Dona Pauline Spainhower Klein


Dona Klein, pianist and organist, has played for the Voice of Prophecy evangelistic crusades, Faith for Today, It is Written, and the Quiet Hour: She is currently with the Kenneth Cox Ministries and 3ABN television. As a recording artist who has released nearly thirty albums and CD's, she is best known for her gentle and sensitive arrangements of traditional hymns, gospel music and songs, and contemporary numbers.

Dona was born in Sheridan, Wyoming, the youngest of five children of Welbie (Web) and Goldie Pauline Kerns Spainhower. She and her siblings grew up in a home where music was a central part of their lives. The whole Spainhower family had a natural aptitude and ear for music. Her father and uncle both sang on the radio, and when her two brothers were older, they sang with their father as a trio, while her sister Marilyn accompanied them on the piano.

At age six, Dona had the opportunity to develop her natural God-given talent in playing the organ and quickly developed an affinity for and skill in playing the instrument. She later described how the family acquired it, her parents' influence on her, and how she learned to play the instrument:

A friend of my father's owed him money and asked if he could pay the debt with either a television or a Wurlitzer church organ. Dad chose the organ, and this began my life of music. As early as I can remember, I would go to sleep at night listening to my parents play and sing all those old songs and hymns that have become so much a part of my life today.

My folks couldn't afford music lessons, and so I never learned music theory. But while very young, I gave my heart to the Lord and asked Him to use me in His service. It seemed immediately that I began to hear different and unusual chords and began applying them. Although I have often wondered if I might have done more for the Lord If I could have read music, He has used me in His work in ways beyond my wildest dreams.

Dona attended Spokane Junior Academy in Spokane, Washington, for her first two years of high school, and when her parents moved to California, she took her junior year by correspondence. She then lived with her oldest sister, Marilyn Overbaugh, and family in College Place, Washington, so that she could complete her senior year at and graduate from Walla Walla College Academy, now Walla Walla Valley Academy, in 1961.

The following year she married Gordon Klein, a radiology student, in Portland, Oregon. She later talked about the circumstances surrounding her marriage:

We eloped. Although his family lived in Walla Walla, he was studying radiology in Portland. The school didn't want their students marrying, for fear they would quit. My folks were in California and although we had planned for our wedding to be there in another year, we decided to just run off and marry secretly in Lewiston, Idaho, which was about a hundred miles away from Walla Walla.

Unfortunately, a notice was posted in that town's paper, which was read by Gordon's brother, Dr. Jim Klein, a physician in Lewiston, whose nurse happened to see it and asked him if Gordon was a relative. Two days later I had an appendectomy and that was how we announced our marriage to the rest of the family. When his family and mine came to visit me at the General Hospital in Walla Walla, the sign on the door read “Mrs. Gordon Klein."

They moved to Portland, where Gordon completed his training at Emmanuel Hospital and then worked at Portland Adventist Hospital for the next eight years, living for a short while during that time in Corona, California, before returning to Portland. During their stay in Portland, Dona completed training as a hairdresser, a profession she continues to practice.

Dona had played for her first evangelistic meeting, a five-week crusade in Spokane at age twelve. She was inspired by that experience and decided then that that was what she wanted to do with her life. Through the years she has played for many evangelists and crusades. She also played for the Rose City Singers, forerunner of the Heritage Singers, a group sponsored by United Medical Labs in Portland, Oregon, as well as accompanying singers and playing at different events in and out of the country.

Gordon and Dona’s two children, Gordon and Karla Dawn both carry on the family musical tradition. Mike plays the guitar and Karla the piano. There are now three grandchildren in the Klein household.

From 1977 to 1979, the Kleins lived in Hawaii, then moved to Grand Terrace, California, where they would live until 2001. By the early 1980s, Gordon was working as an assistant administrator at one of the hospitals in Corona, and Dona owned and operated a beauty shop in Grand Terrace, playing for evangelistic meetings in the region whenever she could.

They both wanted to be involved more extensively in evangelism and prayed the Lord would open the way.  He did in 1986 when an evangelist visited her at work, as Dona later recalled:

One day, Evangelist Kenneth Cox came to my beauty shop, where I was with a number of clients. He asked me if I would help with a series of evangelistic meetings he was conducting in Victorville, CA (about 35 miles away). He had tried several organists and was despairing over the situation when someone suggested me. I agreed to help him.

