Born in the mid 60’s in the small farm town of Swartz Creek, William grew up amongst the corn, wheat and soy bean fields of mid Michigan. William was greatly influenced by the changing of the seasons, the open sky and the Midwestern farming way of life. He found peace and solitude in the walks taken through field and woods, and watched nature work its wonders as the days melted into each other. William has drawn from these varied inspirations, no matter how challenging they proved.
He explored the old wooden barns that surrounded his boyhood home, and once broke his arm when he fell out of a loft. The sweet smell of hay and old wood, the grease from a tractor and the raw smell of cows contributed to the country atmosphere. At home his father raised rabbits and there were always many pets to play with. There was even a pet raccoon named Rascal that followed the family around like a dog.
Growing up, William’s two brothers and two sisters kept the family full of love and noise. There were always chores to be done around the house, homework for school, and sports to achieve in, but his most cherished times were those spent fishing with his father and walking in the woods. Some of his earlier artwork reflected these country diversions. Since he strove for realism in his artwork, he studied his surroundings carefully for inspiration. In school he was exposed to different mediums and became acquainted with surrealism, abstract, and still life. He added the shading and perspective he learned in school to his self-taught range of skills. He was intrigued to learn and see first hand how materials acted together. When he graduated high school in 1983, he earned honors in art and drafting.
After high school William attended ITT Technical Institute and began a career in architectural engineering. Technical drawing’s inherent structure and form appealed to him. He worked in a residential field his first year, then moved to the state of Massachusetts and began his first commercial project. William experienced life on the eastern seaboard while he worked for Nielsen Architects in Newburyport. This way of life greatly differed from the farmland of the Midwest. The smell of salt air still reminds him of his first apartment, located a mere two miles from the Atlantic Ocean. He spent much of his time combing the beaches of Plum Island and photographing the scenes of the coast. It was in these years he found and photographed the Nubble Light House, the inspiration for his piece titled “After the Storm”.
When the architectural work ran out due to the economic downturn in the late 1980’s, William moved inland to pursue architecture on a self employed basis. Work lasted only a year and he shifted his focus to a retail job. He found the next few years spent in a retail position dissatisfying. Few art pieces were made in these years. By the early 1990’s he made the decision to join the military. His father and grandfather had both served in the Army and since William had been young he had often thought of doing the same. At twenty seven years old William walked into an Army recruiting office and signed up for his first two years. He left Springfield, Massachusetts to enter basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. William was honored at graduation with a marksmanship of expert. He earned a position as quartermaster and started his career with the military. The first military school he attended was how to properly fall out of an aircraft. He graduated Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia and became part of the elite “82nd Airborne Division” on Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He quickly achieved the rank of Sergeant. In 1997 he transferred to Fort Lewis, Washington and was assigned to an armor battalion in the 2nd Infantry Division.
Living in the Pacific Northwest profoundly impacted William’s art. For the first time in many years he was inspired by the verdant life surrounding him. The grandeur of the mountains and old growth forests, the raging of the river’s cold, fresh water and the rocky cliffs of the Pacific Ocean all contributed to William’s rediscovered sense of belonging. He soon began to draw again and attended his first art show in many years at a country fair. In 1999 he showed his work publicly for the first time. He was amazed by the response of the public as patrons would stand at his booth and admire his work. He was asked to be part of the show the following year and also to attend the more prestigious “Western and Wildlife Art Show” in Puyallup, Washington. He paid for his booth rental by selling some of his first pen and ink drawings. With these sales William found a new career in what had previously been only a hobby and dream. Over the next five years he dedicated himself to his art, and to continuously refining his drawing standards.
William received military orders in December of 2005 to be reactivated and to serve in a civil affairs unit supporting “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. He was sent to Iraq in April of 2006. Everyday life in the war-torn Middle East proved quite shocking compared to the relative comforts he had left behind in the United States. He performed all of his assigned military duties to the same exacting standards that he held his artwork, but was unfortunately struck by an I.E.D. (improvised explosive device) in October of that year. Three people were killed aboard the truck he was driving but he and one other fellow soldier survived. William suffered second and third degree burns to his face, arms and hands.
He recalls the moment the blast went off in detail and the events that unfolded quickly thereafter:
“I saw in the middle of the road a patch of fresh asphalt about the size of a basketball tamped down level with the road. I saw it just before it went under the truck, kind of like when you see a pothole in the road but it’s too late to swerve and you hit it anyway. I had a dark feeling that I knew what it was and before I could even get a single word out, it exploded. That was the first 1/100th of the first second. Next I heard the most ferociously loud blast I’d ever heard, despite the headset I was wearing that covered my ears. I felt the vehicle lift off the ground and come back to earth and saw fire immediately engulf the cabin. I held my breath for fear of inhaling the noxious fumes.
