The High Desert has lost another veteran. Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Edward Kleinlein, who worked on classified programs such as the B-2 Stealth Bomber and served during two wars, has died.
With his family at his side, the 83-year old veteran and longtime resident of Hesperia breathed his last on Aug. 13 at his home in Hesperia, according to his wife of 45 years, Lilia Kleinlein.
“He was a good man, a wonderful provider and good father who first raised my young children when they were all under the age of eight,” Kleinlein said. “He poured his life into my children, and imparted wisdom into their hearts and minds.”
Kleinlein told the Daily Press her family’s presence at her husband’s side when he died was a blessing. She added that having her granddaughter, Summer, there was also a “true blessing from the Lord.”
“Although he was mostly a quiet man, my dad was dedicated to his family and his country in a way that he wasn’t ashamed to share,” Eric Schmidt told the Daily Press. “He was my step-father, but I always called him dad, and in nearly every way he taught me so much about what defines me as an adult today.”
Schmidt said Kleinlein raised him, his brother, Dwight, and sister, Jenny, without ever making the trio feel like they were his step-kids.
“We were his kids and he stepped-up to being a provider, a role model, and a caring and loving father,” said Schmidt, the president of Exquadrum, the aerospace company. “His passing brings with it emotion and anguish, but I can honestly say that I’m proud to be his son and I respect the path he walked in life.”
Kleinlein had stayed at Sierra Vista Independent & Assisted Living in Victorville for over a year before he was admitted to a hospital with a serious infection, Schmidt said.
“When he was at the hospital, doctors said he was close to dying,” Schmidt said. “At that point, my mother said it was time to bring him home so he could pass away in a peaceful setting. My dad was such a fighter that he lasted two more weeks.”
Born in South Dakota, Edward Kleinlein was one of five children. He faced many childhood tragedies, including the early death of his father, abandonment by his mother, living in an orphanage and being adopted by a family whose main goal was to put him to work, Schmidt said.
When he turned 18, Kleinlein figured the best way out of South Dakota was to enlist in the Air Force. A month later he was stationed in Germany and remained in the service from 1953 to 1976, his son said.
“When you have such a bad childhood, it’s not uncommon for a child to be an alcoholic, abuser or Ne’er-do-wel in society,” Schmidt said. “But my father was the opposite. He learned great skills, developed traits the people admire and was a productive member of society.”
Edward and Lilia met in Pomona and were married in 1974. They lived at March Air Force Base in Riverside. In 1981, the family moved to Hesperia and the veteran retired from his civil service job in 2005.
During his civil service years, Kleinlein worked for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman corporations. He also worked in Iran and Saudi Arabia, said Lilia Kleinlein, who was born in Argentina, moved to America when she was 29 years old and became “a proud U.S. citizen” in 1977.
“Edward worked on the B2 Bomber from its inception through its rollout at the plant for an open house,” Lilia Kleinlein said. “It was such a proud moment.”
As part of an industry team led by Northrop, the B-2 stealth bomber, with its unique flying wing configuration and low-observable, radar-evading technology, is a versatile multi-role bomber, capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional munitions, according to Boeing.
The first B-2 rolled out of the bomber’s final assembly facility in Palmdale in November 1988 and flew for the first time in July 1989, according to Boeing.
“Some of the things that I have learned about my father’s achievements have been fascinating and something that I will truly treasure,” Schmidt said. “May he rest in peace and watch over his family on the other side of the veil exactly the way he watched over us here during his life.”
Edward Kleinlein will be remembered with full military honors during a service at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 6 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 9533 Hickory Ave., in Hesperia.
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