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Obituary for Stephen Phillip Klinkhammer

October 10, 1954 – March 09, 2023

Stephen Phillip Klinkhammer, 68, of Racine, Wis., passed away at home after several bouts of Covid, pneumonia and inoperable lung cancer.

Stephen Phillip Klinkhammer
Stephen Phillip Klinkhammer

Stephen was born in Racine on Oct. 10, 1954, to Phillip H. and Faythe (Nee: Newton) Klinkhammer. He was raised in Hancock, Mich., and graduated from Hancock High School in 1972. Stephen joined the Navy out of high school and served two tours in Vietnam. He was on the USS America (CVA66) in the Gulf of Tonkin when the war ended in 1973, and served again with Surgical Team 6, attached to the 2nd/9th Marines for the evacuation of refugees from Saigon in the spring and summer of 1975 setting up refugee camps and providing care for them in camps from the Philippines to Guam.

After being honorably discharged in June 1976, Stephen attended UW-Madison and UW-Parkside obtaining a degree in Psychology and Interpersonal Communication. He interned at the Racine Underground Safe House (RUSH) where he met his bride-to-be.

Stephen married Rita Helen Bencriscutto on May 6, 1978, and together they produced 4 boys, Justin, Adam and identical twins Jordan and Zachary.

Stephen worked as a counselor until returning to the medical profession, becoming a registered nurse in 1981. His nursing career spanned 47 years and led him to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist in 1995. A proud Mayo School of Health Sciences graduate, he worked in numerous anesthesia settings from government and military to academic and private practice. He then went on to obtain degrees in Management, a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Nurse Anesthesia, and a Nursing Doctorate.

A nationally-recognized simulationist, Stephen taught new generations of nurse anesthetists the tricks of the trade at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science as well as across the country via multiple conferences. One of his proudest achievements was being elected to the Board of Directors of the National Board for Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.

Stephen was an accomplished musician and had been involved in the Racine music scene for over 40 years. He was a co-founder of Thoughts for Food™, a benefit for the Racine County Food Bank, and also co-founded a long-running food event making and selling Pasty (a Flemish pastry with veggie and meat filling) with proceeds supporting local veterans and the Racine County Food Bank.

Stephen was an active member of the veteran’s community with life memberships in the VFW 9948, VVA 767 and the Wisconsin Association of Concerned Veterans. He is a past Commander of VFW Post 9948 and past President of Racine Area Veterans, Inc. Stephen was involved in the recent rehabilitation of the Racine Legacy Museum and Veterans Museum, bringing this historic landmark back to a rendition of its glory days.

Stephen was devoted to his family, his community, and the world at large. Number two was never good enough when number one was open. Science meant everything and Stephen based his decisions on the available facts. A somewhat difficult individual to get to know, first impressions always led to discovering the big teddy bear underneath that was willing to give all to make the world a better place. If there was a poster child for a dry sense of humor, Stephen would have been it.

Stephen is survived by his wife of 44 years, Rita; his three sons, Justin, Jordan, and Zachary; daughters-in-law, Chris Fabio, Deanna Vorhes, and Sammi Vorhes; grandchildren, Destiny, Faith, and Deacon; great-grandson, Henry Marquis; brother, Eric Klinkhammer; sister-in-law, Gail Klinkhammer; and sister, Susan Studebaker; in-laws, Frank and Darlene Fabio; best friends Bill May, Rick Fink, and John Bowen; and of course his crazy, huge silver lab, Mia. Also surviving are brothers and sisters-in-law Bruce and DeDe Bencriscutto, and Bill and Thanh Bencriscutto, nieces, nephews, and friends worldwide.

Stephen was preceded in death by his parents, Phillip and Faythe; his brother, Paul; his son, Adam; granddaughter, Harmony; and in-laws, Santo and Mary Bencriscutto.


A private service will be held Wednesday, March 29, at 1 p.m. The service can be live-streamed and viewed by going to the Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home web page, selecting Stephen’s page, then selecting live-stream.

Interment with Military Honors will be held at the Southeast Wisconsin Veterans Cemetery on April 27 at 1 p.m.

Please… no flowers

Please… no flowers. Stephen was not a flower guy. Any donations should be to Rita Klinkhammer and will be family-directed from there.

The Klinkhammer family plans to hold a celebration of Stephen’s life in late summer/early fall, all will be invited.

Stephen wishes peace and good music to all! He asks that you make a difference and enjoy a Pasty!

Thank you and God Bless!

Obituary and photo courtesy of Maresh-Meredith & Acklam Funeral Home.

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