Walt “Coach” Klinker

Walt “Coach” Klinker, 79, of Lawrence passed away Thursday, September 14, 2017 at Brandon Woods at Alvamar in Lawrence, KS. Walt was born July 9, 1938 in Denver, CO, the son of Leo and Ruth Driscole Klinker. He grew up in Gunnison, CO and later attended the University of Colorado where he started 3 years under center for the Buffs. He earned all-conference and honorable mention All-America honors as a senior in 1961 and was later named the best two-way center in the history of CU football. The Denver Broncos offered him a contract in 1962. Walt chose to be a coach instead and spent the next 41 years coaching the offensive line. His first 3 years at the prep level were spent in CO, and in 1965 he joined the collegiate ranks as an assistant at his alma mater. His coaching career involved Claremont College, University of New Mexico, Fresno State, University of Wyoming, University of Northern Iowa, University of Hawaii, University of Kansas, and Missouri State. Walt always stayed busy and was not cut out for retirement. Following his coaching career he worked for Schlumberger in Lawrence, KS for six years. He “officially” retired in 2011 – and then became a volunteer for Cans for the Community. Walt “the Can Man” Klinker took his job seriously and hauled cans to the recycling center until just months before he passed away.

Walt married Linda Louise Miller on July 6, 1996 in Cedar Falls, IA. She survives of the home. Other survivors include his daughters Heather Klinker, Miami, FL and Holly Allen (Denny), Boulder, CO; son, Kyle Jon Klinker, Edinberg, TX; stepson, Matt (Mina) Gehrke, Philadelphia, PA; stepdaughter, Sarah (Aaron) Welch, Oklahoma City, OK; granddaughter, Christina Dunagan, San Marcos, CA; and brother, Leo Klinker, Montrose, CO.

No formal services are planned. Private gatherings will occur in Boulder, Colorado and Cedar Falls, Iowa. Memorial contributions may be made in Walt’s name to Cans for the Community or a charity of choice and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary.

Online condolences may be posted at warrenmcelwain.com.

13 Condolences

  1. Greg Schooley on September 16, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    I was a student at Northern Iowa during Coach Klinker’s terrific run at UNI. I loved watching him coach, his passion was unmatched. He was old school and that resonated with me as it is how I was raised with tough love. His players meant everything to him and they played hard for him. There needs to be way more leaders like him in our society. I will forever hear him bark in my head every time I get near a football field. From one of your biggest admirers. RIP Coach

  2. Diana Massey on September 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I was very sorry to hear about Coachs’ passing. My husband and I first met Coach when we were sophomores in high school. He was my history teacher (what an experience; never boring) and he was Teds’ football coach. Coach left such an impression on Ted, that he hunted him down. Ted kept in touch with Coach for over 40 years and followed his coaching career. Coach is thought with love and the highest regard by my family, especially my daughter. Coach taught Ted that you don’t have to be the fastest or the best, you just have to play your hardest. That idea stayed with him until his death. We got to visit Coach in August and we are so very glad that we did. My daughter got to hear from him the stories she heard all of her life and even though I had heard and told them before they were funnier when he told them. He will be greatly missed by my family.

  3. Jenny Ellis on September 17, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Jenny Ellis

    So sorry Linda to hear about Walt. We had some good times when Walt was at UNI. May your faith, family, and friends be close to you.

  4. Scott Smallwood on September 17, 2017 at 6:59 pm

    It comes with great sadness to learn of Coach Klinkers passing. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and all of my Panther Brothers. It was a privilege and an honor to work under Coach. His lessons and wisdom that he passed to us as players stretched well beyond the field. I find myself over the past 30 years of coaching using, saying, and teaching many of the same things Coach taught me as a player. But probably the thing that sticks with me the most was the advice he gave me when I was leaving U.N.I. to go start my own coaching career was ” Scott, to be a great coach you must first be a great teacher” this resonates with me each year as new crop of young men come into camp. May you rest in peace coach. Thank you for your leadership, your example, and for making each one us tough s.o.b’s. Thankyou!

  5. KevinAnderson on September 17, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    I was so sad to hear about coach passing. I will never for get the call he made to me that he was offering me A football scholarship to University of Northern Iowa. He made a young kids dream come true. He was a tough coach which made everyone who played for him play harder. He didn’t give players a lot of compliments but you always knew he had your back. Thanks coach you made me a better man. You have and always be in my heart.

  6. Susie Lantz on September 17, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Mitch and I are so sorry to hear about Walt!. We sure had a lot of fun with him! I’ll never forget his “Roar” when he was telling his players what to do at the UNI games. We are sending thoughts and prayers your way.

  7. John P. Lee; UNI 89-93 on September 18, 2017 at 10:26 am


    I was fortunate to play for Coach for 4 years. I will admit, my freshmen and sophomore years, I maybe didn’t appreciate him like I did later in college and especially now. Coach is one of those people who make such a profound impact on my life at the time, and unfortunately I didn’t realize it until I became an ‘adult’, a coach, a teacher and a father. He was stern, with high expectations, but he made you a better ball player, but more important, he did make me a better person. He has left a very large impact on many of us players, so his contributions continue to this day all across this country. There is another generation of football players who will never know Coach Klinker, but are better off because their coach knew him. My wish is that coach knew that before he passed away. God Bless.

  8. Christine Hartwell-Jerby on September 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    I worked with Coach while he was on staff at KU……he drove me bonkers but
    I still loved him anyway.
    So sorry for your loss. He will be missed and is loved by so many.
    Chris Hartwell-Jerby

  9. John Urban on September 19, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Coach Klinker was a special person in my life. I played for the Lobos 1969-73. He was our offensive line coach. When I say “our” I mean we were 5 guys developed into one unit. We were a very cohesive line and were 2nd. in the country in rushing for 2 of those years. Coach was the reason for our success. He was tougher than nails but he loved and cared about us. You can always tell a great coach when his former players used to call him and get to see him much later in life. I am retired and coached football for 38 years and there wasn’t a time that I didn’t think about him when coaching. I loved the man and will always think about him. May he Rest In Peace.

  10. Dan Schmidt on September 19, 2017 at 12:12 pm

    I knew him as ‘Coach’ in name only. Over the span of approximately 20 years I knew him much better as my neighbor. The ‘WaltMan’ was a great neighbor, maybe not the most outgoing or friendly person I’ve ever met (he had a rough, gruff side to him!), but he was always ready and willing to lend a hand to anyone who needed help or assistance. I’m going to miss watching Walt take care of his yard with TLC, the standard by which all lawns should be judged! We spent a lot of time together and I always looked forward to our talking about sports or watching a sporting event on TV, in addition to partaking of some liquid refreshment! And, I will forever have a special fondness for Butterfinger blizzards that I never had before these last few months. Travel well, my friend…you are already greatly missed!!

  11. Ken Vardell on September 20, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Ken Vardell
    CU, 1958-62

    I first met Walt in 1958 at the University of Colorado where we both played football. I was a guard and teammate of Walt’s for 4 years, and was well acquainted with his play at the center position. He was tough as nails and an excellent representative of Coach Buck Nystrom’s way of playing in the offensive line. Everyone liked Walt, and we all remember his pleasant demeanor and great smile. He always had a positive attitude, even when he was hobbled by injury. I am sure that his attitude was passed on to those that he coached. He loved the game and wanted to share that love with everyone with whom he came into contact. As teammates of Walt, we could always be confident that he was giving his 100% all the time. It did not keep him, however, from having a great sense of humor, and he was always fun to be with on the road as well as in Boulder. I have always been honored to have stood next to Walt in the team picture of our 1961Conference Champion Buffs. We all knew where Walt was coming from, and always respected and admired what he brought to the table. He will certainly be missed by all that knew him.

  12. Tracey Mondt on September 22, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I knew Coach Klinker when I was a young girl. He always made us smile and looked out for the people he cared about. I’m sure he will be missed by so many. Blessings to his family.

  13. Deanne Bacco on September 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm


    We found out about Walt’s passing and are sad about that news. We remember him being robust and we are certain that after his retirement from coaching he was vigorous in helping with the community service effort of Cans for the Community.
    We pray that you are surrounded by nearby family and friends during this difficult and we hope to be able to see you soon.
    Love from Deanne and Lou Bacco

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