Gerald Ray (Jerry) Kleinkopf, known by many as “Coach Kleinkopf”, or just “Coach” was a beloved and heralded lifelong member of our community. On October 24, 2020, Jerry passed away peacefully at his home in Twin Falls surrounded by his loving family.
Jerry was born on November 28, 1930 in Twin Falls, Idaho. He was the only child of Arthur M and Edith Botts Kleinkopf. Growing up as an only child he cherished time spent with his Kleinkopf aunts, uncles and cousins. These cousins were the “brothers and sisters” with whom he shared his childhood adventures. Family was always especially important to him.
Jerry was a child of the 1930’s and 1940’s, spending early years in Artesian, Pleasant Valley, and briefly in Moscow, Idaho, while his father completed his education at the University of Idaho. Both of his parents were teachers, which made education particularly important throughout his life. Growing up in small rural schoolhouses, his mother, Edith, taught grades 1-4 while his father, Arthur, taught grades 5-8. Edith was the only teacher Jerry knew until the age of 9.
Jerry graduated from Twin Falls Senior High School in 1948. As a senior, he served as the student body president, and was also part of the drama production where he was proud to have starred as Julius Caesar. He enjoyed competing in athletics, running cross country, track and field, wrestling, basketball and football.
His love for sports led him to Idaho State University, where he received a scholarship to play football until a knee injury ended his athletic career. He graduated from ISU in 1952, with a degree in Physical Education. Following college Jerry proudly served in the Idaho National Guard.
During his time in college, Jerry was introduced to the love of his life, Donna Beth Wahl. Jerry and Donna married on August 26th, 1951 and were happily married for 68 years. They were virtually inseparable and loved to go on “great adventures.”
Their travels took them on many family trips to Hawaii, and regular visits to Mexico with their close friends, Dick and Janie Moon. They loved going on cruises to Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the Panama Canal, the Amazon rainforest, Bora Bora, and Fiji.
The summers of the 1980’s and 1990’s were always filled with fun vacations with the grandkids in their Dolphin motorhome. Kreed, Katy, and Brett got to see many attractions including Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Zions National Park, Disneyland, and Disney World. They will be forever thankful to have had these memories and experiences with their grandparents.
When not off to far-away lands, family camping trips were a regular thing. They enjoyed traveling with friends and family to the Sawtooth Mountains, Redfish Lake, and Stanley. 4-wheeling on Jeep trails to the tops of the mountains were always a great adventure with Jerry leading the way.
Pettit Lake and the Salmon River Valley were some of their absolute favorite places in the world. They built their first A-frame cabin at Pettit Lake with Clarence and Lenore Parker. Later they bought a “cabin”, another A-frame, in Ketchum. Both cabins were great gathering places for entertaining family and friends.
In 1956 Jerry and Donna built their first home on Lynwood Boulevard, right by the new Twin Falls High School, where their boys Kurt and Kelly grew up.
Jerry’s teaching career began in 1952 at the old Twin Falls High School (O’Leary). While there, he taught Physical Education, Lifetime Sports, and coached football, track and field, and cross country. He retired in 1990 but continued to be an active part of the coaching staff for track and field, and cross country. This lasted until the spring of 2019, marking nearly 70 years of coaching the TFHS Bruins.
His coaching career would bring him many accolades with multiple honors of Coach of the Year in both track and cross country. Jerry was the first coach in Idaho to integrate the men’s and women’s track teams. He always said, “the girls can run just as fast as the boys”. This change led him to win seven state track meet championships and five state cross-country meets during his career.
In 2002 the Twin Falls High School honored Jerry by naming the track and field, “Jerry Kleinkopf Track and Field Complex”. Jerry was inducted into the Idaho High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 1994. He served on the national rules committee for track and field from 2002-2006. Jerry refereed for Idaho state track and field, and cross country meets. His wife Donna was always right by his side. Donna kept track of stats, announced track meets, helped organize cross country meets, and even baked cookies for the kids.
Coach Kleinkopf took his role as a coach and mentor very seriously. He touched so many lives through the decades of his career. He taught his students and athletes that their victories in life were much more important than their victories on the field. He taught entire generations of students that they could do anything they wanted in their lives if they put their minds to it. He was a strong role model, motivating all to do their best in school, sports, and life. His contributions to the community will leave an enduring impression for many generations to come.
Gerald “Jerry” Kleinkopf was preceded in death by his parents, Arthur and Edith, and his wife of 68 years, Donna Beth Kleinkopf.
Jerry is survived by his two sons: Kurt (Patty) of Twin Falls, Kelly (Joyce) of Twin Falls, grandchildren: Kreed Kleinkopf of Boise, Katy Kleinkopf of Twin Falls, and Brett Kleinkopf (Natalie) of Meridian, and two great-grandchildren, Parker and Hudson Kleinkopf, two step grandchildren Angela (Andy) Haskell, David Shell, and two step great-granddaughters, Saundra Shell and Ila Haskell.
Jerry is also survived by his adoring and admiring former students, runners, athletes, coaches, teachers, parents and friends. As his family, we know what an inspiration he was to you in your lives, and how much he and Donna meant to each of you. You meant just as much to them! He was a great man and will be greatly missed.
In honor of Jerry and Donna please consider supporting the sporting youth of the community. Suggested donations be made to the Twin Falls High School Foundation (track and field, and cross country programs), and the Twin Falls Public Library. Please also consider donating to Hospice Visions Twin Falls who gave outstanding end of life care to both Donna and Jerry.
Unfortunately, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, no services are planned at this time.