St. Katharine Drexel Opens New Jack Klotz Memorial Field – Delco Times
CHESTER — Crowds, gathered in the grounds next to Drexel Neumann Academy, 1902 Potter Street, were feeling the heat last Sunday afternoon, but it wasn’t all from the May mid-afternoon temperatures. After a 2-hour memorial mass at St. Katharine Drexel’s Church in Chester, more than 100 parishioners, family members, athletes and friends felt the warm and generous spirit of the late Jack Klotz, as they gathered for the dedication and blessing of the new “Klotz Memorial Jack Champ.
Longtime Delaware County resident John “Jack” Klotz was 87 when he passed away in 2020, leaving behind an exceptional history of achievement in professional and local sports and charitable endeavours. Klotz had been a longtime parishioner of St. Katharine Drexel and its predecessor, St. Robert’s Church. On May 22, the parish administrator of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, the Reverend Robert Ianelli, blessed the 500-meter athletic field, naming it in honor of a man who became a local legend thanks to to his sporting achievements and his significant community involvement.
“Jack Klotz was a beloved parishioner and coach in our parish community,” Ianelli said. “Although I did not have the opportunity to meet him personally, given that I began my mission at St. Katharine Drexel the year after his passing, I have heard so many wonderful stories of his impact positive in our parish and our community as a whole. Jack loved the parish and this place was his spiritual home. By dedicating the trail in his honor, his legacy will continue for years to come.
Jack and his wife Kathleen were active members of St. Robert’s Church, which later merged with the other Chester parishes of St. Anthony, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Vilna, Resurrection of Our Lord and St. Michael’s to become St. Katharine Drexel Parish in 1993. In 2005, St. Katherine Drexel School transformed into Drexel Neumann Academy, an independent Catholic school.
William and Sara Klotz raised Jack and his eight siblings in the Sun Hill section of Chester. He attended St. Robert’s Elementary School where, in first grade, he met his future wife of 50 years, the late Kathleen Callaghan.
The couple had three children, John Klotz Jr. of Springfield, Mary Catherine Lain of Marple and Karen Campbell of Springfield, and eight grandchildren. A gifted athlete, Klotz received a scholarship to Pennsylvania Military Preparatory School where he earned 16 varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball, and track and field. He then attended Pennsylvania Military College, which later became Widener University, where he earned 12 varsity letters in football, basketball, and track and field. Klotz and his teammates had an undefeated football season in 1954 and, in 1956, Klotz was awarded All-American honors. The Los Angeles Rams drafted the Klotz in 1956.
After completing pre-season, Klotz’s professional football career was put on hold while he served his country in the US Marine Corps. While serving in the Marines, Klotz played two undefeated teams with the San Diego Marines football team and served as a military police. After his honorable discharge, Klotz played for a year in the Canadian Football League before joining the New York Titans of the American Football League in 1960. Klotz was named to the All-AFL team in 1962 and was the starting offensive lineman for the first New York Jets in 1963. After a preseason injury in 1964, Klotz was traded to the Houston Oilers where he played for the 1964-65 season.
After retiring, Klotz coached in the National Football League farm system as head coach of the Atlantic City Senators and offensive line coach of the Pottstown Firebirds. He was also a scout for the New England Patriots and served as president of the Philadelphia Chapter of the NFL Retired Players Association. Klotz has been inducted into the Widener University Athletic Hall of Fame, Mid-Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame, Delaware County Sports Hall of Fame, and Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
Klotz generously shared his love of athletics with others through coaching. For 24 years, Klotz was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Widener University, helping coach two teams to the Division III Final Four.
Klotz also coached the CYO track for his beloved parish, St. Robert’s, for 32 years. He was an integral part of CYO Track, organizing the competitions and holding the starting gun. Klotz also taught in the Chester Upland School District from 1959 to 1966.
In 1990, Klotz began a career that merged tenants of her Catholic faith with her devotion to her hometown. As a development worker and advisor for CityTeam Ministries in Chester, Klotz helped build and run a shelter for the homeless and destitute and established a meals program that provided hot, nutritious meals to people in the need. He also worked closely with the men of CityTeam’s drug and alcohol recovery program.
In addition to his work at CityTeam, Klotz has counseled inmates at Chester State Correctional Facility, mentored children of migrant farm workers through the NFL’s Goals for Youth initiative, and served his parish. of St. Katharine Drexel as Eucharistic minister. He served as field marshal for the visit of St. Pope John Paul II to Philadelphia in 1997, and as bodyguard for Senator Robert F. Kennedy during a campaign stop in Springfield and for St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta during of his visit to Chester in 1995. .
Klotz’s humanitarian work has been recognized by many organizations. He received the NAACP’s Ann Miller Freedom Award, the Delaware County Humanitarian Award, the YWCA of Chester Annual Award, the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Father Daly Award for 25 years of service, the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Catholic Youth Sports, and many more. Naming the field posthumously in honor of Klotz is special to the Klotz family as it forever links their patriarch to the parish he loved and supported from childhood to old age.
Klotz’s legacy came full circle at the groundbreaking on Sunday, where not only were all of his children and grandchildren in attendance, but also many of the students he’s coached over the years, friends and former colleagues, such as Michael Felici, director of development at Widener University and Vince Touey, Widener Track Coach, as well as Bill Brandenberger and Wally Rice, two Widener alumni who played on the undefeated Widener basketball team of Klotz.
The new Jack Klotz Memorial Field has a long history. The land was laid out for St. James High School in 1940 and was later used by students from Saint Robert School. Currently, students from Drexel Neumann Academy, who participate in the Girls on the Run programme, use the pitch, as do players from Media Rugby. Currently the pitch has some football nets, so it can also be used by football teams. For runners and walkers, five times around the track equals one mile.
As the field begins to receive some much-needed attention, Ianelli, who will be officially installed as pastor of St. Katharine Drexel Parish on June 20, hopes to soon revive the St. Katharine Drexel CYO athletic program.
Karen Klotz Campbell said there is also hope the land will be used for other community sports programs.
“We hope the children of Chester can continue to use the same pitch they have been using since 1940,” Campbell said. “So many college athletes got their start right here on this field. We hope that Jack Klotz Memorial Field will continue to be a starting point for the future success of many more student-athletes.
For more information about St. Katharine Drexel Parish, or to help with future field renovations, call 610-872-3731 or visit http://www.stkatharinedrexelparish.org.