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Remembering Wayne Klotz, Sr.

Updated: 2 days ago

Vietnam Veteran Loved Family, Airplanes, Genealogy and History

by Owens Media, Inc.

LOUISVILLE, KY (October 21, 2022) – Wayne Klotz, Sr. is remembered for many roles, husband, father, brother, grandfather, uncle, coach, historian, genealogist, Vietnam Veteran, air show enthusiast and more.

Wayne Klotz, a Vietnam veteran, stands next to an Army OV-1 Mohawk observation and surveillance aircraft Aug. 27, 2017, during the Thunder Over Dover Open House at Dover Air Force Base, Del. One of the static displays at the open house, Mohawk Airshows’ plane, is the first flying POW/MIA monument, and is covered in names of service members who died during the Vietnam War and were never recovered from Southeast Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mauricio Campino)

Klotz, Sr., 76, of Louisville, Kentucky, passed away on Monday, September 26, 2022 at the Robley Rex VA Medical Center in Louisville. He was born in Joliet, Illinois on February 13, 1946 to Henry “Hank” and Bernadette (Durkin) Klotz, the youngest of their three sons.

He served in Vietnam with the Army Air Corps from 1967 to 1968, flying in OV-1 Mohawks.

“That one year in Vietnam impacted the rest of my dad’s life in all different ways,” said Tina Leach, Klotz’s eldest daughter. “My dad flew in an OV-1 Mohawk surveillance plane in the military and that really started his love for flying,” Leach said. “He loved traveling to Wisconsin to go to the Oshkosh Air Show and to air shows in Florida whenever he could.”

Wayne Klotz served in Vietnam with the Army Air Corps from 1967 to 1968, flying in OV-1 Mohawks.

A graduate of Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Illinois, Klotz attended Thornton Junior College from 1963 to 1965. He worked for IBM for 27 years with the company transferring the family to Florida and then to Kentucky, where the family has lived for 44 years.

“After my dad retired, he volunteered at the Bernheim Arboretum Research Forest in Clermont, Kentucky and he was a volunteer driver for the VA,” Leach recalled.

Wayne Klotz was a doting grandfather to his grandchildren, Jake, Madalynn, Cara, Madison, Alyssa, Travis, Aiden, Gabe, Jason and Melissa, rarely missing their events and activities.

“My brother Wayne’s kids, Jake and Madison, played baseball and softball through high school,” Leach said. “My dad never missed a game for either of them until he couldn’t make it anymore. “We were all involved in sports as kids and he coached every one of us at some point when we were young,” she added.

Wayne Klotz was the family’s genealogist, tracing the family’s history back several generations.

“He had so much of that in his head,” Leach said. “He was beginning to organize all of his papers when their house caught fire 11 years ago. Unfortunately, when everything came back from being cleaned, it was all out of order and I think at that time it was overwhelming for my dad to basically start over,” she recalled, adding that she may take on the project to get her father’s research in order. “He spent hours at the library researching and would bring his grandson, Jake, with him.”

The Orland Park, Illinois native was a frequent contributor to Orland Park related social media pages, sharing his memories of growing up in the community in the 1950s and 60s and working at the Orland Park Ace Hardware.

“Uncle Wayne was a great resource for Orland Park history on social media,” said Gerry Klotz, Jr., of Orland Park, Klotz’s nephew. “When someone asked a question on Facebook that we knew Uncle Wayne could answer, we’d tag him and ask that he share what he remembered. His posts were always recognizable because he typed in all caps,” Klotz added smiling.

Bonnie (left) and Wayne Klotz, Sr. (right) celebrate grandson Jake's high school graduation.

Wayne Klotz was especially proud to talk about the family’s history in Orland Park. The Klotz family moved to Orland Park in the late 1930s and Henry “Hank” Klotz, Wayne’s father, built his three businesses in the 14600 block of LaGrange Road in the 1950s.

“My grandfather, Hank Klotz, built Ryan’s Gas Station, the Night O’ Rest Motel and Truck Stop, and the Country Kitchen Restaurant on 10 acres that he owned from LaGrange Road to 94th Avenue,” Gerry Klotz said. “When my aunt and uncle returned to Orland Park, we purposely went to the South Fork Restaurant on LaGrange Road because that’s where my grandfather’s businesses were located.”

