Hundreds gather to mourn Mark and Levi Klapperich |

Hundreds gather to mourn Mark and Levi Klapperich

Mike Lawrence

— The overflowing bleachers and bright sunshine at the Hayden High School football field would have made Mark and Levi Klapperich smile.

It was a setting both men, father and son, knew and loved.

Hundreds of people gathered at the field Saturday afternoon to remember, honor and mourn Mark and Levi Klapperich, who died

after a May 25 plane crash near Fish Creek Reservoir east of Steamboat Springs. Levi Klapperich, a 26-year-old experienced pilot with two aviation degrees, was flying the twin-engine Cessna and had taken off from Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden. He and his father never made it to their destination of Fort Collins. The two planned to run the Bolder Boulder 10K race Monday.

Their shared interests, including Tigers athletics and a love for the Hayden community, were themes of Saturday’s service.

“Many of us cheered for him until our throats burned,” Doug Zirkle of the Mission of Grace Baptist Church said of Levi, who starred for Tigers football and basketball teams in the late ’90s. “You always felt a little bit tougher with a guy like Levi on your team.”

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Mark Klapperich, 56, announced Tiger football and basketball games for more than 20 years – and called games like he saw them, longtime family friend Janet Babish said.

“When he spoke his honest mind over the PA system here, referees did not always agree with what he had to say,” Babish said, drawing laughter from a crowd that, she noted, could have included some of those referees.

Placed on the field, in front of seated friends and family members, were mementos of Mark and Levi Klapperich: two shining, restored cars, a pair of dirt bikes, a snowboard, a model airplane and a cribbage board over which the pair spent countless hours.

Orange and black flags snapped in a breeze atop the bleachers.

“Both of these men lived with passion in their lives,” said Gene Karo, a brother-in-law of Levi’s mother, Jorde Neumiller. “What are you passionate about? How will you be remembered?”

Babish said Mark focused heavily on work throughout his life. He served as mayor of Hayden from 1989 to 1992, while simultaneously delivering pizzas to residents from the Italian restaurant he owned and constantly fueling his interest in cars and racing.

Levi’s interests were more recreational, including deep loves for exercise and the outdoors.

Both men approached their interests head-on.

“He put his whole being into everything he did,” Babish said of Levi. “And that was much like his father.”

Saturday’s memorial continued after the service with a gathering in a nearby park, where friends and families shared stories of Mark and Levi Klapperich.

“It’s obvious by the number of people here today, these men have touched so many lives,” Babish said. “They’ve left a lasting impression on Hayden. : Our hearts hurt at their loss.”

To give

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Mark and Levi Klapperich Memorial Fund in care of First National Bank of the Rockies or Grant Mortuary, 621 Yampa Ave., Craig, CO, 81625.