Remembering Don Klein

By Chris Szwedo 

From any direction, the roads that we travel to Lime Rock are both beautiful and personal.  After the hypnotic winding of forest one enters a space of passionate dimensions.  It’s a place that brings out the best in others, giving rise to relationships that are reflective of common dreams, and powered by the engines of uniqueness.

One valuable friend in our space of racing was Don Klein.  Don was one of those successful guys in life.  A New Jersey native who made it happen in Manhattan, but ultimately made western Connecticut his home-- a place in the woods with a tall grassy pasture to watch deer pass through on late afternoons.  On occasion the light filters in through the pines, and the wind whips the grasses into a bright waving form.  It is magical.  It is rare and alive, and he knew it.

Don Klein could switch on creativity, humor, and zest for life as good as anyone. He made you laugh with the full bravado of words, and those words carefully consoled you when he knew that you were down.  He was generous, loving to his wife and family, and when the grandchildren showed up he was the biggest kid in the room.

Don was a Car Guy who crashed the Italian Language, and was proud of the yellow and black “horses” in his own garage.  As an automotive writer he could nail it as well as anyone because he felt it. I knew him for a fast ten years, and we often shared the stories of trying to make our love for our work of seeing racing as “art” into something others could appreciate. These are the words of real friends, and they become irreplaceable.

Along the way were the early signs of an illness that seemed at first too small to be noticed, but then roared through his lungs without mercy.  He faced it squarely from the power of courage and honesty, and on the good days he fought for short rides in his quick black Audi R8, where the sensation of his hands on the steering wheel must have felt refreshingly normal.

It might be argued that racing, for all its speed, slows us a little.  It places you in the moment and allows you self-control, with clear sounds and smells, the blinks of the eyes, the clicks of the stopwatch, and then, a final line to cross. When it’s over something must stand out to help us know permanence. We give it a value and call it a memory, and then it becomes valuable because it’s rare, and it gives us joy and hope for more trips around our own lucky circuits.  Friendship is one of these rarities that we gather from our special places, and special places like Lime Rock surely know it when someone is missing.  In Don Klein we have lost a great friend, one we'll need to remember, and who waits out there by the tall, waving sunlit grasses.

Written by Chris Szwedo for Lime Rock Park’s NO NAME Magazine

Copyright   Chris Szwedo, LLC