At that time the medical work was in trouble financially and Gordon's position wasn't all that secure. He didn't feel comfortable in asking for time off to go with me to the meetings. But I began to pray about it. And again the Lord answered, but not the way I had planned! It was bad news and It was my birthday when Gordon came home early with the announcement, "I've lost my job, but happy birthday anyway!" I flew to my knees. "Lord, I cried, that's not what I had in mind at all!” (But He certainly had answered my prayer, for Gordon was now able to go with me to the meetings!)

Although at first we panicked, we would soon look back and realize it was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. Gordon, who possessed many skills, began assisting with the meetings and became involved with several organizational and production aspects of the meetings. Although he would later have offers to return to the medical field, they would have been in conflict with the travel requirements that had developed with the success of Cox's work, so didn't pursue them.

The meetings lasted five weeks, but in between I continued to work as a hairdresser. I would also do hair styling when we were on the road. At one series of meetings in Canada, I ended up doing the hair for nearly everyone in the church! In 2000, while doing a series in Chicago, It became my job to answer the Ministry phone and take orders to be shipped from the office, as well as playing for the meetings, scheduling the music, and many more jobs that attend evangelism. The" wonderful world" of cell phones allows us to travel from meeting to meeting and still keep up with the office work.

The Kenneth Cox Ministries, which is under the umbrella of the Seventh-day Adventist church but functions independently, came into being in 1986, following three years of affiliation with the Voice of Prophecy. It is funded through donations, offerings, sales of related products, and income arising from programs on 3ABN.

In 2005 Kenneth Cox and the Kleins traveled to Guam for a six-week series of meetings. The visit proved to be a challenging one when during their stay the island was struck by a typhoon, earthquake, and an erupting volcano. Additionally, Kenneth and Gordon became aware of health problems, which though troubling, did not affect the meetings. Upon return to the U.S., however, both men underwent examinations and diagnoses that led to immediate care. Gordon's problems were life threatening and while immediately resolved through surgery, eventually recurred, as related recently by Dona:

Three days following our return from Guam, Gordy couldn't complete his sentences or walk. An MRI was taken. It revealed an egg-sized tumor on his brain! This was like hitting a brick wall! Those were dark, dark days! How we beseeched the Lord! And He answered! Gordy had surgery and even though the tumor was malignant, stage 4, he made a quick recovery, and soon we were back doing what we loved best - evangelism.

About three months later, the doctors found two or three more inoperable tumors in the base of the skull . Elder Don Snyder, Ken, and another pastor anointed him at the General Conference with the result that the next time an MRI was taken there were no tumors. It wasn't until five years later that they found more tumors.

From the beginning, Dona has felt more comfortable playing music on the black keys,such as the keys of B, F#, and C# than playing on the white keys (she still finds playing in the key of C to be most challenging). Although she played a Conn organ for many years, she now plays a custom-built Rogers organ that goes with her wherever her playing engagements take her.

Dona recorded her first album with Chapel records in 1968 and would subsequently release nearly thirty records and CDs under that label. Her most recent CD was released in 2011. She had a radio program in the Loma Linda, California, area for sixteen years, from 1982 to 1998. Titled An Evening Prayer, it initially was fifteen minutes in length and then because of its popularity was lengthened to a half-hour and then an hour.

One of Dona's and her sister Marilyn's favorite activities is playing piano and organ duets together. At a recent marriage ceremony that I attended they provided a seamless flow of music together, playing by ear, guided only by a handwritten listing of songs and the keys they would be played in. The result was an impressive and sensitively played service. Most recently they released a CD titled Farther Along with all proceeds helping support Gospel Outreach ministries in College Place, WA.

Some of Dona's most rewarding experiences have been playing in supportive roles for different groups associated with the last three General Conference Session meetings. She was honored when asked to play for the pre-session meetings in St. Louis in 2005. When she was chosen to be the organist for the opening weekend at the 2010 Atlanta General Conference, she was humbled by the experience of playing for the Seventh-day Adventist World Church, considering it an ultimate honor, a highlight in her career.

She recently wrote about her husband, his devotion to their marriage, and how his loss has affected her:

On December 28,2009, the man who stood by my side for 47 years - who willingly moved the organ from" sea to shining sea" whenever and wherever I was called to play, who loved me in spite of me - lost his battle with brain cancer. I buried my heart that day and I will never be the same! But when God allows something, He always makes provision, and He is doing just that. So when I'm tempted to despair, I remember the goodness of the Lord, His mercy and kindness in giving Gordy five years longer than the doctors had predicted, and I also know I shall see him again - soon! But in the meantime, perhaps this heartache will make my music sweeter.

dk/ds 2013

Sources: Information and interviews, 2010, January 2011, Chapel Record Liners; Autobiographical sketch, Adventis Book (2011); Personal Knowledge.