FORTVILLE — Francis “Frank” Klauder was 65, widowed and newly retired when he moved from Pennsylvania to Indiana in 2007.

To some, that might have been a recipe for slowing down. For Klauder, however, moving to Fortville was more like a next act revving up after an intermission.

Klauder, a longtime Catholic deacon who served in the St. Thomas the Apostle parish, was also a chaplain for local law enforcement officers and veterans groups. He died Monday at the age of 81.

“We lost a staple amongst the community,” Fortville Police Department posted on its Facebook page. “Our chaplain, Deacon Frank Klauder … was a voice of wisdom and guidance and a set of ears when someone needed to be heard. The town of Fortville and the Fortville Police Department will be forever grateful for all he did for us and our community.”

 Deacon Frank Klauder blesses a Safe Haven Baby Box, installed at the Vernon Township fire station, during a dedication ceremony in 2019. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

Klauder was born in Pennsylvania, where he was an officer with Philadelphia Police Department for about 14 years after high school. When heart issues prevented him from continuing to work in the field, he worked with his brother in a trucking and warehousing business for 13 years later worked in insurance before retiring.

Meanwhile, he became a police chaplain, something he would continue even after moving to Indiana, where a daughter lived. He was one of the chaplains who responded in 2015 when a 1-year-old Greenfield girl was found dead and her parents were charged in the death.

In a Daily Reporter story about police chaplains later that spring, Klauder said his own experiences in a police department helped him feel a rapport with officers.

“If someone has a problem, the chaplain’s job is to listen,” Klauder said then. “Every call is different; every officer takes things differently. Nothing is normal. You just let them talk and tell you how they feel.

“Sometimes it’s helpful just reiterating what they have been through … Sometimes just being there is the help that’s needed.”

During his years in Pennsylvania, Klauder had also been ordained as a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. When he moved to Hancock County in 2007, Klauder sought to continue serving as a deacon.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis’ first class of permanent deacons, including Deacon Wayne Davis of Greenfield’s St. Michael Parish, was three years into its four years of training and set to be ordained in 2008. Klauder went to the St. Thomas Parish in Fortville, which had no deacon at the time, and the archdiocese incardinated him — that is, received him formally from another diocese — in 2007.

 Deacon Francis “Frank” Klauder (right) sits near Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin on Dec. 2, 2012, during an Evening Prayer liturgy welcoming Tobin as Indianapolis’ sixth archbishop. The service took place at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Sean Gallagher | The Criterion

“Frank was just a man of service all the time,” said the Rev. Aaron Jenkins, pastor of the St. Thomas and St. Michael parishes. The priest said Klauder was always very active in the community and looking to serve — in other words, the role of a deacon. “He exemplified that very, very well.”

St. Thomas liturgist Stephanie Garst said “Deacon Frank” was very active in different committees and activities and helped parishioners learn about the deacon role. Klauder was an avid golfer, and Garst’s husband would bring home trophies from charity golf outings that she recalls him saying were won “only because I was on Deacon Frank’s team.”

Klauder also took a turn in the dunk tank at the annual parish festival for years, Garst said, until festival organizers concerned for his safety advised against it.

Geoff Branson, grand knight of the parish’s Knights of Columbus council, said Klauder’s deep commitment to Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen was evident. From fundraising and forming a team to bowl in the annual Strike Out Hunger event, to attending the most recent one even though he wasn’t bowling, “He was heavily involved in the soup kitchen,” Branson said.

 Deacon Frank Klauder (left) stands with other Knights of Columbus leaders at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Fortville in this 2015 photo. Scott Slade | Daily Reporter

Branson also said Klauder was willing to listen to men and empathize from his own life experiences and struggles. He’d assure them there probably wasn’t anything they were facing that he hadn’t also encountered and would offer to listen across the table.

“Those are the kinds of things that really endeared the members of the council to him,” Branson said. “A lot of the guys I know in the Knights are sorely going to miss that.”

Parishioner Mike Tinnel remembers Klauder mentoring him while he was going through the process of joining the Catholic Church. After one meeting, they went to a local establishment in downtown Fortville. There, the lifetime local resident saw the newcomer Klauder greeted by just as many people.

“He was just well-rounded … always open to meet new people,” Tinnel said.

Tinnel said Klauder was also an Uber driver for several years, often driving shifts on weekend nights as people were going home from bars. He not only made a little money, but he also “felt like he was helping keep people off the road,” Tinnel said.

In addition to his service at St. Thomas and as a chaplain for police and veterans, Klauder was involved in the Greenfield Ministerial Association. He helped plan its National Day of Prayer events for about a decade, said Matt Wickham, associate pastor at Brandywine Community Church.

“I loved Frank from the moment I met him,” Wickham wrote in an email. “A retired Philadelphia cop who wanted to invest his retirement years into serving his church, ministering to our community and his family here — he really had a vision for that and he did it. …

“He was a great person, down to earth, loved the Lord, knew what he was about. He will be missed greatly.”