Daniel Allen Kleinhesselink

1946 - 2012

Daniel Allen Kleinhesselink of Walla Walla died Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, at Providence St. Mary Hospital of complications related to pulmonary fibrosis. He was 66 years old.

Dan was born July 12, 1946, in Billings, Mont., to Bill and Mym Kazanis Kleinhesselink. The family moved to Fresno, Calif., in 1954. There, Dan met his lifelong friend, Lawrence Avery. The family moved to Walla Walla in 1961, just prior to Dan beginning his freshman year in high school. Equally gregarious and hilarious, he made friends easily and is fondly remembered by the class of 1965 for his humor and his energy, and as the only guy in the class who could dance.

Dan joined the Navy in 1965, serving two tours in Vietnam — first in DaNang and his second tour in the Mekong Delta, River Section-543 3/67 to 9/67 and River Section-535 9/67 to 3/68, as forward twin .50 gunner. He was honorably discharged as a gunner’s mate 2nd class in 1968 receiving a Purple Heart during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
On June 8, 1968, he married Debbie Thompson. Dan and Debbie shared a life steeped in love and adventure, and their marriage offered an example to which most of us can only hope to aspire.
After attending Eastern Washington University for two years in 1970, Dan began his career in mining at the Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho. On May 2, 1972, the mine caught fire, resulting in the one of the worst disasters in modern hard rock mining history. Dan’s service as a mine rescue captain during the disaster inspired him to become a mine inspector with the Mine Safety Health Administration and a team captain with the National Mine Rescue Team. In later years, he went on to serve as the safety manager at the Homestake Mine in Creede, Colo., and the Stillwater Mine in Nye, Mont. Throughout his career, he was known for the passion and seriousness with which he approached his work as well as his empathy and compassion for his fellow miners.

Dan first began to dabble in ranching when he moved back to Montana in 1987 and turned to the pursuit full-time when he moved to Frannie, Wyo., in the mid-’90s. He loved the lifestyle and his cattle. He and Debbie moved back to Walla Walla in 2000 to be closer to family, but he always missed his time on the ranch. In Walla Walla, Dan took up a number of hobbies, restoring old cars among them, but nothing matched his love of fishing. He spent most of his time on the river, often in the company of his old friends, Dave Grimes and Mike Schab.

Even in the hardest times, Dan was as trusting as he was tough. He believed in the goodness of others and treated folks with genuine kindness. He loved his family, his wife, Debbie above all, fiercely and vocally. He never ended a conversation with her or his daughters without at least one “I love you.” He was renowned for his ability to tell a great story, his intellect, and more than anything, his humor which fairly sparkled. When looking back on his life just before his passing, he shook his head and laughed. “Well, it’s been quite a party,” he said. And it was, because he made it so. He is so deeply missed, but the love he inspired lives on.

Dan is survived by his wife of 44 years, Debbie of Walla Walla; his daughters, Katie Kleinhesselink of Denver, and Annie Kleinhesselink of Porto, Portugal; his beloved Yorkie, Winnie; his sisters, Andria Volz of Portland, and Kim Puccini of Charlottesville, Va; and several cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bill and Mym Kleinhesselink.

A Rosary will be recited at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at Herring Groseclose Funeral Home, 315 W. Alder, Walla Walla. The memorial funeral Mass will be celebrated on 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church with a luncheon to follow at St. Francis Parish Hall. Memorial contributions may be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation or Catholic Charities through the funeral home. Family and friends are invited to sign the online guestbook at www.herringgroseclose.com.

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