The first thoughts of this young fellow and his family stems from long ago at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church when I was always in awe of what a fine outstanding group they were. Each looked like they had just stepped out of a Sears Magazine, dressed remarkably, shoes a shinin’, hair perfect. They filled up one long pew and there was no nonsense, for sure! Dad, mom and eight children. Love that his middle name is Joseph and three brothers carry that middle name, as well. He noted, “We were a very structured family; we had to be to get anything at all accomplished!”
Our guest is well-known in the area, as a painter, having told me his inspiration for oil painting came from Mr. Steve Swaggerly, his high school teacher. Mr. Swaggerly rented a home from them and invited our guest in to see pictures the teacher had painted. Top to bottom on each wall. From then on, art was for him. Kind of obvious our man loved Art Class best, but he was also very involved at North Montgomery in sports. Football where he was a lineman; wrestling going to semi-state; and catcher in baseball. The big thrill was his senior year in football when they beat Crawfordsville and were co-county champs. A sad happening was that his father, Fred, had a bad heart attack during conference championship in Wrestling. There were blockages that could not be fixed which eventually led to his death at the young age of 63.
Our guest is a Contemporary Impressionist, saying, “Tight paintings are too much like a photo – they never change, but do the same item in Impressionism and you see more in it, different things at different times.” Some of his work he does inside in the normal studio-scene, but he loves painting outdoors. Although he knew he had a God-gifted talent way back in grade school, and took college art classes as well, it wasn’t until 2000 when he went to the library to get a book about painting outdoors, then entered a piece in competition. He was hooked! “It’s so relaxing!” Also, he had been to the House of the Singing Winds near Nashville, Indiana (our own Montgomery County’s TC Steele’s home, studio, and gardens), and was impressed with the Impressionistic style of Steele.
After high school, he was going right to college, but his father really needed help on the farm. He and his brother, Mike, had 200 head of sow, which they fed from 65 acres. Our subject decided to take an 8-week short course in farming at Purdue. Definitely, short, but not easy. “We had classes every hour for eight solid weeks. There was no free time.”
When he married his high school sweetheart, Betty, they made plans that he would go back to Art School so they purchased a house and waited for fall semester to start. He got a job as a stocker at the new Aldi Foods store (he was one of 8,000 applicants) and in six months managed his own store. He worked there for three years, and they had started having children so Art school went by the wayside. His dream however, never did.
Next, he worked at a hog barn for a few months, and sold feed, all commission which made it too hard to raise a family. For 18 years, he worked at Staley’s, and after learning welding with Ivy Tech, he was hired in the maintenance department, which he loved since it was four days a week Monday-Thursday, which he worked at for 10 years. When Staleys was bought-out, the maintenance department was cut-down and he was going to have to go back to processing, so he applied at Lilly’s in maintenance for a welding job and although the move hurt his retirement, he loves it. Still working (Evonik), he is looking forward to retiring some day and enjoying those grandkids. Probably some painting, too.
Speaking of that, (ready?) Jeff Klinker says being a grandpa’ is better than being a dad. He and Betty had three daughters, Jennifer, who lives in Lake Dallas, Texas and is a Dental Hygienist. She and Gil Ariza have two children, Ian, age two and Henry five months. Suzanne, married to Mike Balkus (who is a business manager at Bill Estes Ford), is home with AJ, age five, Violet, age two and is expecting Jeff’s sixth grandchild. Audry, and husband, Cole Armuth who also live in the Dallas area (Watauga) is expecting his fifth grandchild. She is a dental assistant and Cole works for Tri-Dal Excavating. Their mother passed away.
Currently, Jeff is married to Jenny, who is a registered nurse and will be working in ICU at Crawfordsville. She graduated from St. Joe’s at Rensselaer. Love the story of how they met. He was with his mom at church and his mom looked at Jenny. Whispering, she said: “Hey, she’s pretty cute, there’s a sweet one for you.” The three of them went to breakfast and that’s the rest of the story. They have been married 11 years and live in the Klinker homestead where Jeff has his art studio. From those eight Klinker children, Jeff figured there are 21 grandchildren. Besides his professions, there are Pilots, Blue Print specialists, Teachers, a Sales person; and a Physical Fitness trainer.
Jeff particularly enjoys the weekend paint-outs with the Indiana Plein Air Painters and will go this year again (13 in a row) for a 4-day paint-out in New Harmony. Wrapping up, Jeff said his mother, Sally, was his all-time favorite fan for his art, but I’d say there are many others, as he has sold multiple pieces, has some displayed at the Indiana State Museum, Linden State Bank, Brown County Art Gallery, and the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette. He notes: “The hardest thing is at how much you price your work.” You can do it, Jeff and thanks so very much for letting me feature you this week in Around The County.
Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County.