Woody Klein, lifetime journalist and longtime Westporter, dies at 90
WESTPORT — Lifelong journalist and longtime Westporter Woody Klein died at age 90 last month, leaving a wide-ranging impact on those that loved and worked alongside him.
“He had a great generosity of spirit,” his wife Audrey Klein recalled. “He was always present, meaning always here, always involved and always caring.”
The New York native died on Feb. 11 at his Regent’s Park home after a brief illness. Audrey, 83, said Woody’s passions for his career and others were evident since the first day they met, when she was 24.
“His work kept him going,” she said. “He had tremendous passion for his work. He always had good ideas and found ways to express himself through his writing.”
In his 65-year professional career, Woody became an award-winning writer and author, working as a reporter for The Washington Post, a New York City mayoral press secretary, a communications executive for IBM and later as editor of the Westport News in 1992. During his tenure, the newspaper was selected by the Suburban Newspapers of America in 1996 as “The Best Community Newspaper in America.”
Dieter Stanko, a former Westport News reporter, remembered his time with Woody favorably.
“He was a very hard worker, prolific writer and a demanding editor to work for, but he was also kind and understanding,” Stanko said, noting Woddy cared about running the best newspaper he could. “And he had a good sense of humor. We shared quite a few running jokes during the years.”
One memory that stuck out in Stanko’s mind was when when Woody asked him investigate a property on Blue Ribbon Drive that was rumored to be drug stash house.
“I was the police reporter at the time and he asked me to look into this,” Stanko recalled. “Of course, this seemed a ridiculous thing to be happening in Westport, and the police officials I asked about this had a good laugh at this.”
A few weeks later, he said, the FBI and DEA staged an early morning raid at the house, which turned out to be a drug stash house.
“That was quite a story,” Stanko said.
Woody’s penchant for news and work ethic kept him busy, but his dedication inspired both colleagues and family alike.
Woody’s daughter, Wendy, expressed admiration for her dad’s passion for social justice.
“He always questioned why and was never satisfied with superficial explanations,” she said. “His commitment to his work was inspring to me, and he encouraged me to find a meaningful path in life.”
Woody’s love for the written word was also shared by his wife.
“He gave me every manuscript he wrote,” Audrey said. “I would review them before he sent it to the publishing company. ... We always worked alongside each other.”
Throughout his life, Woody wrote several books, including “Let in the Sun,” which expanded on his award-winning series that examined poverty in a New York slum.
But most Westporters remember Woody for being deeply involved around town. In addition to his role as newspaper editor, he served on the Representative Town Meeting and authored “Westport Connecticut: The Story of a New England Town’s Rise to Prominence.”
From his enthusiasm about politics to his love for people, Audrey said she’ll always be awe of the man Woody was.
“He was a joy in my life and just a wonderful human being,” she said. “With our 58 years together like anybody else, there’s ups and downs, dark and light, but as a whole it was a great, great experience.”
Klein is survived by his wife, Audrey, of Westport; his daughter, Wendy, and her husband, Howard Lippitt of Long Beach, Calif.; his niece, Judith Willison and her husband, Joel Haycock, of Cambridge, Mass.; his brother-in-law, Paul Lehman, and his wife, Angela, of Santa Fe, N.M.; and his nephew Mark Lehman, of New York City.