Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

Robert Klein

The phone was ringing off the hook. In the days following my husband Christopher Reeve's death last fall, the calls of condolence, sadness and support came nonstop. One afternoon my sister, cradling the receiver, gestured toward me. "It's Robert Klein ...?" she half-whispered. "Something about stem cells ...?" Pause. "Isn't he a comedian?"

It was surely not the first time Robert Klein II, 59, has had to deal with that particular mistaken identity. But what he has accomplished is no joke. In addition to a career as a successful California real estate developer, he now has a new job: overseeing the $3 billion stem-cell-research fund that he initiated and California voters approved last November.

The fund was Bob Klein's baby, and it grew out of a crisis in his life. When juvenile diabetes was diagnosed in his young son, Klein immediately began researching cutting-edge science in pursuit of a cure. Stem cells emerged as the clear front runner, but the moratorium in federal funding was hindering research. So Klein began to design, draft and push through the enormous piece of legislation known as Proposition 71.

In the last few months of his life, Christopher joined forces with Klein to raise awareness about Prop 71. They held fund raisers together, and before he died Chris taped a commercial for TV. I took the phone from my sister's hand. Bob wanted to run the ads but wouldn't do it without my permission. He didn't want to exploit the situation. I gave the go-ahead. It's what Christopher would have wanted.

Reeve is an actress and chairwoman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation

From the Archive
Stem-Cell Rebels: The battle over a controversial line of medical research resurfaces as states strike out on their own