Saying goodbye to a Sun Newspapers legend

Sports Editor

If you read the sections I put together, it is not often I write a column.

From left, Sun Newspaper executive editor Peggy Bakken, and Sun Newspapers sports writers Greg Kleven (center) and John Sherman. (Sun Post file photo by Chris Chesky)
From left, Sun Newspaper executive editor Peggy Bakken, and Sun Newspapers sports writers Greg Kleven (center) and John Sherman. (Sun Post file photo by Chris Chesky)

My typical column usually recaps a sports season, or identifies something I see in the local sports community.

This is not one of my typical columns.

Today, I am writing to say goodbye to a friend, a mentor, a colleague, and one of the people who has inspired me the most during my brief sports journalism career.

Greg Kleven, a man that spent 44 years at Sun Newspapers, passed away April 23. He was 66. Greg primarily covered the communities of Bloomington, St. Louis Park, Eden Prairie and Richfield during his Sun Newspapers tenure, while also making appearances in many other papers during his sports writing career.

I remember the first time I walked into the Sun Newspapers newsroom and met Greg.

I made the trip from my student apartment near the University of Minnesota to return an SD card to fellow Sun Newspapers sports journalist John Sherman, when I saw a man typing away at his outdated Mac computer.

Like he did every Sunday during his time at Sun Newspapers, Greg was on deadline, calling local high school coaches and writing enough stories to make sure he was able to meet his production deadline the next day.

I walked into the office and we exchanged a quick glance and a brief greeting before he turned his attention back to his computer to finish his story.

That’s the way Greg was. He came into the office and worked relentlessly every day during his 44 years with Sun Newspapers.

Greg gave everything he had to Sun Newspapers during his 44 years with us, and despite his health troubles near the end of his career, he continued to inspire me with his work ethic and relentless pursuit of a story.

I was only one of the many people inspired by Greg both during and after his Sun Newspapers sports journalism career. After retiring in May 2016, Greg was inducted into the Bloomington Jefferson High School Hall of Fame, as well as received a statewide award for media excellence on Women and Girls Sports Day.

Despite his ever-growing list of accolades, Greg was still one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met. When I was an intern with Sun Newspapers, Greg would often call me on a Sunday to go through my latest submitted story. He would take me through the story sentence by sentence, and break down where he felt I could improve.

While I did not appreciate that critique at the time, I see now that Greg played a big role in helping me become the sports writer I am today.

I remember walking in for my initial job interview at Sun Newspapers, and walking into Greg’s office, who told me to accept the job offer if I received one.

Though it didn’t take much for me to join Sun Newspapers, having Greg’s support re-assured me that this was the step I needed to take to begin my sports writing career.

I began my time at Sun Newspapers writing the occasional sports feature story, while also taking some time to cover the community news aspect of the paper.

That all began to change, as Greg continued to give me more to work on as I proved myself. He started me off by giving me the responsibility of following Eden Prairie’s American Legion baseball team’s 2015 state run, before eventually assigning me the Richfield sports beat.

I spent almost a year-and-a-half with Greg at Sun Newspapers, and, during that time, he did what he could to make me both a better person and a sports writer.

From teaching me the most minor grammar fixes, to giving me an extra push out the door to buy an engagement ring for my now fiancee during his retirement lunch, Greg was always an incredible friend, colleague and mentor.

Thankfully, our friendship extended past the doors of Sun Newspapers. While we never got together often, my most fond memory of Greg was a lunch we had just a few weeks after his retirement. Greg, who had always gone to the office when he needed to use a computer, was suddenly without a way to connect to the Internet, and he relied on me to help him purchase his first computer.

During those few hours we spent together, it was like Greg had never left the office. We spent the time talking sports, both professional and local, as well as talking about some of the good times we shared at the office.

I now find myself missing those talks with Greg. He would always tell me how to communicate with some of the coaches he covered, and would tell me odd stories of his most memorable conversations with coaches in his beat.

During our final interaction just two weeks ago, Greg told those same stories, as well as added some new ones while we watched the Minnesota Twins game that day.

I will always remember that day.

I remember having Greg proof-read a column I wrote about John Sherman just a few weeks after I started at the Sun. John was recently honored by the Edina 35 & Over softball league with the induction of the Sherman Cup, and I had written a few words to thank John for everything he had done to me and for his help in getting me the job at the Sun.

As I walked out of Greg’s office after we went through the story, he shouted “you know, I had a say in helping you too.”

I responded, “don’t worry, you’ll get your chance, big guy.”

While I wish the circumstances were different, this is my chance to share my experiences with Greg, and to share how much he meant to me, both during our shared time at Sun Newspapers and now.

Thank you for everything, Greg.

Contact Chris Chesky at chris.chesky@ecm-inc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.