Several generations of Augusta residents will remember Cletus Kappelmann as a devoted family man, dedicated businessman, and a community-minded Augustan.
Cletus, retired longtime pharmacist and owner of Cooper Drug, passed away at the age of 83, on Monday, June 4, following a brief illness.
Few people have given so much for their community and did so in a humble and focused manner.
As a young child, he came to Butler County during the Dust Bowl years. He attended school in Gordon and Augusta, graduating from Augusta High School in 1947. He went on to the University of Kansas and graduated in 1952. He first worked at a drugstore in Beloit, Kan., and later at pharmacies in Wichita and Augusta.
After working awhile for John Cooper, who had owned Cooper Drug since 1922, Cletus purchased the downtown business in 1956 .
He had a thriving pharmacy and a busy diner in the back of the building, but investing in his community was important, and he was always a visionary when it came to expansion and improvement. He even opened a drive-through pharmacy at State and 7th St.
He was no stranger to life's adversities. He and wife Phyllis endured the death of their first child, Craig, a toddler. The couple went on to enjoy and cherish four more children, Brock, Brett, Todd, and Kara, and after Phyllis' death in 1995, Cletus became the anchor for the family.
The Kappelmann kids flourished and excelled in academics and sports - high school and college. Each are successful and second oldest, Brett, followed in his father's footsteps and became a pharmacist.
Brett worked beside his dad and in 2005, when Cletus was 75, Brett purchased the store. Along with Brett and the staff, the customers enjoyed the fact that Cletus continued to come to the store. As recently as a few weeks ago, the 83 year-old could be found sitting behind the pharmacy counter ready to help customers picking up orders. He never failed to smile and say something nice to everyone.
Tom Knudson, owner of Strickler's Shoes since 1978, will miss his friend, "He was a well respected businessman and neighbor. I'll miss him dearly. He was always so friendly and positive. Now Cooper Drug is carrying on with his son in the same way."
Another longtime downtown business owner, Paula Pressnell of Brick Street Flower Company remembers going to Cooper Drug as a child, "I feel we've lost the last of old Augusta. He was such a big part of our community and a pillar of downtown business. I enjoyed seeing him sit behind the counter. He was always so pleasant. He's going to be missed."
Mayor Kristey Williams, an Augusta native, said, "Cletus meant so much to so many in our community. His friendly smile, kind counsel and warm heart will be greatly missed. I am thankful for the legacy he has left Augusta through his business and family."
Page 2 of 2 - Brett is now left to continue his father's work and love for his community. He shared his thoughts yesterday, "Dad was the world to me. Besides being just Dad, he was my friend, coach, supporter, confidant, counselor, comic relief, and role model. To my boys he was just Grandpa Clete, who they loved so much. He is who I strive to become one day and because of him, I will never cease trying. I will never quit thanking the Lord for putting him in my life and to be able to work right beside him the last years of his life. He loved God, his family, and his friends, in that order. He also loved his pharmacy customers who were also his friends, for there was no difference to him. He touched so many lives as a result. He blessed me and my family in as many ways as prescriptions he filled at Cooper Drug over his long career. I will miss him and he will always remain close to me in my heart."
Rosary will be at 7 p.m. this evening, and Mass 10 a.m. Friday, both at St. James Catholic Church. Burial will follow at Elmwood Cemetery.