Cover photo for John Klai's Obituary
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John

John Klai

d. September 2, 2023

Las Vegas, NV

 

   John Reynolds Klai II, FAIA, 71, of Las Vegas, Nevada, passed away Saturday, September 2, 2023, at Nathan Adelson Hospice with his husband, Jon Sparer; loving family; and dogs, Bruno and Dexter, at his side.

   Born and raised in Osnabrock, ND, John’s small-town values guided his generous spirit throughout his

life. He spent 2 1/2 years as an accounting major at the University of North Dakota’s College of Business in Grand Forks. An engineering class inspired him to pursue a career in architecture. He returned to Osnabrock, where he worked for his father’s construction company and saved to attend the architecture program at North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies in 1977 and graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture in 1978. John moved to Las Vegas in 1978 to join Marnell Corrao Associates. His first job involved the fantasy suites tower expansion to Caesars Palace. In 1995, John partnered with fellow NDSU graduate Dan Juba and founded Klai Juba Architects, now Klai Juba Wald architecture + interiors. Over his 40-year career, John led projects including Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, the Forum Shops at Caesars, MGM Grand, Luxor, the ‘Vegas High Roller’ Observation Wheel, UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Modernization, and the “Guitar Hotel”—the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, as well as entertainment and hospitality projects across the country. Before his retirement in 2021, John was a Registered Architect in 25 states.

   John and his husband, Jon Sparer, also a retired architect, met in Las Vegas in 1981 when John hired Jon to work in the Marnell office. They married in 2014 in San Diego, CA, and made Las Vegas their home. They were avid travelers internationally and, more recently, across North America in their motor coach with their puppies. John always enjoyed visiting with family and his and Jon’s beach condo in San Diego, riding their bikes together with the pups, and any and all sports especially NDSU Bison, LV Golden Knights, LV Raiders and the Fighting Sioux.

   John devoted his time and resources to ongoing support to the architecture programs at NDSU and UNLV. His greatest joy was serving as volunteer adjunct faculty for UNLV’s Hospitality Design graduate program and regular trips to Fargo to teach students at NDSU. He also served on the NDSU Foundation and received the NDSU Alumni Achievement Award in 2006. John joined the Alumni Association’s 1862 Society thanks to his support in relocating NDSU’s architecture department to downtown Fargo in 2007; the former Lincoln Mutual building was dedicated Klai Hall in 2007.

   John’s community service included extensive volunteerism and philanthropy for organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs Las Vegas, the Discovery Children’s Museum, Nevada Public Radio, the Neon Museum, the Art Museum @ Symphony Park, The Center (the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada), the Las Vegas Animal Foundation, Communities in Schools, Family Promise, The Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada, Super Summer Theatre, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, Three Square community food bank, Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School, Nevada School for the Arts, The Smith Center Performing Arts Center, Nevada Ballet Theatre, Las Vegas Philharmonic, and UNLV’s Council of Excellence, in addition to scholarships at both UNLV and NDSU.

   John’s service to the architectural profession was extensive, including leadership positions on the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB); the Nevada State Board of Architecture, Interior Design and Residential Design (NSBAIDRD); the Western Conference of Architectural Registration Boards; and AIA Nevada and AIA Las Vegas. He became a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows in 2015 for his service to society. He also received the AIA Western Mountain Region Silver Medal, AIA Nevada’s Silver Award, AIA Las Vegas President’s Award, AIA Nevada Patron Award, and the North Dakota AIA Award.

   John’s career also garnered numerous design, industry and civic awards including NDSU’s Green and Golden Globe Diversity Award (with husband Jon Sparer), the Faith Lutheran Middle School and High School Heitkotter Crusader Award, the Human Rights Campaign Equality Award (with Jon Sparer), the Industry Lifetime Achievement from the Hospitality Industry Network, the Discovery Children’s Museum Award, UNLV’s Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame, the One-of-100 Honoree by AIA Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Centennial Committee, Outstanding Philanthropist from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, NDSU’s President’s Gold Medallion, and many, many more. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from NDSU in 2018.

   John is survived by his husband and partner of 38 years, Jonathan Sparer, FAIA; their daughter, Alison Sparer (Jimmy) Mulligan; grandchildren Mason

and Elliot; sisters Jill (Mike) Lorenz and Joni (Mitch) Trageton; nephews Max, Nick, Tyler(Kailee), and Zack (fiancé Sydney); great-nieces Nellie Grace and Livvy; great-nephews Jack and Beau; and soon to be great-niece Trageton; and devoted puppies, Bruno and Dexter. He was preceded in death by father John “Jack” and mother Lois.

   A Celebration of John’s life will be held at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, the family would like to continue John’s commitment to giving back. Please consider donating to organizations that were close to John’s heart such as The Center, https://thecenterlv.org, UNLV School of Architecture

https://www.unlv.edu/unit/foundation, NDSU School of Architecture, https://ndsufoundation.com, The Nathan Adelson Hospice, https://www.nah.org, Discovery Children’s Museum, https://www.discoverykidslv.org

   The family would like to thank all of John’s doctors, surgeons, speech-language pathologists and the compassionate care of Nathan Adelson Hospice, as well as the loving support of all our families and many friends and colleagues.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Klai, please visit our flower store.

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