Posted by: Frank | 08/19/2012

Please Explain Reality!

To those of you that DON’T know me, I’m a lost soul! That said, I don’t really want to be ‘found’ I just wanted to throw that out there for anyone that might have a problem understanding or accepting me or who/what I am or what I believe.

Not too many nights ago I was having a beer with one of my best friends! For some time we sat and talked about simple things, life, death, past fun times. He was smiling, looked pretty good and seemed quite happy at the time. I admit that in reality I was more than a little concerned and confused about exactly WHERE we were when this conversation was going on and also that the beer we were drinking was not a brand I recognized. Come to think about it, I couldn’t taste it. My friend and I have more than one common interest, BEER being at the top of the list!

While we were ‘talking’ we couldn’t help reminiscing and laughing about some of our past experiences, including one really interesting experience on his boat, some of the hikes we’ve been on, trips to Mexico and his recent visit to my home in Hawaii. The years have been pretty good to us both if you didn’t count divorces and we had a lot of good things to share and remember.

We had a LOT in common if you DON’T count the fact that he is a Liberal and I am NOT, which NEVER came between us!  We both like or beer and our slight difference in political views was something we could talk about as adults. If you would look at us you would see that even though we look nothing alike, we have a common physical attribute, what most people would call a “beer belly”.  Most of my readers know that “beer belly” is not an accurate statement, you actually gain this weight because you aren’t exactly careful about what you ingest and that is just one of the prices you pay.  Among other things we also share high blood pressure and high cholesterol due largely to a lack of physical exercise!

To my surprise, one of the things my friend was interested in talking about was our mutual health problems. We have laughingly talked about it before but this time he seemed much more serious than the other times. This was quite unlike him, he has always been a carefree individual, like me, and can easily make fun of himself and his “condition” but not this time, he seemed serious for some reason. He looked me straight in the eye and told me that I needed to take care of myself before something bad happened.

Being my usual self, i tried to laugh it off but he kept after me until I promised to do something about it. Shortly after I did, he seemed to relax and the rest of the conversation dissolved into chatter.

I really don’t know how LONG we talked, time has a funny way of passing when you are enjoying your company. I do not pretend to understand the human mind. I know that when we finally quit talking that I was still in Prescott Arizona and my dear friend was in California, lying on a hospital bed in an ‘induced coma’!

My friend, Hank Kleppinger, was (unknown to me at the time) on his death-bed. They say he had suffered an  infection then a Heart attack. To give his heart time to heal they had induced coma in the hopes that his body would recover. Later, an MRI showed brain damage ( I have no clue how) and they decided to ‘pull the plug’. He was gone shortly after.

I believe Hank was likely “on the edge” when he came to see me. I wonder who else he visited during that time or even if they would admit he came to see them. I want to try to live up to my silent promise to my friend and work on getting my act together, get a handle on my health issues. It’s not going to be easy but If I believe he cared and came to see me, I owe it to him and myself and my wife of 22 years.

We are all mortal but when you are young, that is impossible to believe. As you get older and older you begin to realize that the years you have left are likely less than the years that have already passed. If life is good to you it’s not something you worry about, you just live your life and do what you can to lead a good life. But, it’s hard to not think about our new-found mortality when you begin to see people around, people you know, dying. With a little luck death will be quick and painless. Since none of us can actually testify to what happens in the face of our own mortality, we can only hope.

I am NOT a “person of faith” but I do not criticize those that are and would never try to talk them out of their belief.  For them it is comforting and gives them something to believe in and hold onto. I am NOT happy with ANY of the reasons I’ve heard regarding WHY “the good die young” and don’t like it ONE DAMN BIT!  But I do believe there is “something” out there that will be exposed to us when we step across the great barrier we call life and death. I’m not in a hurry but will receive the explanation with open arms when it’s time.

Over the years I have had some VERY strange experiences, that I’ve seen and felt that I can’t explain. We all have similar things that happen to us and always find simple things to explain them away. I do NOT pretend to understand anything about life and I seldom share my feelings but Hank was one of my closest friends and ment more to me than most things in my life. I’ve always done well holding my emotions in check but as I get older it’s become more difficult to control. It could be a sinus issue I suppose but I tend to think I am maturing and excepting one of my FEW weaknesses. When informed about Hank I admit I lost it and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I am NOT the only person remembering this gentle bearded man with warm fuzzy thoughts. I do not know how they will express their grief but this is my way. For those of you reading this and sharing my pain, life goes on and please remember, he will want us to “raise one” because he enjoyed his life and the people in it!

In my heart of hearts I don’t believe that Hanks work was really done. I have ‘faith’ that one day we will meet again and pick up where we left off. To that regard, I send my regards to his friends and to my friend and ask him to keep the beer cold. Thank you Hank for dropping by and giving me a ‘heads up’. I love you man but am NOT in a hurry to meet with you again real soon so I will try to heed your warning. You ARE missed my friend!

Hank Kleppinger / Jan 18, 1945 – August 19, 2012

Send me a message my friend !


