Former St. William priest Del Klink remembered as funny, friendly
And once, late at night in the office at St. William Catholic School, the Rev. Del Klink lay down on the floor, put his face next to the register and boomed to an office worker below:
“Kelly! This is God! I forgive you for all your sins today!”
That was one of many memories that had members of the St. William family laughing this week despite the loss of their beloved friend and priest, said St. William School Principal Diane Rebout.
Klink died Sunday at University Hospital in Madison after several years of declining health. He was 76.
Klink, a Watertown native, retired from the priesthood in 2003 after working at St. William Catholic Church for more than a decade. He also served as pastor at St. Dennis Catholic Church in Madison and Sacred Heart in Reedsburg.
Klink graduated from St. Lawrence Seminary in Mount Calvary and St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee. He worked as a teacher and the dean of students at Holy Name Seminary in Madison.
He was ordained in 1960.
His years as a teacher shined through in his homilies, said St. William member Harry O’Leary.
“You always learned something about history,” O’Leary said. “He was excellent.”
Rebout agreed that Klink was as much a teacher as a priest.
“All of his sermons and homilies tied church history and world history together,” Rebout said. “It was the first time for me it all made sense.”
Rebout said she remembered how impressed she was at how quickly Klink got to know the church members when he started working at St. William.
“He just took the time to get to know every single parishioner,” Rebout said. “He knew them all by name.”
Church member Deborah Adams said Klink’s manner of speaking resonated with many people. He made her feel like she wanted to go to church again, she said.
Adams said she doesn’t think she was alone.
“I really also feel he brought a lot of people back to the church,” she said. “He spoke on everybody’s level.”
Adams’ dad, John Dongarra, was a church member and a friend of Klink’s. He said he spent time at Klink’s home on Lake Wisconsin. The two went to the casino together—Klink never spent more than $20—and enjoyed buffet dinners and hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo.
Klink knew every rock and tree and would have made an excellent tour guide, Dongarra said. He loved his 1980 Chevrolet truck, which he kept in mint condition despite its age, Dongarra said.
When Klink spoke, he was kind, funny and descriptive, Dongarra said.
“He was just a lovely person.”