Robert C. Klas passed away Friday, March 8, 2019 at his home at Lilydale Senior Living in Lilydale, MN, surrounded by loving family. Former President and CEO of the Tapemark Company in West St. Paul, Bob was a continuing member of the Board of Directors. Born and raised in Wabasha, MN, he was the second oldest of nine children born to Thomas and Gertrude (Ehrlinger) Klas. It was when he was in high school that Bob began his career in business when he purchased, along with his older brother, Dan, a full-sized portable popcorn stand. It was through his paper route, home chores, the popcorn business, and his living away from home while working the rails as a teenager, that he learned the importance of dedication and hard work.
Upon graduating from Wabasha High School in 1946, Bob spent the following two years in the U.S. Navy before entering Hamline University in 1948. It was when he was a student at Hamline that Bob met and married the former Frances Alexandra “Sandra” Boardman. Together they raised six children. Upon graduating from Hamline, he soon was hired at the one-machine Tapemark Company. Bob eventually purchased Tapemark, building it into one of the premier tape- and adhesive- label printing companies in the Upper Midwest before transforming the business into a medical device and pharmaceutical contract manufacturer with end-use customers located throughout the world. In 1967, Bob was named “Small Businessman of the Year” by the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce. Tapemark was twice voted Best Managed Company in its industry under his leadership. Later in his career, Bob led a turn-around of WTC Industries, serving as its Chairman until the company was sold to CUNO Industries.
Parents of two special needs children, Bob and Sandy were deeply connected to the Saint Paul Association for Retarded Children. It was this association that inspired Bob to found and co-direct the Tapemark Charity Pro-Am Golf Tournament in 1972. Annually held over three days each June, the Pro-Am is recognized as part of the unofficial Grand Slam of golf for the MN PGA Section. Over its 47-year history, the Pro-Am has raised nearly $8 million for special needs children and adults. Included in his numerous business board memberships was his time as Director and Chair of WTC Industries. A very proud alumnus of Hamline University, Bob served two terms as a member of the Board of Trustees, and later was elected a Life Trustee of Hamline in recognition of his long support and dedication to the University.
He is survived by his wife, Sandra; his children, Margaret (Phil) Johnson, Robert (Linda) Klas, Elizabeth (Reid) Polome, Thomas, and Christine (Brian) Nelson; his grandchildren, Katherine Johnson, Charles Johnson, Scott Klas, Lauren Klas, Annie Polome, Samuel Polome, Christopher Polome, and Kate (Jonathan) Plett; his great-grandchildren, Noah Johnson and Lily Plett; sisters, Janet Roberts, Mary Peterson and Alice (Chuck) Harrison; sisters-in-law, Mary Lou Klas, Louise Klas and Evelyn Morse; as well as many nieces and nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Frances, parents, Thomas and Gertrude, brothers, Daniel, James, and William, sisters, Carol Carr and Harriet King.
Bob’s funeral service will Friday, March 15, 2019 at 1:00 pm at the United Church of Christ in Wabasha, Interment with military honors will follow at Riverview Cemetery in Wabasha. Family and friends may call at Willwerscheid Funeral Home, 235 Wentworth Ave. W., West St. Paul, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM and one hour before the service at the church on Friday. Memorials are preferred to the Wabasha United Church of Christ 317 3rd St. W., Wabasha, MN. 55981.