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Klefos, Key Berkshire County Tourism Official, Dies At 62

Lauri Klefos

A major player in the development of Berkshire County as a tourist destination died today.

Tributes have been coming in after word that Lauri Klefos died at age 62. County leaders say she had a major impact on the Berkshires tourist economy and business community.

“She really unofficially has been the chief tourism officer for the Berkshires since 2008," said 1Berkshire president Jonathan Butler. Klefos was recruited to serve as the president and CEO of the Berkshire Visitors Bureau in 2008, after working in the field in places like New Hampshire and Arizona.

“It played a huge role in the surge in tourism activity in the Berkshires throughout the past decade," said Butler. "In 2016, when the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, and some other smaller organizations merged to create 1Berkshire, Lauri became the executive vice president of 1Berkshire and continued on in the capacity of being really the region’s chief tourism expert and officer.”

Butler said they led 1Berkshire as peers, but her impact on him went much deeper.

“She’s also a mentor to me," he told WAMC. "I’ve learned a tremendous amount from her. She has had such an accomplished career. She served in so many significant capacities in her career, and just had so much to teach and was good at teaching.”

Butler says Klefos died at Berkshire Medical Center due to complications from a procedure she underwent for an undisclosed illness.

“She could scan the various cultural institutions, pick a few signature events that she knew would resonate in markets afar, and she would hit hard on them. And she did that in a way that kept everybody happy, somehow," said Joseph Thompson, Director of MASS MoCA in North Adams. “She was a great diplomat and a trusted friend of all the cultural institutions. So if Lauri was leading with Jacob’s Pillow or the Clark or Tanglewood, we all knew it was A-Okay and a good idea.”

“She was a strong representative within the Berkshire community, but she was also an incredible lobbyist in the eastern part of the state," said Susan Wissler, executive director of The Mount in Lenox. “And I think politically she was very savvy. And I think the grants and supports from Boston that had come our way over Lauri’s tenure in the Berkshires, I give her great credit for.”

Beryl Jolly, executive director of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, said they were colleagues and friends.

“The sense that we wanted to create a sense of Berkshire County as a cohesive and collaborative community was a perspective that we both shared,” she told WAMC.

Klefos expressed that vision in a conversation with WAMC back in 2016, as she spoke about the 1Berkshire’ branding campaign “Life Is Calling.”

“That ‘Life is Calling’ now can say ‘Move here, live here, have a wedding here, come to college here, start a business here as well as visit here,’" said Klefos. "It’s more subtle, but it allows us to do a lot more things.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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