Obituary: Edwin Klett | Persistent litigator who founded Downtown firm

Dec. 8, 1935 - Oct. 7. 2012

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As a child working under his parents' heels at a Clearfield tailor's shop, Edwin Klett caught on to his parents' skills and passions with ease. A man could bring in an ill-fitting suit, come back within the hour to find the young man finishing a perfectly altered garment, according to his son, David Klett.

The tradition of passing along passions stayed with Mr. Klett throughout his professional and personal life. The founder of the Downtown-based commercial litigation firm Klett, Rooney, Lieber & Schorling PC made it a point to instill a love of law in his children, all five of whom went on to graduate from Penn State University's Dickinson School of Law.

Edwin Lee Klett, of Mt. Lebanon, died Oct. 7 at Mt. Lebanon's Family Hospice & Palliative Care's Center for Compassionate Care. He was 76.

A graduate of Bucknell University and the Dickinson School of Law, Mr. Klett was entrenched in the legal field from the moment he passed the bar. Over the course of a 50-year legal career, Mr. Klett rose the ranks to a partnership with Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, LLC before founding Klett, Rooney, Lieber & Schorling PC in 1988. Over the next 17 years, the firm expanded to employ 165 lawyers in six branch offices across the country. In 2006, the firm merged with Buchanan, Ingersoll P.C.

Longtime colleague Jack Barbour described Mr. Klett as an intelligent and persistent litigator who rarely saw an unfavorable outcome in the courtroom. He said Mr. Klett may have settled a few difficult cases, but he never lost one during the 20 years they worked together.

"Ed Klett was a brilliant strategist when it came to litigation, but he was also relentless," Mr. Barbour said. "He would figure out a way around a wall, but if he had to, he would bang the wall down."

His dedication to the law was no less outside of the courtroom. He served on the board of trustees for both of his schools and was a former president of the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County.

Judge Nora Barry Fischer, who sits on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said Mr. Klett was integral in helping the academy grow by instituting a retreat and program on significant cases to educate members.

"All who followed in Ed's footsteps had big shoes to fill," she said.

Andy Sayre, who met Mr. Klett in 1997 when his family bought a vacation home near his home in Bald Head Island, N.C., said he hosted a great party but always made time to step into the office space he made on the property.

"When he came down he would generally work part of the day," he said.

While work was always a priority, so was finding time to enjoy hobbies with friends and family, said his son David. An avid golfer and yachting enthusiast, Mr. Klett organized several golf tours to Ireland and had recently established a tradition of sailing with his son.

"What I will miss most about him would be sailing with him on Lake Erie," he said.

Son Keenan said the best part of the experiences -- golf, sailing or enjoying life on Bald Head Island, where Mr. Klett was known as "The Captain" -- was seeing his father enjoy himself.

"Despite a personal library with +100 books on golf instruction, he had his unfortunate amount of duck-hooks into the woods and missed 2-foot putts, but you would never catch him visibly upset or throwing a club," he said. "He always had that huge smile on his face. The outcome was never important to him -- he loved the game because of the people he played with and the experiences he shared."

In addition to David, who lives in Squirrel Hill, and Keenan, who lives in Manhattan, Mr. Klett is survived by his wife, Janice of Mt. Lebanon; son Kirklin of South Side; and daughters Lauren S, Kroeger of Chesterton, Ind., and Krista L. Klett of Perkasie, near Philadelphia; and four granddaughters.

Funeral services were private. The family will host a public memorial for Mr. Klett at 11 a.m. Nov. 16 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 2040 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon.

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Deborah M. Todd: or 412-263-1652.


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