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Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Grace Klinger, thank you for your service to Charlestown

Charlestown Town Councilor Grace Klinger dies at age 79

By Will Collette

Grace died suddenly, last Saturday, though she had been struggling with ill health for quite some time.

Indeed, because of her health, Grace had not intended to run for re-election this November.

Though Grace and I were not part of the same political tribe, I enjoyed working with her and loved her good humor and dedication to the town. 

Her dedication to sensible land use practices is what formed the bond between Grace and me. She was especially keen to apply common sense to land acquisition and conservation. She vehemently opposed numerous Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) land deals, such as the ones detailed HERE.

One of my favorite stories about fights where Grace played a pivotal role is the 2011 phony scandal concocted by the CCA through its Deputy Council Boss Dan Slattery. Yes, old-time sport fans, I'm talking about the Phantom Property Scandal.

Slattery told the Council that it had come to his attention that there were poachers whose home gardens were encroaching on town owned property. Slattery called for an immediate audit of all town properties, including all the little patches and triangles of land that pepper the map, a full inspection and that perps like the alleged outlaw gardeners be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Then Councilor Lisa DiBello added that these properties should be sign-posted, if not fenced in.

The Conservation Commission under Lillian's and Grace's leadership duly conducted the inventory, found lots of properties, ranging in size from Ninigret Park to storm cisterns. They did not find any evidence of any alien invaders or evil-doers.

However, they did note - and kept on file - records of properties the town didn't need that could be donated or sold. Since the CCA and its de facto leader Planning Commissar Ruth Platner would rather saw off their noses then let go of even a square inch of vacant land, the Conservation Commission waited until a new Council majority took office, In May 2023, they released a report on these properties. The report also listed town-owned property that could be used to improve the public's access to the beach.

Other folks who knew Grace have their own stories and reasons to honor Grace's memory. She will be missed.

Plus, she will be hard to replace since they aren't making very many of her style of Republican environmentalist anymore. But you can count on some upcoming battles over what to do about her vacant seat on the Charlestown Town Council.

From Grace's obituary:

Grace Frances Klinger, 79, of Charlestown, passed away peacefully on Saturday, January 20, 2024. She was born in Queens, New York to her loving parents, the late Thomas and Catherine (Callan) Hartigan. Grace was the beloved wife of Frederick H. Klinger for 52 years.

Grace was an active parishioner at St. Mary’s Church/St. James Chapel and a current member of the Charlestown Town Council. She was a Certified Master Gardner, former Chairperson of the Charlestown Conservation Commission, and former president of the Federated Garden Clubs of Coral Springs, Florida, Brookfield, Connecticut, and Westerly, Rhode Island. Grace was the owner of Yester-Year Antiques for over 40 years.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by her daughter, Suzanne Viens, her husband, Andrew, and her adoring grandchildren Riley, Reagan, and Rowan all of Dover, Massachusetts. She also leaves behind her cherished nephews, Brian, Dennis, Thomas, William, Kevin, and a niece, Maureen. She is predeceased by her parents and sisters, Maureen A. Hartigan, Anne P. Hartigan, and Catherine T. McNicholl.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, February 10, 2024, at 11:00 am in St. James Chapel, 2079 Matunuck School House Road, Charlestown, Rhode Island. Burial will take place at a later date in Rhode Island Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Exeter.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations in Grace’s memory to the Maureen A. Hartigan Scholarship Fund, St. John’s University, Office of Planned Gifts, 8000 Utopia Parkway, Queens, NY 11439.

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