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Just Call Me Fred

Apr 17, 2015 05:00PM ● Published by Michelle Johnson

My first time driving Dad's first "BIG" toy. He earned it!

Gallery: Fred Kaping Over the Years [12 Images] Click any image to expand.

Michelle Kaping Johnson

It has been almost a year. Hard to believe that the time zipped along like a leaf in the fierce fall wind and yet here it is-a milestone.

Since I was approximately five years old, I have lived in Beaver Dam. I was born in Oak Harbor, Washington, where my Dad was stationed in the Navy. My Dad and Mom were high school sweethearts from Princeton, WI and yet they were thrown into the crazy unknown when my Dad enlisted and the Navy sent them packing.

I am familiar with that feeling of moving away as my husband’s job took us to various places in our time together. No matter where we ended up, we made it a home. All of the places we have landed in as a family have brought us sights, sounds, smells and adventures that I learned to embrace. These adventures will remain as lasting memories I was able to experience through the eyes of my children.

I also could relate to how my parents felt living in Washington, so far away from everything and everyone they knew. Like their situation, our adventure brought us back to Beaver Dam-the only place I have known as home. Coming home brought me back to a lot of familiarity and a job I had worked at on and off since the age of sixteen. I, like my Dad, had come this far in life and held good jobs and never had to apply for a job, create a resume or interview for the job.

On my most recent return from living in Rock Hill, South Carolina, I again returned to the radio station and began working as needed in whatever capacity they needed me.

Then, the unthinkable happened: I was approached by someone else in the community for me to bring time and talents to their local business and after careful consideration, I took the leap. This meant creating a resume, filling out a job application and going through the interview process. I studied and took the test to get my insurance license. I was used to success coming naturally to me so when I didn't pass my test the first time, I was frozen in fear, forcing myself to dig deep. I went back and passed the test, almost to my surprise. I settled into my job with my new work family/friends.

In moving back to Beaver Dam, I also moved back to where my Mom and Dad continued to reside. The business of kids, job and life made it seem like I was still living far away from them and they were busy too. My Mom worked at Nancy’s Notions and just recently celebrate her 15th anniversary there.

My Dad’s first job in Beaver Dam was at First States Savings and Loan but that job didn't last long. Sometime ask him about the letter notifying him he was fired. It hangs in his office today. That letter reminds him that negative occurrences can actually be positive situations in disguise. It was the best thing that ever happened to him.

That letter made him dig deep and slowly shaped him into the business man he is today. His next job he was a Junior Partner for an Insurance firm. Then based on previous experience, he began painting for a living and after a time, he knew he wanted more and so he and my Mom opened Kaping’s Paint & Plus, in May of 1983 in the old Ziemets grocery store on West Street in Beaver Dam.

I remember many a day after school, doing my homework in the back room of the store with the paint can shaker rattling away, mixing someone’s paint order. I also remember fondly the big old register they kept from the grocery store, used to ring up customer’s purchases.

Then he got into building homes-Stratford and Wick Homes and while I don’t remember the numbers, I do recall the success he had with that venture, his dog, Jake, by his side.

More time passed and my Dad had the itch for something more. He started Fred Kaping Realty, Inc., in the basement of the home he and Mom built on DE. The store closed to allow him more time to pursue this next step.

Then began his quest to conquer real estate. To hear him tell the story, he had some adventures getting his license (first try) and he was on his way. He opened Fred Kaping Realty, Inc., and continued to head quarter out of the basement of my parent’s home.

In January of 2000, he bought the building he is currently located in: 919 DeClark St., and Benchmark Realty became a reality. He had a great partner, Dianne Wendorf, and on most days was enjoying himself.

2005-life threw him a curve ball-a health scare left him not wanting the pressures of being a business owner so he signed up in March, 2006 to be a manager at First Weber Realty and the business continued to run out of the DeClark St location. It seemed logical to have someone else in charge of the business plan but for a man used to years of being in business for himself, he was filled with some angst.  

On August 27, 2009, he left First Weber to again go into business for himself. While he continued to rent the building to First Weber, until they could find another location, he temporarily made a business home in the building on the corner of Front and Center.

After First Weber relocated, Fred relocated back to his building on DeClark Street and worked on his own in the real estate business until about 2 ½ years ago, when he hired another agent, Karen Gauer. Because of his well-built reputation of honesty, integrity, caring and being successful, business for him quickly picked up speed even when the market was supposedly, “slow”. He quickly realized he needed some additional help and sat down to create a list of qualities and qualifications he was looking for. In a city where everyone seems to know him, he was searching for someone unknown to him, or so he thought.

I am not quite sure when he realized that I had the qualifications that he was looking for. When he first approached me, I thought he was joking. (Those of you who know my Dad, know he can tell a good joke), and yet he was serious. He also had given plenty of thought to how it would affect his relationship with my current employer at the time. That mattered to him.

After much discussion, rules being laid down (even more important when working with family), Dad approached my employer with his idea and sought to make a plan that would make my exit easier. That was almost a year ago now, when I embarked on this life changing adventure. 

After the first few weeks of making a spot for me in his remodeled building, the work of learning the business started.

As time passed, I realized the hardest part for me was knowing how to address him in a business setting. Finally, I asked what he preferred and he answered, “Just call me, Fred.” “Just. Call. Me. Fred.”-Four of the hardest words to remember. He has always been, “Dad,”-my Dad and that will always be first and foremost to me. Luckily for me, I have a built in learning curve because if I am not talking loud enough, he doesn’t catch which name comes tumbling out of me on any one occasion. To be honest, I would prefer to call him, “Dad”.

In the time that I have started at Fred Kaping Realty, I have already learned so much, but here are my Top Ten Lessons Learned…so far:

1.      It is important to care about people and do what’s right by them.

2.      It is important to love and support the community you live in and give back in whatever way possible.

3.      It is important to shop local and give support to our local business owners.

4.      It is important to thank people and be aware of the good in everyone we come into contact with.

5.      “No”, doesn't necessarily mean, “No”, it just means you need to find the creative path to “Yes”!

6.      Humor cures almost every ailment and although I can’t tell a joke to save my life (true story), it is important to find a way to find humor in any situation.

7.      Every day is new and filled with the opportunity to learn and grow.

8.      The best way to communicate is to listen first and talk later.

9.      Truly find joy in what you are doing.

10.   Points 1, 4, 5 (lots of emphasis on 5), 6, 7, 8 and 9 are wonderful life lessons as well.

I am excited to have this opportunity to work for Dad as his Director of Marketing.

Feel free to stop in and see us at the office-a lot has changed over the past year. The one thing that you can count on never changing: when you see my Dad, just call him, Fred

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Today, Local History real estate Fred Kaping Fred Kaping Realty Michelle Kaping Johnson Real Estate Director of Marketing Beaver Dam Real Estate Kaping's Paint & Plus Ziemets Grocery Store Sharon Kaping Dianne Wendorf Nancy's Notions
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