Adams, First-Responders Honor Late State Trooper
ADAMS, Mass. — First-responders turned out in force on Saturday to bid farewell to retired State Trooper Michael Kleiner.
Dozens of state police vehicles with lights flashing, local police cruisers, ambulances and fire trucks lined Hoosac Street for his funeral on Saturday for four hours. At least 100 state troopers and other emergency personnel attended calling hours at Paciorek Funeral Home and then marched to St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, led by State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin.
Kleiner, 47, was remembered as a "gentle giant" with a penchant for small, fast cars. An officer of the law dedicated to serving and protecting. A great friend focused on improving his community. And a man who spent his final months exploring his faith and searching for answers as he battled cancer.
"Mike wasn't a great trooper because the state police trained him, Mike was a great trooper because he was born to be a trooper," said Gene Baker, a retired state trooper who'd first met Kleiner when he was delivering pizzas and Baker was an Adams patrol officer. "He was everything a trooper should be."
Kleiner would eventually work Baker's beat on the Adams Police force and then follow his career path into the state police. A career-ending injury on the job in 2016 forced him into retirement after 16 years as a trooper. But instead of having the opportunity to do what he wanted in his retirement, he would turn his investigative skills in trying to fight cancer and searching for answers.
The Rev. Steven Montesanti, pastor of St. John Paul II Parish, who with the Rev. A. Peter Gregory, pastor emeritus, of St. Charles Church in Pittsfield, officiated the service, recalled how Kleiner had come to him with questions, approaching his faith, like his disease, by looking at outcomes like a detective.
"I was impressed by Michael's profoundly inquisitive mind," he said. "Michael wanted to know about the whole God thing ... he wanted to know how it operates."
Montesanti spoke of how the more than 6-foot-tall Kleiner had impressed him: he was a "big guy," he said, with a just-the-facts attitude and a straight-shooter who, if he'd stopped Montesanti, the pastor joked, "I wouldn't have a prayer of getting out of a ticket."
State Trooper Glenn Lagerwall, who was in the 75th Recruit Training Troop with Kleiner, remembered how his friend had had one of those tough weeks when the instructors seemed to pick him out.
"I don't let that stuff bother me anymore," he had told Lagerwall because at 6-foot-7 he was used to standing out in a crowd. "If I wanted to laugh it off and be the gentle giant, I had to make that decision long ago."
Lagerwall said his friend at first had had difficulty in aligning the lessons he'd learned growing up about not judging people to the performance-based data of the state police.
"He was struggling because he was trying to figure out his identity as a Mass state trooper. There was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to be a state trooper, he loved putting on the uniform and he loved aspects of the job," he said. "He focused on the community and about helping those like him ... Mike was always there. It didn't matter who you were."
Kleiner was raised in southeastern Massachusetts and came to the area after high school, attending Berkshire Community College and graduating from what was then North Adams State College. He was the son of Emil J. Kleiner Jr. and Sandra D. Galley Kleiner, and the stepson of Richard Kleiner, the town's emergency management director, and Barbara Kleiner.
He worked as a deliverer for Domino's Pizza in Adams, as an armed security officer at the Yankee Rowe Atomic Energy Plant and did an internship with the North Adams Police Department. He was a communicant of St. Stan's and loved cars.
His colleagues said his legacy could be seen in St. Stan's that very day: a nave filled with state police, local police, firefighters, ambulance personnel, government officials, family, friends, community members.
"I look out and I see Mike brought us all together, unified as one, is proof that Mike the gentle giant touched every one of us in some way," said Lagerwall.
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