Frank “Papa Joe” Kloiber: 1944 – 2023.

It is with a profound sense of sadness that the Milwaukee Barbarians Rugby Football Club announce the passing of Frank “Papa Joe” Kloiber on Sept. 19, 2023 at the age of 79.

Papa Joe was an outsized figure in the history of rugby in Wisconsin who began his playing career while attending college in Madison, Wisconsin. After serving two tours in the Vietnam War, he moved to Milwaukee and joined the Harlequins in 1975 as a player and then as coach and club President.

In 2012, Papa Joe was an early driving force in the decision to rebrand the Harlequins to the Barbarians. He hoped this would be a path to burying old rivalries and attracting all the players in Milwaukee under one banner. 

Between those bookmarks, he was tireless in his efforts to grow the game at all levels. For example, he pioneered numerous local school programs such as Marquette University High School.

He was also involved in select-side teams and organized many overseas rugby tours. His rugby tours would take him, the Harlequins, and Julie or his children to places like England, Wales, France, South Africa, and New Zealand.

While touring, Papa Joe built a vast network of rugby contacts around the world. He used those contacts to develop the sport locally by bringing in foreign teams to challenge the local players and stay abreast of emerging strategies and trends in the sport long before the internet eased the flow of information.

In 1982, Papa Joe founded the Lakefront 7s Rugby Tournament. The event has grown into one of the largest and longest-running rugby events in the country, impacting tens of thousands of people. It is an annual highlight for rugby in the Midwest and remains a jewel in the crown for Barbarian and Harlequin alumni alike.

Papa Joe’s family is a large part of his rugby legacy as well.

His wife Julie has long supported Joe’s passion for rugby, and many of his children went on to play the sport competitively.

Off the pitch, the entire Kloiber family has committed countless hours to fundraising, organizing, and promoting rugby in Southeast Wisconsin.

After a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease, today the Barbarians and Harlequins family lost a true visionary and tireless servant. We will be forever indebted to Papa Joe for all he has done.

He shall be sorely missed, but never forgotten.

Papa Joe over the years

Vic Drover
Vic Drover

Vic has a long history in and around the sport of rugby both in Canada and the US. He has played for and started numerous clubs (Vandal's RFC, Strathcona Druids, Suffolk Bull Moose, West Side Harlequins, Milwaukee Barbarians, Hamilton Girls Rugby), and served many roles over the years at all administrative levels. Vic joined the Harlequins in 2007 and remained an active club member through the transition to the Barbarians. These days, he spends his rugby time playing tag rugby and touring with the Old Boys, keeping the club website updated, helping organize the Lakefront 7s, and fundraising.

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