The parents of a popular Cresskill social studies teacher killed by a heart attack as he walked around the district high school track asked that donations in lieu of flowers be made to the library, band or a special scholarship that he created in memory of a former student.
An interment and committal service for Stephen W. Kline, 50, is scheduled this Saturday in Shenango Valley Cemetery in Greenville, PA, near his parents' home.
Although Kline never married and had no children of his own, parents Richard and Janette (Hill) Kline believe that his students "became his sons and daughters."
"This is such an incredible tragedy," Cresskill Schools Supt. Michael Burke said. "He truly loved the Cresskill students and the entire community."
Steve Kline, of Clifton, was valedictorian of his Williamsport High School class in Pennsylvania before entering the U.S. Naval Academy.
There he received commendations in the French department and discovered a love of classical civilization, his parents wrote in his obituary.
He served as a damage control officer on minesweeper ships patrolling the U.S. Gulf Coast and on a ship in the Persian Gulf, they said.
"He told us of an occasion when he helped the captain by conversing in French with a visiting dignitary and translating into English," the Klines wrote. "No one was available who spoke the dignitary's native language, so Steven found the 'lingua franca'."
After four years in the Navy, Kline received a master's degree in classical studies at Rutgers University.
He became a Latin teacher, first at a private school, then at Lakewood High School, before coming to Cresskill.
When the Latin program was dropped at Cresskill, he taught social studies and history at both the middle and high schools.
"The combination of Navy discipline, love of his subject and kindheartedness endeared him to his students, their parents and the faculty," his parents said. "He baked countless hundreds of cupcakes and cookies for school fund-raising bake sales."
Former student Josette Rosely recalled "being stressed over a silly birthday gift I was planning for my boyfriend at the time" during senior year.
She'd gotten him some golf gear but also wanted to bake chocolate chip cookies, his favorite.
A poor baker, she turned to Kline, who she said "went out of his way to bake a huge batch of chocolate chip AND butterscotch cookies for me to give him" -- four dozen in all.
When Rosely told Kline she owed him, he responded: "You're kind, and I know you'll pay it forward. That's the best 'thank you' you can give me."
"He taught his students to be kind and give back," she said. "In my eyes, those were his most valuable lessons."
Kline also created a memorial scholarship in honor of Gabriel Davis, a Class of 2009 member who died three years ago, which is awarded annually to a high school senior.
"The criteria for the award is one who displays kindness, empathy and helps others," Davis's mother, Roxanne David Davis said.
Kline was walking around the track last Thursday night when another person saw him collapse and called 911, said Burke, the schools superintendent.
Responding police officers used a defibrillator and began CPR, he said.
Kline was taken to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Besides his parents, Kline is survived by his brother, Charles Richard Kline, of Harleysville, PA, along with Charles' wife, Laura, and their two children, Alexander William and Elizabeth Love, and brother David Alistair Kline of Greenville, SC.
He was predeceased by a sister, Katharine Love Kline, who was 7 years old when she died in 1972.
Barrett Funeral Home in Tenafly handled the arrangements.
Kline's parents asked that donations be made in lieu of flowers to:
- The Cresskill High School Library;
- The Cresskill High School Band;
- The Gabriel Davis Senior Scholarship.
Checks can be made to any and sent to: Cresskill Board of Education, 1 Lincoln Drive, Cresskill, NJ 07626-1199 (Attention: Business Office)
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