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Neighbors: Dr. Joseph Klein

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  • | 4:00 a.m. October 12, 2011
Dr. Joseph Klein attributes turning 100 years old to several factors, including a healthy lifestyle and good genes.
Dr. Joseph Klein attributes turning 100 years old to several factors, including a healthy lifestyle and good genes.
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Dr. Joseph Klein has lived through World War I, Word War II and the flu pandemic of 1918.

“I’ve witnessed the Model T Ford with all new advances, the airplane increase and innovations. I’ve witnessed telephone (use) increasing, and I witnessed the TV,” says Klein, who turned 100 years old Oct. 3.

Today, he uses an iPhone.

He remembers when his hero, Babe Ruth, hit 60 homeruns for his favorite team, the Yankees, in 1927. But the most important achievement he has attained is sharing 72 years — and counting — with his wife, Shirley.

“She has been the love of my life, all my life,” he says after making a joke that the reason they have been together for so long is because he learned to say, “Yes, Dear,” a long time ago.

And now that he has hit the centennial mark, he plans on coasting the rest of the way, because his motto is, “When you’re tired, rest. Don’t push it.”

Klein was born in 1911 and grew up in Pennsylvania, where he lived until 1982 when he moved to Longboat Key to retire. He was a pediatrician for 50 years and got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. He served in the Army Medical Core in India for two years. He was a member of the American Art Committee and took part in getting the American wing of the Vatican donated in 1973. He and his wife have one son, two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

The Kleins grew up next door to one another. Klein’s mother told him at age 16, when Shirley was 9, that he would marry her.

“Nevermind, she’ll grow up,” his mom said.

Ten years later, they had their first date, but Klein had to leave shortly after to serve in the Army Medical Core. After Klein returned from India, his brother informed him that Shirley was about to be engaged to someone else.

“Apparently, you think you’re old enough to get married, so I’m the one who’s going to marry you,” Klein told her.

Because Shirley had been in love with him since she was young, she agreed. They married in 1939.

“I think I’m very fortunate that he stayed with me this long,” she says with a smile.

Klein attributes the longevity of his life to never having a drink of alcohol, not smoking, to being athletic and to having great genes. His brothers lived to ages 94 and 95, and one of his sisters lived to be 96.

“Everyone in my family lived long lives,” he says.

And even though he says he is “coasting the rest of the way,” he plans to ride a horse at his family reunion this year in Arizona.

Five things you don’t know ...
• Klein is an avid bridge player.
• Klein loves watching baseball.
• His favorite T.V. program is “Gunsmoke.”
• Klein was born a twin.
• Klein has accumulated an art collection and has three pieces from The Ashcan School Realist movement.


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