June 6, 2008 Volume 109 Number 11

Retired Labor Press editor, columnist Gene Klare dies

Gene Klare, retired editor of the Labor Press and the longest-serving columnist in the newspaper’s 109-year history, died May 30 from complications following a mild heart attack. He was 81.

Klare became the seventh editor of the then Oregon Labor Press in October 1965. He succeeded James Goodsell, who left after 14 years to become director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s regional office in Portland.

Klare retired in October 1986, but continued his column, “Let Me Say This About That,” until January 2008 — a span of more than 40 years.

The Labor Press is a non-profit newspaper owned by 20 local unions and labor councils under the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. It was created in 1900 as the Portland Labor Press, but has undergone three name changes since then — the Oregon Labor Press in 1915, the Oregon/Washington Labor Press in 1986, and the Northwest Labor Press in 1987.

Klare was a veteran of the bitter Oregonian newspaper strike, which started Nov. 10, 1959, and ended with the paper busting its unions April 5, 1965. Klare was an investigative reporter for the newspaper. The strike did not stop the Oregonian and Journal from publishing, but it did take a toll on their circulation. It was a subject Klare re-visited often in his “Let Me Say This About That” column. He even wrote a 100,000-word manuscript about a “fictional” newspaper strike.

During the labor dispute, Klare helped members of the striking unions establish the Portland Reporter, a tabloid newspaper that began publishing in February 1960. It ceased operations on Sept. 30, 1964. Klare worked as a reporter, advertising sales manager, and promotions manager. In the early years of the Reporter he also did some freelance writing for the Labor Press.

Goodsell hired Klare full time to the Labor Press staff in November 1962. A 1964 exposé Klare wrote of corruption in the Multnomah County coroner’s office won an award from the American Political Science Association for reporting on public affairs.

Eugene Francis Klare was born Oct. 12, 1926, on a farm in Tippecanoe County, Indiana to Viola and Francis Klare. At the request of his maternal grandfather, he was named after Eugene Debs, a co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World and five-time Socialist candidate for U.S. president.

His parents divorced when he was a small child. He and his mother moved several times before landing in Houston, Texas, where he graduated from high school.

During an oral history interview for the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association in 1987, Klare said: “My mind was made up at 12 years old, I wanted to work on a newspaper.”

After high school Klare returned to Indiana, where he attended Valparaiso University. He left after a one year to take a job creating newsletters. It was in Valparaiso that he met his first wife, Margaret.

They had a son, Max, who now lives in Alaska.

The young couple moved to Niles, Ohio, when Klare landed his first newspaper job at the Niles Times. They later teamed up with a friend to buy a weekly newspaper in Lagrow, Indiana.

Klare was drafted into the Marine Corps during the Korean Conflict. He spent two years in Washington, D.C., working in the publicity department. He served nine more years in the reserves, earning the rank of sergeant.

Following his military duty, Klare worked at newspapers in Pocatello and Nampa, Idaho, and San Leandro, California, and as a freelance political writer for Time Magazine before moving to Portland to work at the Oregonian.

Margaret told the NW Labor Press that Klare was offered, but turned down, a Nieman Fellowship. The fellowships are awarded to working journalists of accomplishment and promise to come to Harvard University for a year of study, seminars and special events.

They divorced in 1961.

Klare’s second wife was Jane Zahler. She had three children from a previous marriage: Mark, Paul and Mary. Together they had twins Amy and Matthew. Amy is director of the Civil Rights Division of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, and Matt is an Oregon state trooper.

Gene and Jane were divorced and in 1973 he met Oleta (Lita) Mooney. They married in November 1975. Lita had three grown kids from a previous marriage: Leslie, Michelle, and Kris. Lita preceded him in death on Nov. 2, 1998.

During his career Klare served as president of the Portland Newspaper Guild, chaired the Multnomah County Civil Service Commission, and was the first West Coast labor editor to serve as president of the International Labor Press Association.

His achievements were recognized with induction to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council Retirees Hall of Fame and as a Pacific Northwest Labor History Association “Labor History Person of the Year.”

He was a 45-year member of Office and Professional Employees Local 11.

Klare was cremated and his ashes were interred at Willamette National Cemetery.

The family said a memorial service will be arranged at a later date. Cards and remembrances can be sent to Amy Klare at 5552 SE Ash, Portland, OR 97215.


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