Donald Stephen Klein passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Jan. 17 at age 86. A private burial was held and officiated by Rabbi Steven Abraham.
Don was born and raised in Oklahoma and lived his life as a proud Sooner. He was a long-time pharmacist and owner of Cris’ Rexall Drug, which he bought in 1971. Don maintained one of the last old-time soda fountains, providing fond memories for generations.
Don was an avid golfer, voracious reader and an involved member of the Omaha Jewish community as well as the community at large. He served on numerous boards, many as president, including the Jewish Press, Bureau for the Aging, Planned Parenthood of Omaha-Council Bluffs, National Association of Soda Jerks and Rotary Omaha-West, where he proudly maintained a 100% attendance record even attending meetings when out of town. As Bureau for the Aging president he served as the chairman of the Rose Blumkin Home building addition committee. Don was named as honorary Mayor of Dundee and he received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Nebraska Medical school for his years spent training future pharmacists and providing internships. He was honorably discharged from the Army as a captain in 1965.
Don was known for his dry sense of humor and his love of the movie Blazing Saddles.
“Don Klein was a fixture on 50th,” wrote Kelsey Stewart for the Omaha World-Herald. “The Oklahoma native worked the counter at his Dundee drugstore seven days a week. Employees and customers at what was then Cris’ Rexall Drug on 50th and Dodge Streets were like family. Klein knew them by name and always made sure they walked away with exactly what they needed.”
“My parents were partners in every sense of the word,” said daughter Stephani. “Our mother Ilene made the drugstore success possible. I believe my dad’s involvement within the Jewish community was also due to her in some respects. Mom was President of the JCC and the Beth El sisterhood. He not only was involved because giving back was the right thing to do, but because it was important to her, therefore it was important to my dad.”
Daughter Vicki has great memories of her father’s store: “I worked at the drugstore when the kids were little, helping with Medicare/Medicaid bookkeeping. Every Saturday, Taylor and Mitchell would come with me. Grandma Lenie was also working in the office doing deposits, so they would get to see both grandparents. They remember being able to go downstairs in the basement of the drugstore with my dad and pick out their chocolate milk and then go behind the soda fountain and pick out one donut for breakfast. Then my dad would have them do something and their pay was to go to the front candy counter and pick out one candy treat out of all that candy on display. As they got bigger and smarter, they picked packages with more than one candy in it!”
“Almost immediately when Don came to Omaha to go to summer school at Creighton,” sister-in-law Susie Silverman remembered, “he met my sister Ilene through mutual friends. Right away, they began dating (she had just graduated high school) and became a couple. She was going to go to college at Colorado in Boulder. For whatever reason, my mother often had my sister take me along on her dates with Donny. Maybe she just wanted me out of the house! Don drove a little yellow Jeepster that summer and I would sit in the back and pretend that it was me who was on the date. I was all of 11 years old! From that summer onward, Donny treated me as the little sister that he never had. In later years he would advise me about all kinds of things. I think until the day he died, he always thought of me as a ‘little’ sister.”
“Way back when,” Vicki said, “Hebrew school was held at the JCC every Tuesday and Thursday. I had a friend talk me into skipping Hebrew school and going down to the gym. My dad played racquetball at the J back then as well. I came home from Hebrew school that night and my dad asked: “How was class?” I lied and said it was fine. He said he was looking for me and couldn’t find me. Because I lied about being there, I was grounded for Halloween the next week. I never skipped a class again, whether it be Hebrew school or high school, when everyone else was ‘going out to lunch.’ It was a lesson I obviously never forgot and made me part of who I am today, honest and hardworking in life and business. My father was just a good man, who cared for people and did the right thing.”
“We have always shared Bloody Marys on Thanksgiving morning,” Stephani added, “children, grandchildren, aunts/uncles, cousins - whoever was in town. Due to Covid, clearly no one was getting together this past year, so we Zoomed. It was Brady Bunch or Hollywood Squares on steroids! All those boxes and there’s Dad and Dee in the middle with Dad leaning in asking where we all were and we’d wave back to him. I’m so grateful to have taken a picture of him in that moment. He is so not a tech person, but there he was fully participating and enjoying it.”
Don was preceded in death by his wife, Ilene Klein; parents, Edith and Elmer Klein; and grandson Donald Maurice Tikalsky.
He is survived by his wife Dolores (Dee), daughters and sons-in-law, Stephani and Jim Tikalsky and Vicki and Steve Allely; stepdaughters Joann Rogers, Karen Memmel and Maria Vullo; grandchildren: Taylor and Mercer Gunnels, Mitchell and Marissa Sanford, Libby and Carter Haaland, Sid Tikalsky and Gianna Memmel; brother and sister-in-law, Phil and Betty Klein and sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Susie and Jim Silverman and more family and friends too numerous to mention.
Memorials may be sent to the Donald Maurice Tikalsky Camp Scholarship Fund (minnesotajcc.org), the Omaha Jewish Community Center, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland or the organization of your choice.