Do you remember when FOCUS sold FOCUS shirts, hats, and sweatshirt? Do you remember when FOCUS printed a directory complete with phone numbers and addresses? Do you remember the year FOCUS began accepting men into the organization?
Fred and Ethel Kallsen remember a lot about FOCUS. This delightful couple know more about FOCUS than most of our present members. Reminiscing about the past is something dear to the heart of both Fred and Ethel,. But their real story began back in the 1950's. Have you ever heard of Valparaiso University? Probably not, because it is close to a more familiar college named the University of Norte Dame Valparaiso University is a small Lutheran college in Valparaiso, Indiana where Fred Kallsen first met Ethel Traut, and no they did not get married during their college years.
Fred grew up in Chicago, while Ethel grew up in, ready for this one, Archbold, Ohio. Archbold is still there, population 4,346 according to the 2010 census. Ethel was the youngest of Joe Traut's three daughters who grew up on their family farm. Along with her sisters and parents, 5,000 turkeys resided on this farm and hatching turkey eggs was their business, even though they had cows, chickens and sheep as well. Needless to say, Ethel and her sisters worked seven days a week, night and day on the farm.
Joe Traut sponsored the local girl's softball team, and at this point in Ethel's telling this writer of her story, she got up and went upstairs and brought down her high school baseball jersey she wore, as well as the jersey she wore on her dad's sponsored team. (see photo). Ethel also played basketball in high school as well as softball. She was quite an athlete When asked what position she played, her response was, "Every position but catcher and pitcher."
After graduating from college Fred began employment with a tool company, selling cutting tools and accessories to machine shops, as well as to industrial companies who had machine shops within their facilities. Ethel recalls living in a house with five other women, while beginning her career as an elementary school teacher. It was at an alumni reunion that the couple renewed their friendship, and began dating.
When Fred proposed to Ethel, he had two conditions for the marriage to be consummated, first, she had to agree to marry him, and second she had to be willing to relocate to California. Obviously she agreed to both his terms. After being married for one year, the Kallsens packed up their 1958 Pontiac, and with a U-Haul trailer being towed behind the car, drove to California. During his college days Fred skipped a semester of school, and volunteered for a six month hitch in the Marine Corps followed by 5 and a half year obligation in the Marine Corps Reserve. After his 6 months of duty in the Marine Corps he went back to Valparaiso University to finish his degree program.
Ethel spent 15 years as a substitute teacher in San Fernando Valley, while Fred began his employment in California as a tool salesman, and then began his 36 year career as a stockbroker. In 1975 they bought their first house in the Coronado Cays. Fred continued being a stockbroker, just changing companies to a different agency. Ethel in the meantime, trekked back and forth from the Coronado Cays to the Escondido school district to teach youngsters in elementary school.
The Kallsens have a daughter and a son, who have generated five grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and two more great-grandchildren due in May of 2021.
Ethel Kallsen has been a distinguished member of FOCUS since 1988. FOCUS was started in April of 1982. She was president in 1991,1992, and 2013. She was also one of four presidents in 2015. That was the year the presidency of FOCUS was shared by Leslie Granger, Sharyn Blongiewicz, Suzanne Manuel, and Ethel Kallsen. Each individual served for a three month period, and then Lorna Perez-Caster took the reins of president in 2016.
Fred is the one who instigated the acceptance of men into the FOCUS charitable 501c Corporation. It was day in 2009 Fred asked Ethel, "Why can't men belong to FOCUS?" After a review of the bylaws of FOCUS, the lady members raised their hands, and gave the affirmation that men can legally be members. It did not take long for the spouses of these ladies to join the charitable organization. .
Fred has been a major fundraiser, a shopper, and can often be seen as a bartender at FOCUS functions. Both Fred and Ethel have been active at the annual rummage sale, boutique, annual fundraising dinners, events, and many can recall seeing Fred sporting his beloved FOCUS shirt with the FOCUS logo embroidered on it, as well as his FOCUS hat. And Ethel still has her FOCUS sweatshirt, pure white with no spots, or sign of wear. Fred plays golf once a week in a foursome that comprises three other FOCUS members, Bob Blongiewicz, John Lepore, and Walt Becker, Needless to say, their lives revolve around FOCUS.
Ethel remembers taking a group of girls who were about to graduate from high school to various San Diego stores to select prom dresses, paid for by FOCUS. "These girls were chosen by San Diego social workers because of their family's low financial income, and given the opportunity to dress up and attend their high school prom," Ethel recalled. While attending one of the proms, and witnessing the joy each girl cherished being able to attend the prom, in a beautiful chosen dress, supplemented by a carnation on each of their wrists, brought great satisfaction and pleasure to Ethel. Ethel paused for a minute while telling this story, and recalled how shy and bashful one of the girls was during the whole ordeal of obtaining the dress and wearing it to the prom--a true Cinderella story in itself.
Both Fred and Ethel cherish FOCUS because to them it is the comraderie of meeting friends at meetings, as well as welcoming new members. The work that FOCUS does is dear to their hearts. "And remember, that no one in FOCUS is paid for what they do."
We are blessed to have Fred and Ethel Kallsen, still active to this day, as part of FOCUS, and to have shared their story.