Foundation maintains one man’s generosity
By Ben Rodgers
Just more than one year after he passed away, the generosity of Chet Krause lives on and will continue to do so for some time.
Founded in 1987, the Krause Foundation can afford to give roughly $100,000 a year to numerous groups in and around Iola with the goal of improving the quality of life for everyone.
The foundation has recently supported local daycares, provided funds for training for the fire department, helped repair a school sign, donated to a school locker room project, donated to upgrade the baseball field, given to the American Legion, as well as provide $9,000 annually in scholarships.
“We think we are doing things the way he would want them to be done and support things in the way he would want them to be supported,” said Pat Klug, Krause’s niece and board member of the Krause Foundation.
The foundation board consists of Klug, Bruce Meagher, Mark Sether, Dale Bestul and Heather Hoyord.
The group had roughly five years in which Krause was heavily involved before he turned the operations and decisions over to the members.
“We feel that we were tutored along,” Klug said. “The decisions to begin with were all Chet’s, as far as where things went, but we were always in the loop as to why do this other than that.”
But that list of recent donations is small compared to his lifetime of generosity.
“Heaven knows there was probably an enormous amount of things that were never recorded,” Klug said.
It was his upbringing as one of six children and then as a World War II veteran that formed the man many remember. After the war, he went home and took care of his father, who was ill at the time, and later he took care of his aunts, Klug said.
“He had a family responsibility and it extended then, it became part of his personality to take care of things,” she said.
It just so happened that after his business success, Krause ended up taking care of an entire town.
“Almost any part in Iola, when you walk out the door, you will be able to view something he contributed to to make Iola a better place,” said Clifford Mishler, Krause’s long-time associate and best friend.
Krause was a self-made man and founded Krause Publications, which was based in Iola and became an empire for hobbyist magazines.
“We were in essence a small metropolitan daily newspaper and when I say we were small, we probably had presses running more than the Milwaukee Journal,” Mishler said.
But it wasn’t all roses for Krause Publications. In the early days after the collector coin market took a downturn the company was in trouble and almost didn’t make payroll, as the flagship publication was a coin collector magazine.
That’s when Krause sold some of his personal collection to make sure his employees would get paid.
He was there for most of it, including Krause’s biggest gift to Iola, the Iola Car Show.
In 1972, the precursor to the event as it is known today was started. Now the Iola Car Show draws more than 100,000 visitors to Iola and the rest of Waupaca County.
The event has a significant economic impact for the area.
It’s also an opportunity for local groups and organizations to work and raise funds.
While Krause was generous with donations, his philanthropy also instilled a work ethic in groups who needed help.
“If he was going to engage but not donate up front, that person would work as diligently as they could,” Mishler said.
Krause would often then make up for the shortcoming in funding.
That attitude made Krause a father figure for many in the village.
“I think he was that to a lot of people, including me because of the way he was,” Klug said. “He was willing to help you and go out of his way.”
He would often help families after disasters or hardships as well, she said.
With all of the donations to groups and people important to him, Krause never wanted recognition.
“Chet was the kind who would give money for anything that was worthy, and he didn’t even necessarily want his name on anything. He just wanted to help them out,” said Dave Lindsay, a decade’s long friend.
Lindsay knew Krause since they were half-grown youth, back when they both attended elementary school in Manawa.
“The biggest bulk of the time, he never got any credit and he didn’t want any,” Lindsay said. “He was just a very generous man and a gentleman who liked humanity.”
Krause also kept a down-home attitude. His office during retirement served as a gathering place for people to shoot the breeze and catch up on happenings.
“I usually got there in time for the coffee and the donuts, and there was usually a crowd of Iola people sitting in there, and they just visited,” Lindsay said. “He was one of the boys.”
Even though he was “Just Plain Chet,” as a book about him was titled, his legacy will live on due to the Krause Foundation.
“If you look around the community, there’s so many areas he touched,” said Sether, a foundation board member.
At his day job, Sether is the Waupaca County treasurer.
“Chet is going to be helping this community and this area for many, many years to come,” he said.
Krause passed away on June 25, 2016 of complications from congestive heart failure. He was 92.
“He’s a man that should be remembered for his goodness and dedication for the community he grew up in and loved and gave back to as long as he lived,” Klug said.