Thomas “Tom” Gibbens Kleinpeter Sr., 88, a member of the generation of Kleinpeters who laid the foundation for Kleinpeter Farms Dairy to grow from its Baton Rouge base into a regional dairy, died Sunday evening.
Visitation at St. George Catholic Church is at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, followed by funeral services.
Kleinpeter was one of 11 children of Leon R. Kleinpeter Sr., who founded the dairy in 1913, and Lillian “Nang” Gibbens Kleinpeter.
After completing military service in 1945, Tom Kleinpeter Sr. returned home to manage the dairy farm operation.
Tom and his siblings grew up on the dairy farm working together to build Kleinpeter Farms Dairy. He and four of his brothers, Leon “Big Boy,” Mike, Vincent “Bobo” and Ben, built the current milk processing plant by hand. They dug the trenches for the foundation, set the reinforcement iron, poured the concrete and opened the doors at the Airline Highway facility on Thanksgiving Day 1955.
As management of Kleinpeter Farms Dairy began to shift to the baby-boomer generation, Tom Kleinpeter Sr. became milk procurement manager and truck repair shop manager until his retirement in 1987.
Jeff Kleinpeter, Tom Kleinpeter Sr.’s nephew and current president of Kleinpeter Farms Dairy, said in a statement he remembers “too well” some of the lessons passed down to him by his uncle. “First, when Uncle Tom ‘got-on to you’ for something, you never forgot it. He had a way of telling you something, and you carried it throughout life,” Jeff Kleinpeter said.
He said his uncle was a stickler for details in ways that helped create the company culture that is built on innovation, the highest standards and especially, customer care. “In all seriousness, it wasn’t just what he said, it was what he did. Things like taking care of equipment, taking care of the cows, taking care of customers, looking out for your co-workers and doing what was right,” Kleinpeter said.
Many of the practices he initiated are still utilized by the farm operation located in St. Helena Parish, he said.
Tom Kleinpeter Sr.’s son Bud said in a statement that his father never saw a problem that couldn’t be solved with hard work, and felt that “hard work kept you on the right path and that it would always reward you in the end.”
“Dad was a very humble gentleman and always treated others with respect no matter who they were or who they may have thought he was. He was a man of few words and always encouraged us to listen more than we spoke. He was sincerely loyal and faithful to God, his country and his family,” Bud Kleinpeter said.