," Weckerly said. "I'll never, ever have a boss as good as he was. He was such an easy guy to talk to. He was the type of boss, if you had an idea, he'd listen to you."

The two often talked about sports, a subject Paul greatly enjoyed. Weckerly said Paul had even lent him his season tickets to Badgers basketball games in the past.

Marge said the pair had been talking about Paul's retirement, but that he had enjoyed the crew he worked with, including full-timers David Beightol, Jim Belke and Paul Meudt and seasonal workers Scott Feldt, Josh Towne and Bruce Solberg.

"It's like he's part of the family," Weckerly said. "We were in shock all day. We were all hoping he'd get home by Easter. And then when Al Gerber told us - I mean, halfway through the day I thought, 'Am I dreaming this?' Just walking by his office it's hard to believe he's not going to be there anymore. We're just going to really miss him. The city lost a really good man."