TRIBUTE TO A FRIENDSHIP

By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Normally we post on Tuesdays and Fridays but this week is not a normal week.  Today my brother Bob has the heavy burden of delivering the eulogy at the funeral of his best friend, Don Klapperich.  So as friends and family gather today to mourn Don, I want to pay tribute to a very special friendship.

While so many of us have let childhood friendships lapse into occasional emails or Christmas cards, Bob and Don maintained a close bond for 53 years.   They first met in 1959 when they were juniors in high school. They struck up an immediate friendship, connected by a love of music, sports and good humor.  This was the era of folk music – the Kingston Trio, Limelighters, etc. – so Bob and Don started playing guitar and singing.  They dubbed themselves “The Neverly Brothers”.  They actually were darn good; they could play, sing and banter with the best of them.

Over the years they got several paying gigs and more importantly for us, they entertained our family, turning every gathering into a joyous sing-along party.  Somewhere along the line Don insisted on drinking rum and Coke, but only if it was cheap rum and diet Coke.  He dubbed that drink “the Klapper” and many a family gathering has resulted in too many Klappers!

They stayed in touch all through college and afterwards, when they both joined the Navy.  Don was a fighter pilot and served four tours of duty in Viet Nam.  He stayed in the Navy for 20 years and retired as a Lt. Commander.  After leaving active service, Don worked overseas as a fighter pilot instructor before finally retiring to San Antonio a few years ago.  Bob, after his Navy stint was over, elected to teach and then joined the business world and was very successful in the mortgage business in California

I give this background because what is amazing about their story is that their bond of friendship never faltered.  No matter the distance in their residence or hectic pace of their lives, they still found time for one another.  This is not to suggest that they never disagreed.  They held very different political views and had some lively discussions over the years.  But their opinions never got in the way of their friendship.

They saw each other through marriage, divorce, re-marriage, children and finally grandchildren.  They shared all of life’s experiences together, as close as two people could be without being related.  Of course, being friends with Don was, let’s just say, “interesting”.  He was a cross between a steely-eyed jet pilot and John Belushi.

In the early 1980’s the three of us were out for dinner and Don decided he was going to teach me how to properly eat a hamburger.  He took a huge bite out of the burger, threw his head back, mouth agape, picked up the plastic mustard and ketchup containers, and squirted them directly into his mouth.  As you might imagine, it got the attention of the wait staff, not to mention the other diners.  This was one of the milder things he ever did.  He was always brilliant, at times socially inept, but always a true friend.

Don never went to any high school reunions but last September, for their 50th, Don agreed to attend with Bob and reunite The Neverly Brothers.  They sang and entertained the crowd, not knowing that it was the last time that two great friends, doing what they do best, would be together.  Thankfully it was taped and put on YouTube for posterity.

I recently received an email that said, “Treat your friends well, for you never know when God is going to want them back”.  It is certainly understandable that God would want Don back – for good humor, good music and maybe even a “Klapper”.

Rest in peace, Don.  And to Bob: my heart aches for you today but just know that you were the best friend that anyone could possibly have.

5 comments on “TRIBUTE TO A FRIENDSHIP

  1. Most of you, probably all, won’t know me. My name is Al Gartmann and I had the true HONOR of sharing a small office with Don for about a year when we worked at Brooks City Base (formerly Air Force Base). We both took pride in chiding each other politically. He being a self proclaimed extreme Liberal from Berkely (argh! I would always say) and me an extreme conservative from Wisconsin. Through our conversations, while supposedly working, I think we both came to the conclusion that we are both actually Libertarian although at the time neither would honestly admit it. I learned a lot from him and consider him a brother in my Military Family. I loved his stories and when I saw the youtube video I was floored because I never had a clue that he played a guitar and sang, not too shabbily I might add. Of course after seeing and thinking for a bit, I wasn’t surprised after all becaused it showed just how much he loved life, despite his self depricating “I’m fat, lazy, and a drunk” comments, all tongue in cheek of course. As I read these posts I can see that he truly was one of the good guys. He will be missed.
    Don, from one old Military man to another, I SALUTE YOU! May GOD bless those you leave behind.

  2. To All Friends of Don,

    I can not explain how I feel right now, pain, sorrow, emptiness but, it gives me consolation and comfort thinking that so many friends loved him. I sincerely “THANK YOU ALL” .I can not thank you all enough for all the support and love. We will all miss him.

    Edita Klapperich

  3. Thank you so much for posting that tribute . . .my heart aches as well for Moe and all our friends who will miss Don . . .it meant so much to hear your words. Liz (Chisholm) Anderson

  4. Susan/Moe
    I was truly moved by your BLOG Post, and the very personal and witty, spot-on gravesite eulogy by Bob for Don in Sonoma today. Edith (Don’s wife) told me, in an aside, that Don really loved rain, and God must have listened, WE GOT RAIN!…… Don could always do stuff like that, we never knew how, I am not sure he did either, but only two hours later, the day turned brilliant, the skies cleared. It became the perfect que from God that Don’s spirit had arrived “up there” and he & HE were already having a “Klapper”, and probably singing, and telling stories, and planning a special place for all Don’s dedicated posse of close friends. I, as you Suzzane, have an permanent heart ache today in dealing with reality of his passing. I was fortunate to also speak personally to those at the funeral, I considered it more of a “calling” to speak from the heart about Don’s friendship, and my admiration for him as person, as a military pilot, and as my friend.

    Jim (The BEAK) Scrimger

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *