Orphy Klempa: A true gentleman who improved Ohio County’s quality of life

Community

Orphy Klempa passed away last night at just 70 years of age. Colleagues say it's his smile they will never forget.

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October 31 2021 11:59 pm

WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — A beloved, smiling face in Wheeling, Orphy Klempa, passed away Monday at just 70-years-old. 

You might know that name for a number of roles, from senator to co-chair of Project-BEST. 

In an interview from years ago, Orphy Klempa said to a 7NEWS camera, “We all have a beginning date and an ending date, as they say, and that little section in between is called a quality life.”

That quality of life was not just for himself, no, but for every person he shook hands with. 

“He never entered a room without a smile and his collection of hats,” said Ohio County Chamber of Commerce President Erikka Storch.

He was a coal miner, carpenter, West Virginia Delegate, senator, and board member for multiple organizations. But if there is one word to summarize this man with many hats, long-time understudy turned colleague Erikka Storch says it must be “a gentleman.” 

As a young Junior Leaguer, Storch says she remembers the first time she met Orphy in 1999. She had a provisional class project; the Heritage Port playground, with dreams of building a children’s playhouse. 

Orphy, in charge of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters at the time, picked up the project. That was the start of a mentorship, turned friendship, to the end. Storch would join Orphy, an Executive Committee member, on the Wheeling Chamber Board. 

“And from then forward he always had a smile and always welcomed me warmly. I was flipping through a couple texts yesterday. It brought a couple tears to my eyes. He just truly was a wonderful person.” 

Erikka Storch, Wheeling-Ohio County Chamber President

In 2012, that servant’s heart would elect Klempa to the Ohio County Commission.  

It’s the signature smile that would have you convinced the man knew no foes as former commissioner Tim McCormick tells us after hearing of Klempa’s passing.

“Orphy was a complete gentleman. He was always smiling and his main concern was to help those that put him in office. He was very easy to work with and obviously we all worked well together. His only agenda was to help people. My prayers go out to his whole family but especially to his wife, Mary Jo. They were very, very close.” 

Tim McCormick, former Ohio County Commissioner

“I can’t really imagine our community without him,” added Storch.

Orphy left Erikka with signs of different Ohio County towns, that now hang in her room. A memorial, you might say, for this gentleman who sought a higher quality of life for you and me. 

“I think of them whenever I look at them and it makes me remember my hometown and the community I represent,” said the Chamber President. “And they’re always at the forefront of my mind when I’m making decisions on their behalf.”

Orphy is survived by his wife Mary Jo and five children. 

The newsroom would always be curious about which hat he’d be wearing for the interview that day. But now our hats go off, and our hearts go out, to the Klempa family. He will be missed. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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