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Wright-Patt public affairs director dies

John E. Klemack, Wright-Patterson’s 88th Air Base Wing director of public affairs, died Tuesday at the Hospice of Dayton after a battle with lung cancer, according to a base spokesman.

Klemack, who was 66, supervised about 20 military and civilian employees at the air base wing headquarters, said Wright-Patterson spokesman Daryl Mayer.

“His nickname, and it was well-deserved, was Yoda in part because of his stature but also because of his knowledge,” Mayer said. “He was a great boss and I really enjoyed working for him.”

Klemack, of Huber Heights, had a decades-long association with both the Air Force and Wright-Patterson. Born in San Antonio, Texas, he entered the Air Force Academy Preparatory School in 1965 and later attended the academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., for two years. He transferred to Ohio State University in Columbus where he earned a bachelor of arts degree in communication in 1969.

He served both as an Air Force Reserve officer, before retiring from that career in 2004, and an Air Force civilian public affairs employee. His first assignment at Wright-Patterson as a uniformed airman was in May 1967 with the 448th Medical Service Flight, at the base hospital. After spending two decades in the private sector in public relations and multi-media fields, he took a civil service job in 1989 at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., before transferring to another federal post in Wisconsin. In 1998, he was hired to work in public affairs at Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson. Klemack was director of public affairs at the 88th Air Base Wing since 2009.

“John was a great American, teammate and colleague,” Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander, said in a statement. “He was wise, charming and witty, but most of all he was a great advisor and friend. The Air Force has lost one of our most dedicated champions. We will all miss him dearly.”

Ron Fry, AFMC public affairs director, said Klemack had “a great sense of humor and one of his best communication traits was he never took his job so seriously he let it get in the way of effective communication. He was good at communicating in a way that people enjoyed listening to him.”

The former Air Force officer fondly remembered the last trip of the C-141 Starlifter, known as the ‘Hanoi Taxi,” that carried the first U.S. POWs out of North Vietnam in 1973. Decades later, Klemack was on the jet’s last flight when it landed at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in May 2006. “John was really excited about that,” Fry said.

Klemack is survived by his wife, Mikah. Funeral arrangements were pending.

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