James R. Kline Jr. observed 43 space shuttle launches as the chief finance officer for Lockheed Shuttle Operations at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"He could watch it from his office window," recalled his wife of 54 years, Kay Kline of Healdsburg.

Kline, who moved to Sonoma County after retirement, died Nov. 17 at his Healdsburg home after a battle with cancer. He was 76.

Kline worked more than three decades in financial management for both Lockheed and Levi Straus & Co.

His family remembers him for his quick wit but also for his integrity and willingness to help.

"People knew that he cared," said his son, Dan Kline of Salinas.

Born in Denver, Kline grew up in Joplin, Mo., and graduated in accounting from Kansas University. During his sophomore year there he met his future wife, who was attending a neighboring college. After graduation, the couple married on June 14, 1958.

They moved to California in 1962, where Kline worked for Lockheed and completed his MBA at Santa Clara University.

After a decade at Lockheed, he became the corporate controller in San Francisco for Levi Straus. He worked there about 10 years, when Lockheed hired him back for good.

The last 10 years of his career were spent in Florida as CFO for the company's shuttle operations. He retired in 1997 and that year moved permanently with his wife to a home they previously had purchased in Healdsburg.

In the small town, Kline became active in the local Rotary club and at St. John's Catholic Church.

He enjoyed cruising to Alaska, a place his wife and he visited about 10 times. The couple also made regular trips for many years to Colorado and Nebraska, her native state.

He was a San Francisco Giants fan and for years had season tickets.

He often told how New York Yankees great Mickey Mantle once gave him a glove. Mantle then was a minor league player in Missouri and Kline was the team's youthful batboy. He lamented that he didn't keep the glove, so on his 60th birthday his family gave him a baseball with Mantle's autograph on it.

Along with his wife and son, Kline is survived by two daughters, Mary Echevarria of Seaside and Colly Fischer of Chico, and seven grandchildren.

A Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Sunday at St. John's Catholic Church in Healdsburg. Burial will be at San Carlos Catholic Cemetery in Monterey.

The family prefers memorial contributions to Heifer International.

— Robert Digitale