Peter V. Klinke, Jr. passed away peacefully at Home Sweet Home in Eureka on Dec. 21, 2012. Family and friends were at his side.
Pete was born July 17, 1920, at Fortine to Peter V. Klinke, Sr. and Petronella (Zeller) Klinke. He had four older siblings, Louis, Thelma, Esther, and Helen. He grew up in Fortine and Crystal Lake, where his parents owned and operated the first fish hatchery in the Tobacco Valley area.
Pete attended grade school in Fortine and graduated from LCHS in Eureka in 1937, then attended Eastern Washington University for one semester until his parents were in an auto accident. He then returned home to help out at the fish hatchery.
Pete spent summers on a Forest Service fire lookout until enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1941. He served as a turret gunner and flight engineer in Europe and North Africa during World War II. While on a mission over Italy his B26 bomber was hit by anti-aircraft and set on fire. The crew had to bail out over enemy territory. All survived and were hidden by an Italian family for a week, at which time the crew was put in contact with an American infantry patrol that took them to a safe area. He was always grateful to the Italian family for the risk they had taken for total strangers. He spoke of it often.
Upon returning to the U.S. he was stationed at Fort Myers, Fla., as a gunnery instructor. Pete was very proud of his military service and spoke often of his many experiences.
While on leave in 1943 he married June Scouten on Dec. 24. Upon his discharge in 1945 they returned to Eureka, where his daughter Janis was born. In 1946 they moved to Libby, where Pete served as a depot operator with the railroad for three years. They returned to Eureka in 1950, where he managed a grocery store for two years. During this time his son Craig was born.
In the early 1950s Pete went into partnership with his father in the Eureka Commercial, a dry-goods and clothing store. After the Commercial was sold, Pete went into the Christmas tree business full time.
Pete and his family developed land into a thriving Christmas tree business named Klinke‘s Christmas Trees. He also manufactured wooden Christmas tree stands that were shipped with the trees throughout the U.S. and Canada. The business operated a retail lot in Santa Barbara, Calif., for 20 plus years.
Throughout his life he also found time to volunteer with the local ambulance and firefighter crews, serve on the school board, and held offices with the state and national Christmas tree association.
After selling the Christmas tree business, Pete and June traveled extensively throughout the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, Portugal and New Zealand. He enjoyed fishing and made numerous trips to Alaska for some deep-sea fishing.
Saddened by the loss of his wife of 50 years in 1995, Pete became an active member of VFW Post 6786. He was honored to be elected commander.
Pete also took great pleasure in feeding and watching the many birds at his feeders and tending to his flowers and lawn, and especially having beers with friends.
Pete boarded his last airplane flight a few months prior to his 90th birthday, flying to Australia to walk his granddaughter down the aisle at her wedding.
Pete was preceded in death by his parents Peter V. Sr. and Nellie; his wife June; son Craig Klinke; grandson Damon Clark; brother Louis Klinke; sisters Thelma Mace, Esther Oertel, and Helen Gilden; former son-in-law Dan Neuman, and grandson-in-law Mark Holder.
Pete is survived by his daughter Janis Neuman, Eureka; granddaughter Robyn and Michael Large, Perth, Australia; grandson Derek Clark, Eureka; step-grandsons Matt Neuman, Havre; Bryan and Jessica Neuman, Missoula; step-granddaughter Karin and Brett Woolard, Aurora, Colo.; great grandchildren Ashlee, Kaden, Mikayla, Kassandra, Keegan, Madison, Ellia, Pressley, and Sebastian; and many nieces, nephews and friends.
Family and friends will miss him for the huge impact he had on their lives, his stories, and his off beat sense of humor.
A military memorial service will be held at the Tobacco Valley Cemetery on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 11 a.m.
Arrangements were by Schnackenberg & Nelson Funeral Home of Libby & Eureka.