FUNKSTOWN — Robert L. Kline, who served as Funkstown’s mayor for 28 years and on the Washington County Board of Education, died Tuesday morning, his son, Robert L. Kline II, confirmed.
Kline, 82, also was active in baseball, both as an amateur player in the mid-20th century and as a Little League administrator.
“It’s a tremendous loss for the community and the town,” said Barry Warrenfeltz, who often attends Funkstown Town Council meetings and is a committee chairman at St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church where Kline was a lifelong member.
“He would help anybody he could help,” and if he couldn’t help them, he’d find someone who could, Warrenfeltz said.
“He was very compassionate when he needed to be and very stern when he needed to be,” he said.
Funkstown Mayor Paul N. Crampton Jr. said Kline was a mentor and “taught me an awful lot about small-town politics, and how to deal with the town of Funkstown. I admired him very much.”
“I’ve known Bob Kline since I was a kid,” Crampton said.
“He was tough, but he was probably one of the fairest individuals I ever met. If you were fair with him, he’d try to go the extra mile for you,” but he didn’t like it when people tried to pull the wool over his eyes, Crampton said.
Kline was a retired carpentry and cabinetry teacher who became mayor of Funkstown in 1982 as a write-in candidate. He served on the town council for about two years before becoming mayor and on the school board from 1994 to 1998.
Kline lost his last bid at re-election as mayor in 2010 to Crampton.
A month after that election, town officials presented Kline with a plaque for his dedicated service and commitment to the town.
“In my book, you’ll always be the mayor,” Crampton told Kline at that meeting.
“Thank you very much,” Kline replied.
In June 2010, town officials decided to name Funkstown Community Park’s Beaver Creek Road entrance Robert Kline Way.
In a 1998 interview, Kline shared the credit for his accomplishments with his wife, Reatha Kline.
“I’m real proud of that. She’s a great lady,” he said.
The couple was married for 62 years and had three children, according to Kline’s obituary.
Backed vocational education
When Kline was running in 1998 for re-election to the school board he said he wanted to try to “get things right for the kids in the system,” including his grandchildren and his future great-grandchildren.
“He was a gentle giant. He was a champion for vocational education,” said B. Marie Byers, who served on the board with Kline.
“He was just a great person, very dedicated to the children in this community,” said Dori Nipps, who also served on the school board with Kline.
“He always thought it was very important that the school system not just concentrate on sending kids to college, but that children needed to have a skill. And that students at Career Studies Center had that,” Nipps said.
The Career Studies Center is now called Washington County Technical High School.
Kline graduated from Hagerstown High School in 1947 and worked for Colonial Hardwood Flooring, according to his obituary. Crampton said Kline also worked for Statton Furniture.
Gerry Holmes, who was principal at the Career Studies Center at the time Kline taught at the school, said he was hired primarily for his background in cabinetry.
“Bob was a people person. He had a good personality. He could relate well to the students. The students liked him, and he liked the students,” Holmes said.
‘He could hit’
In addition to knowing him professionally, Holmes knew Kline because the two were both amateur baseball players.
Kline played in the 1950s and 1960s, first for the Washington County Independent Baseball League and later for the South Mountain League, which was a step up, Holmes said.
While they never played for the same team, they played against each other, Holmes said of Kline, a first baseman who threw and batted left-handed.
“Bob Kline was a big person. He could hit,” Holmes said.
Kline was named most valuable player and was a home run leader, his obituary said.
Kline helped start a minor division for National Little League and helped organize a Little League field in Chewsville, which is now Valley Little League, his obituary said.
Jay Stouffer was District I administrator for the Little League in the 1980s when Kline helped start the big league division for 16- to 18-year-olds. In the beginning, those games were played at Hagerstown Junior College or Funkstown Community Park, Stouffer said.
“He was a nice guy, a good guy to work with. He’d do anything for you if he could,” Stouffer said.