I am the longest-serving employee still working for the firm that Chet Krause founded. I arrived in 1978. Susie Melum followed a few weeks after me as a full-time hire.
It was appropriate then that she was the one who told me about Chet’s passing when I arrived at my desk on a Monday morning. I had been traveling when he died at the age of 92 on Saturday, June 25.
The longevity distinction means nothing except it provides both Susie and me a rich font of personal memories of a great man.
Working for Chet was not just a job. It was a calling. Employees weren’t just employees. We were like a family. He demonstrated this in many small ways over the years. He also had a way of making you feel as if you were the only one who could do the assigned task just as he wanted it done.
That wasn’t always the case. He let me know how much he hated a blue cover I had created for Coins Magazine many years ago. He liked a red cover. It is warm. Blue is cold. Didn’t I know that?
But Chet being Chet, he had let me make my own mistake and learn from it. He did not tie my hands beforehand.
Chet was full of anecdotes that he liked to tell. It almost made me feel like I was sitting with him at the dining room table as he worked on his first issue of Numismatic News, which had a cover date of Oct. 13, 1952.
He was a friend to the powerful, but more importantly, he was a friend to average collectors. After all, he was one of us. He never forgot his small-town origins. He never went beyond high school, but he was smart and a quick study. Those of us on staff who did have college degrees were just a little bit tainted. But there was always a twinkle in his eye. He hired the best advice he could. He valued his staff.
There were a few limits, but at what job wouldn’t there be? You didn’t ever recommend changing the name of Numismatic News, the founding product upon which the rest of Krause Publications was built. One fellow found his way out the door after that discussion.
I was privileged also to work with Chet on some of his community booster efforts. He was the same outside the office as in. He supported goals. He didn’t dictate them.
But he did have million dollar ideas, like the founding of the Iola, Wis., Old Car Show. He just went ahead and did it. It was good for his business. It proved to be a gold mine for the community. Over 50 volunteer groups provide labor at a show that attracts over 100,000 each year. It is a non-profit community undertaking now.
I, as president of the Iola Lions Club, saw first hand what the $50,000 or so earned by its members annually working at the show could do. My first assignment at the show was hauling trash. Everything that followed seemed like heaven to me.
But if Chet wasn’t too good to do things, why should I be? For that matter, why should anybody in Iola be? He taught us by example. I hope we students don’t ever let him down.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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