“That was the end of the first second. I remember pushing the brake pedal to stop the forward motion of the truck so people could get out of the flames and not have to jump from the vehicle as we were moving at around thirty miles per hour. The flames were so thick I could not see out the windshield and I heard the pinging of the hot steel as it expanded. I heard plastic melting and sizzling, I heard the roar of the fire. I then tried to open my door but found it was jammed, I tried again. I could still feel the truck moving forward and my hand was on the steering wheel trying to keep us in a straight line as I knew the road in front was straight. I tried my door again, still jammed. I saw a white sphere between my chest and the steering wheel. I thought it was phosphorous and worried that it would drop in my lap and melt me in half. It was the size of a cantaloupe and I couldn’t tell if it was composed of fire or smoke. A voice as clear as any spoke and said very calmly…’you need to get out of the truck’. I was still holding my breath, pushing the brake, trying to open my door and watching my clothes burn. End of the third second.
“The voice again said ‘you need to get out of the truck’. It was just as calm and just as clear. The voice repeated more urgently ‘you don’t have much time left…you need to get out of the truck’. I had no idea who was saying this but the sphere just hung there as I tried the door again. This time it opened and I rolled out of the slowly moving truck and hit the ground. I felt the pavement of the road and knew I had to roll to put the flames out. I thought another truck may be coming so I kept rolling until I felt my body go off the road and into the weeds. I then picked up my head and looked around. My clothes were no longer on fire and I was off the road, so I put my weapon into action and looked for the enemy. I looked over my shoulder to see the truck engulfed in flames and billowing black smoke from its windows. I thought of running over to use the fire extinguisher but as soon as I started to move I heard the ammunition in the truck start to go off so I kept my head down. End of the 9th second. It seemed like hours had passed but when the ammunition stopped popping I looked again to see a body completely covered in flames walking away from the truck with raised arms. I yelled at the person to get down and roll but they instead walked a few steps and fell over. I started to get up to move when I saw our people on foot running toward us. I knew they were ours because of their uniforms and equipment, and I felt relieved to be amongst my fellow soldiers again.
“The rest of the story consists of meeting the medics and moving to the LZ for a medivac extrusion, riding to Baghdad, meeting my command, and calling my mother. In three days I was back in the United States and admitted to the Brook Army Medical Center. “
William underwent several surgeries over the next three years and faces several future surgeries even today. His ability to hold and use a pencil again has come back completely after many months of tissue loss in his fingers. He has once again returned to his artwork and now proudly displays a nineteen foot steel sculpture titled “Hope” at the Warrior Family Support Center on Fort Sam Houston, Texas. The sculpture was designed to inspire just that, hope, in all who look upon it. Seventy five butterflies swirl upward toward a thirty foot cathedral ceiling, representing the struggle of life and the flow of peace. William designed the sculpture to lift the spirits of the warriors and families undergoing hardship. William works hard to continue his study in art and strives to show others there is hope even in their darkest hour.
In 2010 William was commissioned to draw the United Way campaign poster and design a matching challenge coin for USAA. The poster went out all over San Antonio and Bexar County. It was also printed on a reusable shopping bag for H.E.B. In 2011 USAA came back with a commission for an original piece of art which would remain unprinted. The piece depicts an alpine mountain scene with several American Bald Eagles. USAA has exclusive rights to the artwork which spans an impressive thirteen feet in length. It hangs in their headquarters building in San Antonio, Texas.
May of 2012, William began conference with the staff of the Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, Massachusetts to discuss the construction of his second steel sculpture. With the commission of the Boston Fisher House located on the VA campus in West Roxbury, MA. The school agreed to help Mr. Kleinedler in the building of “Integro.”
Integro was unveiled on November 10, 2012 with the opening of the Fisher House, Boston healing garden. It stands twelve feet in height and symbolizes the challenges and achievements of change in life.
By June of 2013 William had completed his piece “Inbound” A Warriors Return. Without deadlines William could take his time with this piece. More than four hundred hours was used to capture the detail William wanted to see.
“Homeland” was unveiled to the three Massachusetts chapter Blue Star Mothers in June of 2014. William would like this piece to be a dedication to the mothers, wives and families who take care of our homes while our servicemen and women are away on missions.