Obituary: Rosslyn 'Roz' Shore Kleeman, 92, public policy activist

  • Article by: LIZ SAWYER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 28, 2014 - 9:30 PM

For her 50th wedding anniversary, Rosslyn “Roz” Shore Kleeman’s family made T-shirts with her two favorite sayings: “Accomplish something” and “Time for a nap.”

That contrast allowed Kleeman to advise influential politicians and public policy by day, while balancing a family at night.

“That’s mom in a nutshell: driven to accomplish things, but also loved to relax,” said her son, David Kleeman.

Roz Kleeman, of Rockville, Md., and formerly of Minneapolis, died July 18. She was 92.

In her early years, Kleeman developed a keen interest in politics like her lawyer father. She began her career by working for former Minneapolis Mayor Hubert Humphrey’s campaign and helped found Minnesota’s DFL Party in 1944.

While attending a labor convention in 1949, Kleeman met longtime Minneapolis Tribune reporter Dick Kleeman, who was covering the event. They married the following year.

Kleeman balanced her maternal duties with volunteerism, serving on several boards, such as the League of Women Voters. In 1966, the family moved to Washington, D.C., when Dick transferred to the Tribune’s Washington bureau. Kleeman completed her education, becoming one of the first graduates of the University of Minnesota’s University Without Walls, now the College of Continuing Education.

In Washington, Kleeman continued to rise in the civil service system, chairing committees and heading task forces. She instilled a sense of public service into all four of her children, said daughter Nancy Kleeman, who followed her mother’s footsteps in working on DFL campaigns. Each of her kids later worked at nonprofit organizations, as well.

“She talked about the good government does, and the good people who are the government,” Nancy Kleeman said.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale described Kleeman as a “concerned citizen” who was well-informed. Kleeman advised him on a variety of topics.

“She was very careful and considerate, but also made her point,” Mondale said.

Kleeman soaked up politics and news wherever possible. When their home had only one cable TV, son David Kleeman said, his parents bought a baby monitor and left the microphone by the television and carried around the speaker to listen to news programs in the next room.

Kleeman was adamant about having a logical line of reasoning, he said. Sloppy thinking was not accepted.

“She would argue back with people on television, no matter which side they were on, if she thought they were making a poor argument,” David Kleeman said.

After a brief period working in President Bill Clinton’s administration, Kleeman joined George Washington University’s School of Public Policy. As the distinguished executive in residence, Kleeman taught a course helping students find employment after graduation.

Kleeman retired from the university, but continued to chair and serve on committees. The National Academy of Public Administration renamed its distinguished “Keeper of the Flame” award in her honor in 2003.

A scholarship at the U was also established in Kleeman’s name for other nontraditional students. College of Continuing Education Dean Mary Nichols called Kleeman a “born mentor.”

“She was a remarkable lady with a remarkable reach,” Nichols said. “She stayed vital in her community until the very end.”

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