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Remembering Chester Kloss’ Life of Service

A man died recently in Wheeling, a man who contributed greatly to the operations of the office of the Clerk of the County Commission of Ohio County, West Virginia.

His name was Chester W. Kloss.

In 1968, Mr. Kloss succeeded Raymond J. Falland as County Clerk, after Falland died in office after having served since 1927.

Mr. Kloss continued to win elections to six-year terms, serving this community as County Clerk until his retirement in 2004, at the age of 78.

As Clerk, he presided over the maintenance of all Ohio County records — some dating back to 1777.

These records include Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates, Deeds, Deeds of Trust (sometimes referred to as mortgages), Judgments, Releases, Wills, Appraisements, Settlements, property records and others.

When I began practicing law in 1980, Mr. Kloss welcomed me to his office, showed me around and answered my questions — a service that he offered to all attorneys as well as to members of the general public using the office to research county records. He was a wonderful mentor on the workings of the County Clerk’s Office.

But his greatest achievement as Clerk came about a decade later when, at the age of 66, he introduced computers into the operation and guided the office into the 21st Century.

Mr. Kloss was one of West Virginia’s first county clerks to begin recording and indexing all records electronically — a change that saved researchers hours in searching for documents using books.

What’s more, during this process of computerizing the county’s records, he also continued the old-time method of recording on paper and indexing in books.

Mr. Kloss was excited by the things that computers could — and eventually would — do. In the evenings, he took computer courses and learned to write software programs for use in the Clerk’s Office.

One example is a program that he wrote to do the calculations for a final notice to delinquent property owners, advising them of the amount of money needed to redeem their real estate from back taxes. The notice included the delinquent taxes, interest, penalty, costs of publication, and the cost and interest to the purchaser of the delinquent tax ticket.

Manually, this calculation took an enormous amount of time and contained many opportunities for errors to creep in. And it had to be done yearly, for thousand of tax tickets, all within one month!

Mr. Kloss was determined to write a program that would do it all in a fraction of the time, and to do it accurately. In his late 60s, he began writing such a program, regularly sharing with others his “thinking” of how to tackle the problem, his failures, how he came to correct the failures, and then finally, his success. I wish you could have seen the pride on his face when it all came together!

He used the program successfully, saving his office hours of time, and tweaked his program until the state of West Virginia took over the responsibilities of issuing the notices.

Although Chester W. Kloss is no longer with us, we should all take a moment to remember him for his outstanding service to Ohio County, West Virginia. He is a lesson to all that regardless of one’s age, we need to think of the future and dream of creative ways to solve problems, and to tackle those issues through education and determined effort.

Michael E. Kelly serves as Ohio County Clerk.

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