Lake County Ohio Probate Court
Local leaders remembered Lake County Probate Court Judge Ted Klammer fondly after his passing Wednesday morning.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office and Concord Fire Department responded to Klammer's Concord Township home at 8:32 a.m. after a family member called 911. He was transported to TriPoint Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
Klammer's son, Randy Klammer, said his father came to the U.S. from Slovenia at age 5 as an only child. He then worked hard in factories and at bars to put himself through law school.
"My dad was nothing short of awesome, " said Randy Klammer. "He was just a perfect dad."
Lake County court administrator Betsy Swindell described Ted Klammer, 66, as a hard-working judge who was dedicated to both the elderly and young people.
Whenever a young person would appear in his courtroom, Klammer would remind them to contact Swindell about the court's summer internship program, she said.
Klammer also occasionally brought in his German shepherd to work if he did not have to sit on the bench that day, Swindell added.
The dog would stay by his side all day, aside from roaming into the main office every once in a while looking for a bone, Swindell said with a laugh.
Lake Metroparks Commissioner Frank J. Polivka said Klammer understood the importance of the parks not only for the present, but the future as well.
"He really loved the parks and saw how much people appreciated them, " Polivka said.
Before being elected probate judge in 2002, Klammer served on the park board for several years. His love of the parks fit perfectly with his role as probate judge, which oversees the parks and appoints its three-member board of commissioners.
"It's really a sad day, " Polivka said. "It's a tremendous loss."
Klammer graduated from St. Joseph High School in Cleveland and then Bowling Green State University in 1967 before earning a juris doctorate degree from Cleveland State University's Marshall College of Law in 1970.
Klammer had served as probate judge since 2003 and lived in Lake County for more than 50 years, most recently in Concord Township. He and his wife Betty have two children, Randy and Lisa, who are both attorneys.
Lake County Commissioner Daniel Troy said he first met Klammer while he was a fourth-grader and Klammer was a sixth-grader at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic School in Willowick. Troy was serving his first Mass as an altar boy and Klammer was his partner at the service.
"I was always impressed with Judge Klammer's concern with people less fortunate, " Troy said. "He really fit into that probate court well."
Klammer also was passionate about the indigent guardian program, assuring that care givers were administering the proper help to those who could not care for themselves, Troy said.
And while the commissioners and Klammer had recent disagreements about courthouse flooding, Troy said there are always disagreements among family members.
"But no one wants to lose a family member ... and we lost a great family member today, " the commissioner said.
Lake County Common Pleas Judge Joseph Gibson said Klammer was a dear friend and they had known each other for at least 30 years, going back to their time in private practice.
"It's a great loss to the judiciary, to the legal community as a whole and to all of Lake County, " Gibson said.
He added that Klammer was perfect for the probate court.
"He always looked out for the little guy, " Gibson said. "He gave me inspiration to do a lot of the things in my life."
Gibson also said Klammer would surely be "missed but not forgotten."
Prior to being elected probate judge, Klammer was the law director for the city of Eastlake, including for nearly 10 years with former Eastlake Mayor Dan DiLiberto.
"He was just one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet, " DiLiberto said, adding Klammer always said exactly what he meant. "There was no one who stood by his integrity more than he did."
As law director, Klammer was essential in handling the complicated legal issues of bringing Classic Park to the city.
"He was one of the proudest people when we got it done, " said DiLiberto by phone from his Florida home.
DiLiberto added that Klammer was responsible for keeping the different city leaders "on an even keel."
"We all turned to Ted for advice, " he said.
According to Ohio law, a vacancy of a county court judge is filled by an appointment of the governor. The appointed judge would serve until a successor is elected.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has assigned retired Stark County Probate Court Judge R.R. Denny Clunk for a three-month assignment in the Lake County Probate Court. In addition, sitting judges of the county Common Pleas Court will help cover the probate court docket until a judge is appointed by the governor, according to a Supreme Court news release.