But his love of sports changed his direction and he would become the voice of sports for generations of area athletes as a TV and radio broadcaster for 39 years.
Due to illness, Klimas is retiring. His last and only football broadcast will be the Naples at Lely annual Coconut Bowl on Nov. 2.
Klimas first caught the sports bug as a top high school athlete in Branford, Conn. He starred in football, basketball and baseball. He was an honorable mention for the football and baseball All-State teams.
He played quarterback and defensive back for the University of Connecticut in his freshman year in 1955. Saying he became disenchanted with school, Klimas joined the Navy for a four-year hitch.
He returned to the UConn in 1960, playing football two more seasons. This time as the team's quarterback, punter, field goal kicker and extra point kicker and handled kickoffs.
In 1962 he joined the Indianapolis Warriors in the United Football League, as a quarterback and punter. He also played on two minor league football teams, but in those days there wasn't the big money.
He joined the Branford Parks & Recreation staff which led him to Manchester, N.H. to take part in its recreation department and its Model Cities program. His experiences led to an offer to join the Marco Island Youth Center in its infant stages.
Not the right fit, Klimas said of the Marco position, as he joined the WRGI-FM station in Naples in August, 1974 to do morning sports. He did his first football game when Lely traveled to Key West High School.
"That's when I got my first scolding," he remembers. "I kept calling the Key West team the 'Conches,' instead of Conchs."
For 15 years he did tape-delayed television broadcasts for football games in Collier and Lee Counties.
He moved to WNOG, 1260AM and Palmer Cable Television in 1976 where for 15 years he did tape-delayed television broadcasts for football games in Collier and Lee Counties, along with a nightly sports segment on the 6 p.m. news. His popular Joe Klimas Sports Center television show included a popular segment, "I Klobbered Klimas."
"On Monday I would announce my NFL picks for the coming week, then the viewing audience had all week to make their choices," he said. "Those who beat me got an 'I Klobbered Klimas' tee shirt. We saw quite a few of those shirts around town," he said with a smile. "That was really the point, it was a great promo," he said.
His daughters, Kerri and Kristi picked against him, even though they weren't football fans, yet.
"That's how Kristi became a Seattle Seahawks fan," Klimas recalled. "She picked the Seahawks three weeks in a row and beat me each time. From then on she was a football fan. She loves to tell that story."
From television, Klimas moved back to radio with WSGL-FM and WCNZ-AM to continue broadcasting high school football and basketball games of the week with long-time friend and color commentator Troy Miller. Last year they even broadcast their games over the Internet on swflalocalnews.com.
Klimas received an invitation from Jay Edson and Bob Arum of "Top Rank Boxing" to do interviews at Las Vegas extravaganzas. In the 1980s,they included fights between "Marvelous Marvin" Hagler against Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard against Robert Duran, Leonard against Hearns and Tommy Morrison against George Foreman.
It was a real honor to cover the Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fight," he said. It was not the "No Mas" fight where Duran gave in, but the fight Duran won. On June 20, 1980, Duran captured the WBC Welterweight title by defeating Leonard in a 15-round unanimous decision on June 20, 1980. The fight would become known as "The Brawl in Montreal." In November, 1980, Leonard took his title back in the "No Mas" fight when Duran shockingly quit fighting in the seventh round.
In the hey days of Marco Island and the Mackle Brothers of Deltona Corp., Klimas was on the scene for the The Tony Lema Memorial Charity Golf Tournament, which drew tour players, athletes and celebrities to the Marco Island Golf & Country Club, now The Island Country Club. Lema, a tour golfer who won the 1964 British Open, had been representing the club for a year when he died at age 32 in a plane crash.
From 1967, for two days every year for 14 years, it was a VIP party.
Terry Bradhsaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers, golfers Miller Barber and Arnold Palmer, baseball's Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford and singer Perry Como, to name a few, chatted with Klimas.
Daughter Kerri was one of 14 youth caddies who carried stunt man Evel Knievel's golf clubs, Each carried one club.
Some of the top players in the world were on hand for the first and only Beau Venturi Home Golf Outing to raise money for a new home for the Shelter For Abused Women Of Collier County. It was put on in memory of Ken Venturi's wife Beau.
Venturi, who lived on Marco Island at the time, was the 1964 U.S. Open champion, longtime CBS Sports golf analyst and re-designer of the Eagle Creek layout. He shared the limelight with Marco's 97-year-old Gene Sarazen, the first golfer to ever win all four majors. Sarazen too supported the Naples shelter through the Gene and Mary Sarazen Foundation.
The event reached its goal of $1 million,
Friend Jim Nance, who remains a top commentator, was on hand to announce the players as they came to the first tee at the Eagle Creek Country Club.
"Golfers Greg Norman and Nick Price landed by helicopter on the driving range," Klimas said.
Over his career Klimas "gave back" every chance he got.
"He served as an announcer for just about any charitable event," wife Barb said. He joined Vin DePasquale for the Great Canoe Race for the past 36 years, hosted the "Waiter-Waitress Race" at the Taste of Collier for 15 years, Christmas in Cambier Park, Southwest Florida Junior Golf and the late Stan Gober's annual cancer fundraiser in Goodland.
He takes particular pride in the Southwest Florida Golf Charities, its first president of the Bill Owen Classic.
In its 20th and last year in 2009 the charity surpassed its goal to raise $1 million, topping it by $300,000. It was started as a means to raise funds for county high school golf programs, then it added scholarships. The event advanced to helping many local charitable organizations, including the Beau Venturi Home and Avow Hospice."It really was Irv Sherwood who deserves the credit for its success," Klimas said. "He did an outstanding job and I was glad to play a role in its success."
Klimas not only served on the board, he was the emcee of the awards dinner each year and often did interviews.
He has served as a member of the Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Award Selection Committee since its inception in 1990.
"I really like that we are able to recognize student athletes from all the high schools," Klimas said.
This year The Winged Foot Scholar-Athlete Foundation gave a one-time award of $5,000 to each of its finalists. Winner Brett Clark, Barron Collier tennis player, will receive $10,000, $2,500 each of four years.
Klimas says of himself, "What you see is what you get."
Apparently Barbara Heinonen liked what she saw. On their first date, July 2, 1967, they agreed to get married and they did, on Dec. 2, 1967.
Barb is proud to say that her husband made sure athletes of varying abilities were recognized on his radio or TV shows.
"He recognized as many kids as he could," she said. "It wasn't just the stars. He's even done some of their grandkids. They still call him Mr. Klimas."