Ralph Klein seemed to have a connection to everyone and everywhere. One of his early ties to the Stettler region was that he attended school in Mirror as a child.
“He went to school with my kids for two years,” Bashaw Valley Lodge resident Walter Buelow said of Klein, the former Alberta premier who died last Friday in his hometown of Calgary.
He was 70.
George Gaudin of Mirror said he “certainly remembered” when Klein attended school in Mirror.
Klein was “10 to 12 years old” at the time, Gaudin said.
“His step-dad, Lorne MacBeth, worked on the railroad in Mirror.”
During that time, Klein went by the surname of MacBeth, Gaudin said. Klein’s parents — Phillip, a pro-wrestler, and Florence Klein — divorced when he was six years old.
After a few years in rural Alberta with his mother and stepfather, Klein later lived with his maternal grandparents in Calgary, the city he would later serve as mayor and represent as premier.
Local Tories and people of all political stripes had stories to tell about Klein, known for his folksy and sometimes controversial style.
Erskine’s Jean MacDonald recalled that her fondest memory of Klein was accompanying him on a boat trip around the entire perimeter of Buffalo Lake.
He was environment minister with the Getty government at the time and was sent to determine the feasibility of stabilizing the lake, she said.
“Ralph was very instrumental in the stabilization project of the lake.”
Afterward, considerable development occurred along the lake, resulting in substantial financial impact for the region.
“He was down to earth — an easy-to-get-to-know premier,” MacDonald said of Klein.
“You didn’t have to guess what he thought, (because) he told it the way it was.”
Former Drumheller-Stettler MLA Jack Hayden said he got to know Klein “quite well.”
“He was premier the whole six years I was president of AAMDC (Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties),” Hayden said.
“I enjoyed working with him. We had a good relationship. Being the former mayor of Calgary, he understood municipal politics.”
Klein nominated Hayden when he received the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal 10 years ago.
“I will never forget that,” Hayden said.
“He left the province in better shape than he found it.”
Klein became Alberta’s 12th premier in 1992. He became a national figure and was often called “King Ralph” during his enduring career.
His death came just a few months after the passing of another former Alberta premier, Peter Lougheed.