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Obituary: Devon R. ‘Chink’ Klingler

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Devon R. “Chink” Klingler, 90, of Rancho Cucamonga and Idyllwild, died in his sleep February 22, 2011 at the home of his daughter and full-time caregiver, Susan.

He was born Nov. 17, 1920, in Elkhart, Ind., to Lee and Flossie Klingler. Chink, the second of three boys, had an active childhood climbing trees, flying box kites, roller-skating and riding bikes. One of his favorite adventures was sneaking into the public pool after dark. He threw his bike over the fence so he could ride it underwater. Chink perfected his mechanical skills to disassemble, lubricate and reassemble his bike after every “submarine” ride.

The family moved many times — to Pennsylvania, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia – wherever the musical instrument repair business took them.

In 1942, Chink enlisted in the U.S. Navy, specifically requesting submarine school to earn 50 percent extra pay and daily ice cream rations. He was known for trading cigarettes for additional ice cream.

Mr. Klingler proudly served in WWII, mainly in the Pacific around Australia and the Philippines as a 3rd Class Electrician’s Mate. He earned a Victory Medal WWII, Philippine Liberation Medal and a Good Conduct Medal while deployed on the U.S.S. Narwhal and Pompon submarines and sub-tenders including the U.S.S. Anthedon and Pelius. He experienced depth charges several times and described it as “not being very much fun.”

On the Narwhal’s 14th patrol, Sept. 30, 1944, she experienced what was potentially her closest call of the war. Diving to avoid enemy anti-submarine aircraft, her stern planes became jammed at a 20-degree angle, putting her into an uncontrolled dive. All hands were ordered to run to the rear of the boat to counteract the dive. This was unsuccessful. The four 1800-horsepower electrical engines were put in reverse to pull up from the dive. This maneuver stopped the dive, but the sub was too deep and the stern planes were still stuck in “DIVE.” The Narwhal could not go forward to rise. She needed to be pulled backwards, up to the surface. The only way to do this was to reverse the screws, meaning the propellers would run backwards. This is considered an emergency maneuver and detrimental to the integrity of the sub, but there was no other choice. The problem with this plan is the safety override or circuit breakers would kick out, stopping the propellers.

Chink described how he physically held the circuit breakers closed by laying down on the batteries and pushing against the breakers with his feet and legs. This generated a great deal of heat and hydrogen gas as the batteries smoked. Exposure to this hazardous environment permanently damaged Chink’s lungs before the hatches could be opened to vent the poisonous gas. Narwhal popped to the surface stern first, two minutes after starting the dive. She managed to safely submerge, this time under control, before the plane could return and attack. This event was recorded in the history of the Narwhal, but no official recognition was given for personal acts of heroism in saving the crew.

Following the war, the Klingler family moved to Los Angeles where they joined the West Adams Baptist Church. Chink met the love of his life, Betty Lou Dallas, and later married her in that church. They moved to Santa Ana in 1946 to start a family and raise their two daughters in the First Baptist Church of Santa Ana. He retired in 1976, as a foreman in the water department, after working 32 years for the City of Santa Ana.

Chink and Betty moved to their retirement home in Idyllwild in 1977. They traveled extensively to Europe, Russia, Africa, Asia and Canada. They also enjoyed camping throughout the U.S. They combined their love of camping with their love of the Lord in MMAP (Mobile Missionary Assistance Program). As MMAPers, they built, rebuilt, and repaired small, struggling churches throughout the Southwest for a number of years.

Chink will be remembered for his love of doing a job well, helping friends with projects, trains, clocks, ice cream, chocolate in any form and dogs. He made up his own swear words and loved telling corny jokes. He faithfully supported Navajo Christian ministries, Camp Alandale and Rainbow Acres.

Chink was preceded in death by his parents, brothers Ted and Carl, and his beloved wife. He is survived by his daughters, Susan De Antonio and Karen (Dennis) Klinghagen of Roswell, N.M.; grandson Mark De Antonio of Pine Cove, Calif.; adopted grandson Joshua Wilson of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; granddaughter Shawna (Rob) Shilaikis of Roswell, N.M; two great-granddaughters, Kylee and Kodee Jo Shilaikis and his grand dog, Denali.

His remains were scattered at sea by the U.S. Navy. A memorial service is planned June 4, 2011, 1 p.m., at the Community Presbyterian Church of Idyllwild, 54400 North Circle Drive.

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