Gilroy City Councilman Paul Kloecker died from lung disease Friday morning bringing to a close a lifetime of service to his country, community and love for family and friends.
Kloecker, 82, won his first of three terms on the Gilroy City Council in 1981 when he earned a reputation for steadfastness and earnest preparation. While Kloecker was tenacious, he always strived not to let politics destroy relationships.
“We would argue about politics and I even remember him hanging up on me once,” said longtime friend Ron Kirkish. “He called me up the next day and asked, ‘Are you still mad at me?’ He would never let something like that destroy our friendship, but he would still let you know he disagreed with you.”
Kloecker’s career in construction management proved invaluable to the city, where he used his expertise to manage the city’s infrastructure. He served 12 years on the Santa Clara County Transportation Commission, two years as vice chair, 12 years as a board member of the Association of Bay Area Governments serving two years as vice president. He also founded Gilroy’s recycling program.
Kloecker was a living example never to give up. After his third term ended in 1995, Kloecker worked hard to reclaim a spot on the city council, eventually winning back a seat in 2016.
“He was tenacious,” said City Council Member Dan Harney. “Despite his illness, he fought very hard to attend every city council meeting and closed session meeting. He was an exceptional resource to the city, with his expertise and deep understanding of the issues. He would come early, immersing himself completely in all the agenda items.
“He told me politics is a lot like baseball–if you go up to bat enough times the law of averages says you’ll eventually get elected. At the time I didn’t realize he was talking about himself.”
Kloecker served as a role model for future leaders of Gilroy, including Mayor Roland Velasco.
“I first met Paul in the eighties when I was following the city council,” Velasco said. “He took stands on controversial issues and while he would tell someone he thought they were wrong, he was always positive and respectful. Recently he was talking as much, but when he did–everyone sat up and listened.”
Kloecker, was born on April 21, 1935, in Erie, Pennsylvania to August Roman and Kathryn Vaehnle Kloecker. He was the second youngest child in the German-American family with sisters, Claire, Kathleen and brothers John Edward and Roman Kloecker who survives as well as a multitude of nieces and nephews.
Kloecker graduated from Cathedral Preparatory School in Erie, a Jesuit High School where he played saxophone with his band, the Tune-Toppers. He attended the University of Detroit where he earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering before embarking on a 22-year career in the Navy where he earned an MS in Financial Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey.
Given a choice between attending MIT or the Naval Postgraduate School, he picked the latter, in part, to fulfill a lifelong desire to live in California. The decision was a fortuitous one. He met the love of his life, Pat, a Gilroy native, who was then a school teacher in Monterey and the couple was married on Aug.10, 1974 at the Carmel Mission.
Kloecker’s served as an engineer construction manager with the Seabees, the famed United States Naval Construction Battalions, where he helped build runways and housing while stationed in Vietnam. For his service, Lieutenant Commander Kloecker was awarded a Bronze Star for his service and always remained committed to caring for returning veterans.
When Kloecker’s military career ended in 1980, the Kloeckers decided to move to Gilroy, where he embarked on a career as a construction project manager and a facility manager as a building boom erupted in Silicon Valley. It was then when Kloecker embarked on a career in public service to the city of Gilroy.
Kloecker showed his love for community service, volunteering with the Gilroy Garlic Festival where he served as the construction chairman during the festival’s infancy. His commitment to go above a beyond is remembered fondly.
“One night he and his crew were out on Santa Teresa Avenue, painting divider lines by flashlight on the road,” Pat recalled. “He often came home at 2am and was back at it by 6am. It was like that the whole week.”
Kloecker loved music, playing the piano and saxophone and was involved in the South Valley Orchestra. He also tried his hand at acting, playing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a stage performance of Annie, where his daughter Valerie played an orphan and son Joseph worked building sets.
Kloecker had a well-earned reputation for standing up for what he thought was right, exemplified by his belief of introducing altar girls at St Mary’s Catholic Church.
“He was always forward thinking,” Pat said. “When we first came to Gilroy he wanted Valerie to be an altar girl at St Mary’s. He had seen examples in his travels in the Navy and with his Jesuit training, he thought it was a great idea. The parish said ‘No way,’ but he kept working and working on it. He was relentless. Eventually, they relented.”
Kloecker’s faith extended beyond the church and into the community. He believed in people and did everything he could to bring out the best in those around him.
“He always saw the potential in people before they saw it in themselves,” remembered Joseph. “He would always guide people. When they said ‘I can’t,’ he said ‘They could.'”
Kloecker is fondly remembered by his colleagues on the city council and the city’s police and fire departments paid their respects, escorting his body from St Louise Medical Center to Habing Family Funeral Home.
Kloecker loved Gilroy Gardens and served as a docent and an engineer for the train at the park. He also cherished his volunteer work as a marshall for eight years at Pebble Beach for the AT&T Pro-Am Tournament, where he loved rubbing elbows with golf celebrities.
A visitation will be held on Thursday starting at 3pm at Habing Family Funeral Home with a vigil that will commence at 7pm. A funeral mass at St Mary’s Catholic Church Friday, Dec. 22 at 10 am.
Kloecker leaves behind his wife Pat, a retired 7th Grade teacher at Solorsano Middle School, Joseph, a current teacher at Solorsano and Valerie who married Adam Weingarten of El Cerrito California and a granddaughter Gia Rose Weingarten.
The city council will have two options to fill his vacant position according to city staff.
On its first meeting of the year Jan. 8, the city council may direct staff to advertise for applications to fill the vacancy. They can then interview prospective applicants and appoint someone to fill the position within thirty days after the declaration of the vacancy until a successor is elected in the next general election.
Or, the city council may appoint a new member to fill the seat until a successor is elected at the general election.
Eligibility to secure a place on the city council is also expressly defined by the city charter which stipulates that candidates for city office must be residents of Gilroy and that they may not hold any other elected positions or employment with the City of Gilroy. Should an appointee hold a place on a city board or commission, their seat will be vacated once they join the city council.