A posthumous tribute to town's Renaissance man
By Ken Esten Cooke— Having been here less than two years, there are few local gentlemen who have moved on to the afterlife that I wish I had gotten to know, or at least know better. My predecessor in this job, Art Kowert, was, by any measure, a heck of a community newspaper man. I would have loved to have bent his ear about how this town came to make such great strides.
Hans Hannemann was another, and by all accounts, had his hand in the development of so much of what makes Fredericksburg successful.
Another was Kenn Knopp. Though I got to meet Kenn and had a few conversations with him, I only got to know him as his health deteriorated. Still, the mark he made on this community and beyond was substantial.
Kenn was a journalist who became a leading salesman for a sports clothing company. He authored several books on Fredericksburg and its history. And this is a town that cherishes its history, so those who help record it should be held in special stead.
I had no idea that Kenn initiated the “bed and breakfast” trend with the town’s first such establishment on Cora Street. Who would have imagined that decades later, there would be hundreds of these establishments in Gillespie County, each catering to returning guests and helping build the successful tourism trade that so blesses this area.
I also had zero idea about a love of Kenn’s that he picked up in Europe — the Volkssport movement. After visiting his aunt and uncle in Rome, he learned that a regular walking routine could help him keep off excess pounds that tend to find us when we hit our forties. When he returned to the U.S., he wrote to the IVV president in Germany (the International Federation of Popular Sports) about his desire to put a walk in Fredericksburg as part of the U.S. bicentennial celebration. He placed an advertisement in this paper that a Volkssport festival was scheduled and the Volkssportverein Friedrichsburg was born in 1976. Kenn then went on to help form the U.S. governing body for the sport, and was key in instituting its charter.
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