By AMANDA KIMBLE
DUBLIN (December 12, 2016) – Residents of Dublin and the Dublin Bottling Works family are preparing to say farewell to the son of Mister Dr Pepper. William Edward “Bill” Kloster, CEO of Dublin Bottling Works, passed away Friday, December 9 at the age of 74.
Bill Kloster was an only child, born to Iona Mae Bagwell Kloster and William P. (W.P.) Kloster on April 4, 1942. His was a familiar face at Dublin Bottling Works (DBW), where he worked as young boy, throughout high school, during his first couple of years of college and eventually as CEO.
Bill Kloster obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, went to work for Ford Motor Company after graduation and was later employed by General Dynamics (GD), now known as Lockheed Martin. He worked for GD/Lockheed Martin for more than 40 years and was affiliated with the company’s “Korea Project,” according to Kenny Horton, DBW spokesman.
“He came back to the plant after retiring from Lockheed Martin in 2008,” Horton said. “He took over full-time as CEO and had, until recently, been running the bottling plant ever since.”
Bill Kloster was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, in November 2014, according to Horton.
Those closest to him have said Bill Kloster’s battle with the aggressive, debilitating disease was a courageous one.
“He was a pretty determined man,” Horton said.
His final days were lived with the same sense of determination mustered when leading the embattled Dublin Dr Pepper bottling plant into a new era. The rebirth began after an agreement was reached with the Dr Pepper corporation and ties to the soft drink giant were severed.
“If it had not been for him, there is a good chance this plant would have closed down,” Horton said, adding Bill Kloster forged ahead with a smile on his face and customers in mind.
The plant underwent a rebranding campaign rooted deeply in the legacy forged by Kloster’s father and solidifying itself as the “Keepers of the Sweet.”
The bottling plant was Kloster’s birthright after W.P. worked his way up from making meager earnings to owner.
“Bill’s dad started as teenager in the 1930s making 10 cents an hour sorting bottles,” Horton said.
W.P. was named production manager, later promoted to general manager and eventually inherited the facility from his former boss.
“Bill Kloster was born here, watched the bottling plant grow and grew with it,” Horton said. “His biggest goal was to continue with things the way his father had made them. Bill insisted that we continue to use pure cane sugar, and he continued to run the plant in a manner that focused on building personal connections with customers.”
During his years at the helm of operations, Kloster spent his free time at Old Doc’s Soda Shop where he met people, connected with customers and learned their stories. His smiling face never saw a stranger, and he was known for making newcomers feel as welcome as longtime residents.
The Dublin plant experienced its lowest and darkest days around time of the 2010 settlement with Dr Pepper corporation, but the hometown bottlers has since experienced growth every year.
“This year, we have seen some of our biggest yet, in terms of growth,” Horton said, adding the bottling company now has a brighter future, free of the confines of a distribution radius and corporate control.
It’s the next level in a foundation built by W.P. Kloster.
“That legacy is very much intact and will remain,” Horton said, adding the Kloster family still has a connection to the facility.
Bill Kloster is survived by his sons, Mark Kloster and Jeff Kloster and five grandchildren.
As far as day-to-day operations are concerned, Kent Crouch has been a vital part of the operation since his first job at 10 years old, mowing the lawn of W.P. Kloster.
In a story similar to that of Mister Dr Pepper, Crouch worked his way up to the being the first employee of Old Doc’s Soda Shop in 1995 and now serves as general manager and partial owner of DBW. Since the rebranding of the local soda line, Crouch has driven many miles introducing the Dublin flavors to restaurants and retailers.
“Kent Crouch is really the W.P. Kloster of our era,” Horton said adding the general manager has a love and admiration for the Kloster legacy that will keep the image and men who built it alive.
Funeral services for Bill Kloster will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday, December 15 at Acton United Methodist Church in Granbury. Burial will be in Old Dublin Memorial Park Cemetery, where W.P was laid to rest in 1999.
Both men can rest easy, knowing the company they worked hard to build – and rebuild – is in “good hands.”