Herald JournalHerald Journal, Jan. 19, 2004

Fran Kappel selected KDUZ 'Hometown Hero'

By Ryan Gueningsman

Fran Kappel of Winsted was selected as KDUZ radio's "Hometown Hero" in January for his work with children and volunteering in other ways in the community.

"It was a complete surprise to me," Kappel said of being selected. "I didn't know what to say at first."

At the end of the year, there is a banquet for all of the persons who have been selected as a "Hometown Hero," he added.

"I like it and enjoy it," he said. "As the youngsters come, you get used to them and they get used to you. You get to see them grow up pretty fast."

A labor of love

It is a daily routine, weather permitting, for Kappel.

Every mid-morning of the week, Kappel bundles up sometimes as few as one or two children, or as many as six or seven children, and goes to the post office to pick up the mail.

The trail of children behind Kappel may change faces as years go by, but it is a routine that Kappel has fallen into ­ and one that he enjoys dearly.

Kappel is beginning his seventh year helping his wife Carol with her day care operations. Carol has been doing day care in Winsted for more than 30 years.

Prior to that, Fran worked for 32 years at Advance Machine Company in Plymouth.

"I get back about once a year (to Advance)," he said. "You miss the people you used to work with, and you can see the changes made from year to year."

Fran has lived in Winsted his entire life, and attended Holy Trinity Schools through the eighth grade.

"At that time, a lot of kids didn't go to high school," he said. "I wish I would have, though, because I like sports and I didn't get into any of that."

Pursuing his love of sports, Fran began working with the local baseball team at age 13, promoting the team, taking tickets, and doing "this and that," he said. "That's how I got started in baseball, and, of course I liked to play at home, but after I got out of the Army, we played a little baseball."

Before World War II, a lot of players were salaried, and from out of town. The team disbanded after the 1953 season, and when Fran returned home from serving in the Army in 1954, there was no baseball team.

"In 1956, two other guys and myself started up a team and it's been going ever since," he said.

Fran was elected into the Minnesota Baseball Amateur Hall of Fame in 1989 for his involvement with Winsted baseball.

Fran has also been actively involved with the Holy Trinity Catholic Order of Foresters, serving as the organization's youth director for the past four years. He also has given blood frequently, and is working on his 15th gallon.

Also keeping Fran busy several times a month is the Meals on Wheels program in Winsted, in which he has been involved as long as the program has been in existence, delivering meals to home-bound persons.

The Kappels have four children, Connie (Sather), Terre (Krause), Dan, and Dennis, and several grandchildren.

A typical day starts for Fran at about 6:30 a.m., and children are at the Kappel's home until sometimes as long as 5:15 p.m.

"It gets to be 10 to 12 hour days sometimes," Fran said. "Carol puts in more hours than I do. She gets up earlier in the morning to start cooking and get things ready."

There is also a noon meal, snacks during the afternoon, in addition to play time and nap time. Fran also walks the children to and from school, and takes them on walks uptown.

"There's plenty of action here, that's for sure," he said.

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