  1. I’m glad you took the time to write this tribute to him.

  2. Hank was fortunate to have you for a friend! He was my classmate and my thoughts go back to a time when “we” were fourteen and our days were filled just being beach bums, surrounded with sunshine and smiles. Hank was “fuzzy” and he left “us” all too soon. He will not be forgotten, rather his memory will be cherished. Thank you for sharing your touching thoughts and hopefully you will honor the promise made to a dear friend.

    • Thanks Jo-Ann! Hank was one of the people that people shake their heads about, some because they don’t understand him, some don’t believe he’s real, some because they think he’s funny and even more because his HEART was so big! I will miss him and the promise will be kept! aloha

  3. This was a great tribute to Hank. I too lost it when I heard the news. Hank and I go back 40 years and it is so hard to believe that his free spirit is gone. Hank used to crew for me on my Islander 30 on races around the cans in Newport or to Ensenada. He always brought his humor and “way” of looking at things that made us all better people. I am so thankful that I have pictures of him to keep close to me. You are right, we need to hoist one to Hank and preferabley I want one of the cans he always had in his ice bucket on the Cal 24 he had that sunk in the slip at Dana Point. Those cans were in the ice chest so long that the paint came off and we just had to open a can of mystery beer just because. The last time I saw Hank was at an American Legion meeting a month or so ago. It was just like the old days all over again Hank never changed. I will miss you terribly. Fair winds my friend.

    • Aloha Geoff,
      And just when I thought my sinus problem was on the mend I read your post. There are so many things that could be said about this gentle man! I can “see” the beer cans you are talking about, what a hoot! Having him in Hawaii with us was such a treat, time with him went WAY to fast! Martha and I are digging through our pix, I hope to post a bunch on one of my sites soon… Thanks for your insight, pleasure to “meet” his friends on here…

      • Frank: Were you at Hank’s funeral? Kathleen hardcastle mentioned that someone was there from Hawaii. Are you on the email distribution list I just created for all the ex Hughes division 63 people that Hank belonged to? If not, I will forward what I just sent to everyone.

      • Yes Geoff, I was there, even though I hate saying goodbye to anyone. I was on PADAS, honestly not sure if that was part of Division 63 but he was with me the whole time i worked on the program. Always happy to know a friend of his. Aloha

  4. I can’t tell you how nice it is to be able to share warm memories of someone as special as Hank. I feel his loss terribly. But reading what everyone has to say helps me realize that others are impacted the same way. And it brings back many, many fond memories of a gentle, giving man. What a loss but what a blessing.

    • It IS nice! It’s been just a week since we found out he was in the hospital and only a few short days since we heard he was gone. We are only 74 days apart in age and last we talked, we were immortal! Life is a funny duck, the years pass too quickly, “The Good Die Young”. Saying goodbye and letting go to THIS friend is one of the hardest things I have ever done.. aloha

  5. A copy of your “Please Explain Reality!” was given to his ex-wife Marina . . . who just happens to be married to me. Hank’s Memorial is this evening in Laguna and I have taken the liberty of posting the following on a Remembering Hank board that the family has provided –


    I was not an old or even a very dear friend of Hank’s. I only knew him for about a dozen years. But I feel a loss that may be a little different than some of you. You see, I met Hank almost out of necessity because the woman I married happened to be his ex-wife and knew him very well. Now, ordinarily this would be someone that me, as the new husband, would not be terribly interested in having over for dinner. Well, as it turned out Hank was not only a guest several times in my house but I also was in his. On first meeting him it was quickly evident that being unsuccessful as a husband does not disqualify one being a gentleman worthy of respect. It was virtually impossible not to like the man.

    A very old friend of his wrote the following: “I do not know how others will express their grief for this gentle bearded man but here is my way. For those of you reading this and sharing my pain, life goes on but please remember, Hank would want us to “raise one” because he enjoyed his life and the people in it.” So, here’s to Hank!

    Hope this is alright with you.

    I am Stephen Coffee

    • Stephen, I’m honored that you would use part of my tribute. He was a great man and will be missed… aloha

  6. I am gob-smacked to hear about Hank. I’ve known him for probably 40 years thru our work at Hughes Aircraft. I’ll never forget him calling me one Friday night/Saturday morning to invite me to the on-going skinny-dipping party in the jacuzzi at his place (we were in our 20’s)! And, even as we got older, I knew to expect an invite to go sailing — and not to be surprised if he got naked. We had so much fun when we were young — Hank, Roger Woodsmall, Charlyne Fitz, and I. It was a roving party – dinner at my place, then go play Clue at Roger’s. I has abdominal surgery in my 20’s and Hank came over to check on me. I had to tell him not to come back until I was healed because it felt like the stitches were ripping from laughing so hard. he was so, so funny. I can’t believe he’s gone — God bless you, Hank. — Jamie Smith

  7. I was thinking of Hank today – I used to work with him at Hughes Aircraft Co. in Fullerton. When I googled him and saw the dreaded word ‘obituary’ show up, my heart sank. Hank was a great guy . . . so positive when we worked together. RIP, Hank.

    • We think of him all the time, always with fond memories, he had a big heart and liked his beer – two things that endeared him to us big time!

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