June H. Kleeman, 73, businesswoman, co-owner of Chesapeake Truck Leasing

October 28, 2001|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

June Helen Kleeman, vice president of Chesapeake Truck Leasing Inc. and a prominent Baltimore businesswoman, died Tuesday of leukemia at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care in Towson. She was 73 and had lived in Pikesville.

Mrs. Kleeman and her husband, Albert, started Chesapeake Ford Truck Sales in 1967, building it into one of the East Coast's largest Ford truck dealerships. In 1986, the couple launched Chesapeake Truck Leasing with one rental truck. That business now has a fleet of almost 200 trucks.

"My dad doesn't play golf or anything like that. His hobby was coming to work with my mom," said a son, David Kleeman of Owings Mills. "She was not just his wife, but his business partner and best friend."

Friends and family called her a tireless worker who put her whole heart into everything she did.

Inspired by a newspaper article about the Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Mrs. Kleeman founded a friends-of-the-library group in 1988. The group supports the library financially and helps add to its collection of Braille, large-print books and cassettes.

"She was lively, active and upbeat and just loved the library, particularly the blind children," said Jill Lewis, the library's acting director. "She was just a delight."

Even after she became ill, Mrs. Kleeman remained devoted to the library, Ms. Lewis said. When a librarian visited her at the hospice about three weeks ago, Mrs. Kleeman insisted she bring a library membership application.

"She knew there were people at that hospice who would use our materials," Ms. Lewis said. "She was very sick, but she still thought of others."

Mrs. Kleeman's friends saw that same determination in the weeks before she died, when she planned a meeting of fellow businesswomen.

"She did a note distributed through fax and e-mail," said Tommie Tarsell, a friend and founder in 1977 of the National Association of Women Business Owners. "She wanted us all there for doughnuts and conversation."

About 15 of Mrs. Kleeman's friends crowded into her hospice room. "The nurses couldn't believe she was organizing a meeting in her condition," David Kleeman said.

Mrs. Kleeman served a term as president of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and was a two-time member of Warfield's Business Record's Top 100 Women Business Owners in Maryland.

She was membership chairwoman of the business owners' chapter for many years, and other members marveled at her networking skills, Ms. Tarsell said.

"She could be talking to a butcher, and if the butcher happened to be a female, she would bring up membership in NAWBO," Ms. Tarsell said.

Mrs. Kleeman also was president of the Randallstown Art League, which evolved into the Maryland Art League.

Born June Goldenberg in Philadelphia, she married Albert Kleeman in 1960. She attended Catonsville Community College and received a degree from Dundalk Community College in 1979.

Services were held Thursday.

In addition to her husband and son, Mrs. Kleeman is survived by two other sons, Steven Kleeman of Pikesville and Adam Kleeman of Owings Mills; and six grandchildren.

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