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About The Founders

Josiah W. and Bessie H. KlineJosiah “Joe” Kline, a native of Lees Cross Roads in Cumberland County, PA, was a self-educated, brilliant man. Joe got a good basic education in a one-room schoolhouse, where he excelled in arithmetic. His formal education ended in that one-room schoolhouse, and from then on he was self-educated and would say, “I did pretty well in the College of Hard Knocks.” His father, a village storekeeper, died when Joe was 9 years old. When he was only 14, he came to Harrisburg and went to work for the gas company, later for the International Correspondence School, Scranton, and served as page boy in the 1899 Legislature and then in Congress. He also worked as “train butcher” on the Reading Railroad between Harrisburg and Gettysburg, selling newspapers and magazines. Joe began in Harrisburg real estate in 1911, where he was a member of the Kogh, Brightbill and Kline Co, a real estate and insurance firm. Fourteen years later, he bought out his partners and established the J.W. Kline and Co. real estate firm. He was adventurous, shrewd, perspicacious, thrifty, and gloriously visionary in matter of when to buy and sell. He really was a one-man operation, dealing with tenants personally and paying his debts the same day the bills arrived. He later served as clerk in the State Law Library from 1914-1929. Joe went on to be a successful realtor and builder, etching his signature on the Harrisburg skyline.

In the early 1900’s Joe met Bessie Scott Hemperly, an orphan girl raised in Harrisburg. They married on September 14, 1917. They lived in a modest home at Market and Taylor Boulevard in Harrisburg. Joe and Bessie never had any children. Bessie was a great cook who grew her own tomatoes and bought cracked eggs to save a little money. They seldom traveled. Their idea of a fun weekend was to pull into Hotel Hershey, as Joe liked Hershey food. Furthermore, he regarded Milton Hershey as his idol. In the late 1940’s, Joe Kline got the idea to build the first shopping center in the Harrisburg area. Kline was told by many of his friends and advisors that he was needlessly risking his money on a shopping center venture that would be a disappointment. But Kline, a financial wizard, knew better. He was past 65 years of age and his wife asked him, “Why do you want to go into debt like this at your age?” Joe answered, “I’ve always been in debt and I always expect to be in debt.” The shopping center, named Kline Village, was built in 1951 and was the first shopping center in Central Pennsylvania. He deliberately located his shopping center between Harrisburg and Susquehanna Township and next to a cemetery so he would have no competition.

Can you identify the location where this photograph was taken?

In 1952 Joe and Bessie established the non-profit organization, Kline Foundation. Joe took great care in selecting the Administrators of the Kline Foundation. Joe’s friend, the late Dr. William K. McBride, was the first president of the Kline Foundation, succeeded by Joseph T. Simpson (1969-1989) (Harsco), Robert F. Nation (1989-2006), John A. Russell (2006-2014) and Paul B. Shannon (2014-Present). One of Pennsylvania’s finest lawyers, the late William A. Schnader, drafted the foundation’s trust for free. On its board have been such notables as the late Judge Homer L. Kreider, the late Dr. Francis Haas, the late Bill Masland, the late John Tuten, the late Bob Stewart, the late Bill Boswell, the late Dick Jordan, and the late Cleve Fredricksen. Harry R. Bughman, a distant relative of Joe’s, had been the foundation secretary from 1960 until his death in 1998. Kline Foundation’s first big grant of $550,000 went to the Polyclinic Hospital in 1955 for its famous Kline Children’s Hospital and Eye Clinic.

Joe and Bessie Kline achieved much success by their own efforts. They came from humble backgrounds and never let their wealth go to their heads. They enjoyed a modest life and they never forgot where they made their money, and the Kline Foundation is a fitting legacy.