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EHS Architect Klessens Passes
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For many, he was the Escalon Unified School District.

Known as one of the architects of the district, Jacob 'Jake' Klessens passed away on Wednesday, April 15. He was 83 years old and was laid to rest at St. John's Catholic Cemetery on Tuesday, April 21 following services at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. An obituary for him appears on Page A4 of this week's issue.

"I don't think people realize that he was really one of the architects of our district," noted retired longtime Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Bob Wallace.

Mr. Klessens was the second superintendent for Escalon Unified, taking over the reins from James Pritchard. Wallace followed Klessens, with current superintendent Dave Mantooth following Wallace.

"I'm not sure he was ever comfortable being an administrator," Wallace admitted, "but he loved Escalon and the school district. That was really his focus in life and he was such a humanitarian, he truly cared for people."

Training at one point to become a priest, he was fluent in Latin and very detail-oriented.

"He was an unbelievable teacher," Wallace added. "And personally, he was like a second father to me. He hired me and for the first six years, I worked directly under him."

Wallace served 19 years as superintendent and, for much of that time, Klessens stayed on as a consultant, pending at least two days a week on the job.

"He was a private person who never wanted the limelight," Wallace said. "Jake is going to be sorely missed."

Former school board member Audrey Gillispie served for 25 years on the panel, starting in 1975, and worked with Klessens.

"He was especially good with words and writing speeches, he wrote a history of the school district," she said. "He was very meticulous about things, he did consultant work and just did a tremendous job."

He kept school board members and school officials up to date on the latest legislative rulings that would impact the district, she said.

Also serving on the school board - then as well as now - is John Largent.

"The first thing I think of is how caring, how compassionate a man he was," Largent said. "I don't know if I've ever come across anyone more caring ... he cared about what the students did, very caring in his dealings with students and staff and I feel it was a great privilege to work and serve with him."

Originally an English teacher, Klessens was remembered by Escalon City Councilman Gary Haskin as an outstanding teacher who went above and beyond.

"Most people have their favorite instructor and I'm sure he's at the top of the list for a lot of people, including me," Haskin said.

He was a tough teacher, making sure students worked for their grades, but even if you carried a 'C' average, Haskin said, it was like achieving an A or B in someone else's class because he demanded so much. He was fair, Haskin said, and the councilman said he learned more in Klessens' classes than any others.

"He was one of those teachers that would do anything for you," Haskin noted. "And you would do anything for him."

Current EUSD Superintendent Dave Mantooth added that Klessens was one of the original inductees into the district's Hall of Fame.

"He was a man of incredible integrity," Mantooth said. "What was right for kids was always his focus and what drove every decision."