Catholic philanthropist and St. Cloud entrepreneur Bill Clemens passed away March 2 at the age of 95.
Bishop Donald Kettler, who had the opportunity to visit with Clemens several times since arriving in the diocese two and a half years ago, said the two became friends.
“He was always warm and welcoming and interested in how I was doing as well as how the church and diocese were doing,” Bishop Kettler said in a statement March 4. “He was always ready to help in whatever way was needed.”
“I offer my condolences to all of Bill’s family, and I continue to pray for them and for Bill as he enters eternal life with our merciful and loving Father,” the bishop said.
Clemens, who founded Bankers Systems (now Wolters Kluwer), was well known for his generous donations to the local community, including the Virginia Clemens Rose Garden on Kilian Boulevard in St. Cloud. The garden honors his wife, Virginia, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and enjoyed seeing the roses from her window in their home adjacent to the gardens. Virginia died in 1998.
“Clearly, Bill cared a lot about the church and his relationship with God,” Bishop Kettler said. “Because of his love for God and for other people, he spent his life not just creating and sustaining a successful business, but also helping people and improving the community in whatever ways he could. For that, we are all very grateful.”
The Clemens’ were faithful supporters of the Diocese of St. Cloud, including the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. They helped establish an endowment for continuing religious education as well as contributed to the support of the education of seminarians. They also provided general funding for diocesan administration, parishes, schools and other institutions.
“Over the years, Bill was very generous in his support of the diocese, including the Bishop’s Annual Appeal,” Bishop Kettler said. “Recently, he also helped to fund an initiative from the Spitzer Center to help our diocesan staff and pastors achieve greater collaboration and effectiveness in their ministries. It’s a legacy that will assist us in better serving the people of God for a long time to come.”
The Clemens’ legacy is also evident in other institutions around the diocese, including the Clemens Library and Field House at the College of St. Benedict and Clemens Stadium and the Clemens Economic Chair lectureship at St. John’s University.
Clemens was a longtime member of St. Augustine Church in St. Cloud. Bishop Emeritus John Kinney remembers Clemens as a man devoted to his faith, family and community.
“I first met Bill Clemens when I came to St. Cloud to serve as bishop, and over the years I had the opportunity to spend time with him on several occasions,” Bishop Kinney said in a March 4 statement. “He was a most gracious person, a delightful conversationalist, and a great man of the church who was very generous to the community, the church and the diocese. I extend my sympathies and gratitude to his entire family as I keep all of them in my prayers.”
Arrangements are not yet set and are being handled by Daniel Funeral Home.