No Joke: Klimshuk Roundabout Dedication Moving Forward

by Ryan Bray
The new roundabout at the intersection of Routes 28 and 39 in South Orleans will be dedicated to the late Dorie Klimshuk, who for years advocated for traffic improvements in the area.  RYAN BRAY PHOTO
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ORLEANS – On a chilly Monday morning, all is relatively quiet at the intersection of Routes 28 and 39. Cars from all directions navigate the newly paved roundabout without incident, some heading toward downtown Orleans with others traveling in the opposite direction toward Chatham.

For locals familiar with the intersection, which for years has been a hot spot for accidents and near misses, it’s a pleasant change of pace. But perhaps nobody would have been more pleased than Dorofei “Dorie” Klimshuk, who passionately advocated for improvements in the area for years.

“I think he even dreamed about it happening, and they did it,” Bob Parry, a longtime friend and neighbor of Klimshuk’s, said of the roundabout’s construction.

A local fixture in South Orleans, Klimshuk died June 1 at the age of 87, according to his daughter, Karen Phelan.

“He was a good guy, he really was,” she said of her late father. “It was quite sudden and unexpected. But he lived a wonderful life and he went relatively peacefully.”

Klimshuk lived long enough to see the bulk of the roundabout work completed, and Parry credits his advocacy with ultimately spurring the town and the state to undertake the project. Klimshuk’s dedication to the cause was such that when work to create the roundabout got underway, a group of his friends, members of an early morning coffee group at the Hole In One Restaurant, decided to have a little fun with him.

A mock sign declaring the new layout “The Dori Klimshuk Commemorative Roundabout” (his first name was misspelled on the sign) was put at the site of the work in late 2022.

“A lot of people have had a lot of laughs about it, and that’s great,” Klimshuk said at the time when asked about the sign. “We need to laugh.”

“He was kind of giggling as he was telling me about it when the [Chronicle] article came out,” Phelan said of her father’s reaction to the fake sign. “But I thought ‘I know it’s a joke, but why not?’”

Now what started as a joke will eventually become an official dedication in Klimshuk’s memory. In October, an article passed at the special town meeting authorizing the town to petition the state legislature to have the roundabout named for him.

“I was hoping he’d be alive when this was happening,” Parry said.

The petition is required as Route 28 and 39 are state roads. Town Manager Kim Newman said the petition has been submitted, but there is no timetable for when the town will get approval for the dedication.

“They’ll name and dedicate it, and then a small ceremony will be done with a plaque,” she said.

Phelan reached out to Mark Mathison of the Orleans Select Board for help in getting the dedication process started. The two have known each other for years dating back to when she was a student at Nauset Regional High School, where Mathison taught and coached for many years.

Mathison recalled how Klimshuk, a seasoned builder and craftsman, would take time to help high school students interested in learning about carpentry. But only if they were willing to go by the book, he said.

“He would take these kids under his wing and show them how to do it the right way,” Mathison said. “Because if you weren’t going to do it the right way, you weren’t going to work with him.”

“He built boats and all that, and I did sailing,” Parry said. “He built a sailboat and I helped him rig it. He didn’t have an understanding of sailboats, but he knew powerboats. He was quite a craftsman.”

A local in the strictest sense of the word, Klimsuk lived in the same South Orleans neighborhood his whole life. Phelan said he could often be seen driving about town, waving to people as he passed. As she recalled, her father “never met a stranger.”

“Even if he didn’t know your name, guys were Cap and women were Sweetie,” she said. “He was just quite the personality and an institution into himself.”

“He was a super guy,” Parry said. “If you had known him, you’d just like him. That’s the way he was. I don’t think he had any enemies.”

Klimshuk also was actively engaged in the various happenings of the town. The dangers of the Routes 28 and 39 intersection held particular interest to him, and for good reason, Mathison said.

“People that were coming out of the side roads, you never knew which way they were going,” he said. “You didn’t know if they were going straight across and onto 39 or taking a left. It was crazy, and it was a huge danger for everyone because it was so unpredictable.”

“There wasn’t much of an organization from the standpoint of traffic flow,” Parry said. “I think he really encouraged them to get on with that project. They talked about this for a long time.”

Work on the roundabout got underway thanks to a partnership between the town and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, with the town taking on the cost of designing the project, Mathison said.

Phelan said the dedication is an appropriate recognition, not only of her father’s interest in improving the intersection’s safety, but of his love for the community. But the recognition isn’t something he’d have courted for himself, she said.

“He was a very humble man, that’s for sure. I think he’d be honored, but I don’t think it’s anything he would have pushed for,” she said.

But Mathison said lifelong residents like Klimshuk deserve the recognition, noting how hard it’s becoming for residents and families to set the same deep roots in town.

“We’re losing a lot of the local color,” he said. “The people who grew up here and made an impact on the community because of their skill, their ability and their desire to sort of pass those things along.”

Meanwhile, progress on the roundabout continues with ongoing utility work and the addition of new sidewalks, Ron Trudeau, the town’s interim public works director, said in an email Tuesday. A large sculpture will also be situated in the roundabout’s center.

While the cold weather has forced a temporary pause on that work, Trudeau said the roundabout is on track to be fully completed by May.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com