There is an origami legend that says the person who creates 1000 paper cranes will have a wish come true.
Origami expert Bud Klein, 77, a volunteer in patient transport at St. John Medical Center, has easily created 1000 cranes since he started practicing the Japanese art of paper-folding as an elementary school student.
And he has also had his wish come true because the only thing he wants in return for his talents is to make people smile.
Bud often brings smiles to the faces of patients at SJMC with his skillfully crafted designs. They include replicas of birds, flowers, hats and more.
Bud started as a volunteer at SJMC two years ago. But he has practiced origami for a lot longer than that.
“That is the best question,” smiles Bud when asked when his interest in the art began. “Second grade.” It all started with a pirate hat when he was just a boy!
His interest in the craft soared after that, and origami became a life-long hobby.
“I usually don’t learn from a book, I use videos. You can get them at the library. What I can see out of them is very comprehensive,” says Bud.
The art of paper manipulation is a natural fit for Bud’s personal skill set. A product of St. Edward High (1955), he has a career as a fabricator coordinator preparing steel for welding at the Barth Company near W. 130th Street and Brookpark Road.
“I am very proud of my knowledge. I enjoy it. And I think it is becoming a lost art,” he said of his paper-folding abilities.
Ironically, Bud was born at the old St. John Hospital in Cleveland, which became part of St. John Medical Center when it opened in 1979.
His wife of 52 years, Ginger, is also a volunteer at SJMC. They have three children and six grandchildren, all long-used to Bud’s preoccupation with origami.
“It is entertaining for patients,” says Bud of the new audience he found when he started at SJMC.
Bud likes to hold up a paper pinwheel as an example of the “calling card” he leaves patients and guests. “When I walk into their rooms, I give them one,” he said.
He also makes an assortment of designs from dollar bills, His turkey and boat dollars bring smiles. The ‘Twin Towers’ design honoring 9-11 he fashions from a $20 brings oohs and aahs. The ‘Twin Towers’ $20 remarkably displays “American” on one side and “United” on the other (the two airlines involved in the 9-11 tragedy almost 13 years ago). Turn the Twin Towers $20 over and you see a pyramid. “The Pentagon,” smiles Bud!
“If I get some feedback from a patient, if they smile or their eyes light up, I can show them how these are made,” says Bud. “If they want to learn, I tell them not to read, but to watch a video one step at a time.”
Bud has 18 designs in his repertoire. He is especially proud of designs he makes from oblong paper (like the dollar bill designs). He frequently gets the attention of restaurant workers when he leaves an origami “tip” in the form of a few folded dollar bills. It really resonates at Chinese restaurants as it touches on a cultural connection.
For kids, he entertains with a single piece of paper that starts out as a hat and folds over to become a boat. He even has a talking bird, “Joe the Crow,” which he manipulates with his thumb and fingers to mouth words like a puppeteer. And his paper frog even jumps when pressed from behind.
“It is something I have always enjoyed and I think it helps keep me young because I use my fingers, my eyes and my mind,” says Bud. “It keeps me nimble.”