Wayne Klotz enjoyed keeping in touch with his Orland Park friends, many of whom now live in different parts of the country.

“My dad was a great one for keeping in contact with some of the people he grew up with,” Leach said. “He also liked to return to Orland Park for the class reunions so he could see his childhood friends in person.”

Wayne Klotz is credited with helping his great nephew, Tim Klotz, complete his Eagle Scout Project in 2015. The younger Klotz created a memorial garden to remember Orland Park’s first casualty in Vietnam, Captain Ronald L. Zinn. The garden is located in front of the Orland Park Veterans Center at 15045 West Avenue.

“When I decided to remember Captain Zinn, I reached out to Uncle Wayne because I knew he’d know how to contact the Zinn family,” Tim Klotz said. “He put me in touch with Jerry Zinn and Joyce Owens Zinn, both of whom were a huge part of my Eagle Scout Project. Uncle Wayne also remembered that our families went back pretty far as Ron Zinn’s mom at one time worked at my great grandfather’s restaurant on LaGrange Road.”

In the 1950's, Wayne Klotz's father, Hank Klotz, built the Country Kitchen Restaurant, Ryan's Gas Station and the Night 'O Rest Motel/Truck Stop on the 10 acres he owned at 14600 South LaGrange Road in Orland Park. (Village of Orland Park History Museum 1973 photo)

“My dad was involved with so many different groups," Leach said. “He had his Mohawk group, the Military Vehicle Preservation Group, his veterans group and his IBM group that met monthly for lunch,” she recalled. “He was also part of a Jeep/Off Roading Group, his car guys, the Orland Park history groups and his monthly poker group,” she said smiling, continuing, “He enjoyed his Oshkosh Air Show friends, genealogy groups, his Florida Air Show people and even kept in touch with girls on my softball team that he coached. He enjoyed all of his groups.”

Leach added, “He was known by several names, Senior, Uncle Wayne, Coach Wayne and just Wayne. You could put all of these people in a room and they have nothing in common – except my dad.”

In 2016, Wayne Klotz gathered with other veterans at the Louisville International Airport to honor the remains of Kenneth Leroy Cunningham whose plane crashed in Vietnam in 1969. According to WLKY-TV, Cunningham’s body was recovered from the crash site in the 1990s and was later identified though DNA analysis.

Klotz is quoted in the WLKY-TV report saying, “I flew in the plane he was in; (it) was one of the planes we took over. Two years earlier, I flew the same general area he was in.” Wayne Klotz held the same job as Cunningham in Vietnam, flying on Mohawk surveillance planes.

In the report, former infantryman Doug Foster of Middletown, KY, explained, “Every once in a while, we’d get a radio call that there was a troop movement coming close to us,” Foster said. “Well, it was the Mohawk team, and they were doing it, and they were passing it to us.”

Wayne Klotz is survived by his wife of 52 years, Bonnie (Atkinson) Klotz; daughter, Tina Leach (Billy); son, Wayne Klotz, Jr. (Cindy); son, Brian Klotz (Kim); daughter, Janine Farris (Garland); brother, Gerald Klotz, Sr. (Barbara); sister-in-law Louise Klotz, 10 grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends across the country. He was preceded in death by his father, Henry "Hank" Klotz; mother, Bernadette Klotz; and brother, Richard Klotz.

Visitation was held Monday, October 10 with the funeral service on Tuesday, October 11. Klotz is interred at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central in Radcliff, Kentucky.

Klotz’s graveside service included a UH-60 Blackhawk Helicopter flyover conducted by his son Brian’s Kentucky Army National Guard Aviation Unit. Brian Klotz served in the United States Marine Corps from 1995 until 2017. He served with the Kentucky Air National Guard from 2017 until 2019 and has been serving with Kentucky Army National Guard Aviation since 2019.

Contributions in Wayne Klotz, Sr.’s memory, may be made to K9s for Warriors, an organization that works to end veteran suicide by providing highly trained service dogs for military veterans to help with their healing and recovery.


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