By Liz Premo
Hampton Union, November 15, 2011
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — Fred Schaake Sr.'s long-abiding affection for this seaside community, and the personal investment he made at the beach for decades, has earned him a special honor.
Organizers of the Experience Hampton Christmas Parade have asked Schaake to serve as grand marshal of the Saturday, Dec. 3 event.
Schaake is perhaps best known as an owner of the Hampton Beach Casino property. But his stature in the town runs much deeper than that, and parade organizers John Nyhan and Desi Lanio wanted to show Schaake how much they appreciate him, so they approached Schaake's daughter Kara a couple of weeks ago.
Kara then went to her father, asking him, "How would you like to be grand marshal of the parade?"
There was no doubt about his answer.
"His response was a huge smile," Kara said. "Then he said he would have to practice (his) wave. He's feeling honored."
The parade is expected to have 40 to 50 participating entries from floats to bands to marching units. Nyhan said he anticipates Fred Sr. and his wife, Elaine, will travel in a vehicle fronted by a grand marshal banner.
Walking alongside will be family members, including Kara and her married siblings Keri Hepburn, Kristin McKinnon and Fred Jr. and the Schaakes' grandchildren.
Kara said her mother, who married Fred Sr. in 1960 and celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary last month, is "very proud to see him honored. He's her sunshine."
Fred Schaake was born in 1924 and raised in Lawrence, Mass. However, his love for Hampton Beach began at a very early age, as his family owned summer property on Bradford Avenue. He grew up working at the Casino during the family's summertimes at the beach.
At the height of World War II, when he was 18 years old, Schaake enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the European Theater. In the post-war years, he returned to civilian life and bought a small restaurant at Hampton Beach. He owned it for one summer, selling it the following year.
In the 1950s and '60s, Schaake established an expansive career in real estate development.
"He began building summer cottages on Seabrook Beach, then he started doing some developing in Hampton," Kara said. "He ended up building a lot of houses in Hampton along the way."
The properties include homes "on Bradstreet (Road), and a lot of stuff on Kings Highway," said Kara, including "the family home in Glen Hill. Three of the four of us (siblings) still live there" in that neighborhood; the fourth lives in Hampton, too.
"Dad's love of Hampton is obvious and most likely contagious, as is evidenced by the fact that all four of his children still live here as well!" Keri said.
While running his North Shore Realty and Yankee Trader Real Estate offices, a major portion of Fred Schaake's life was devoted to development along Hampton's coastline, including "anything and everything around Kennedy's Corner" at North Beach, Kara said.
In 1976, Schaake bought the Hampton Beach Casino property, along with business partners Sam Waterhouse, Paul and Norman Grandmaison, James Goodwin Sr. and James Goodwin Jr.
Back then, as president of the Hampton Beach Casino Inc., Schaake's vision for the property did not include turning it into year-round condominiums for an easy profit.
"This is the industry of the area. Going for the quick buck would have a devastating effect on the economy," was his reasoning, as reflected on the Web site of the Casino Ballroom, the historic music venue that still draws big-name stars every year. "It's the only commercial beach in New Hampshire; everything else is residential. To take that parcel of six acres and not do something enterprising for the whole region — it would be wrong."
As the years went by the property underwent a redesign and extensive renovations were made. Schaake and his business partners purchased "the waterslide block," took down the nearby Ocean House Hotel, and brought in a seasonal McDonald's restaurant.
But it's the Casino that "has been his primary focus," Kara said. "That's his baby."
As owner of the Casino (which Fred Jr. and Kristin now operate), the elder Schaake has enjoyed "a tremendous history of people being with him for years," said Kara, noting that many business owners invested "20, 30, 40 years" as tenants in the complex.
Even in recent years, Schaake has put off any offers to buy the Casino complex out of respect for those who run their businesses in its confines.
"He would say, 'No, my tenants — that's how they make their living," said Kara, adding that her father would never demand that tenants be held to a lease agreement. "He is a man of his word, that's for sure."
He has also been right on top of the recent redevelopment along Ocean Boulevard. Nyhan called Fred Sr. "a strong founding father of the new Hampton Beach," involved "early on in the concept stage," and taking part in public hearings.
"He was there, voicing his views," said Nyhan, marveling at how the octogenarian Schaake was "still being very vocal and very detailed in terms of his views."
As construction progressed, Fred Schaake would often travel along the boulevard in his motorized wheelchair, said Nyhan, surveying the work that was being done and talking to people he met along the way.
Indeed, his people connections have been the foundation of his personal success in the roles of family man and member of his community, both of which Kara called "his life's passion."
"Dad always put family first," Keri said. "As busy as he was, and as many things as he had going on, we were not often even aware (how busy). You could call him at any time and he would drop what he was doing to pick you up or give you a ride somewhere. He always did so with a smile on his face."
"He was a fun father — a fun-loving happy guy, always an optimist," Kara said, reminiscing about trips to Florida in the family station wagon and moving to Kings Highway every summer, spending each day playing in the ocean.
"He had four kids fairly late in life (but) it was all about enjoying us," Kara said. "We were always included in everything."
He was also dedicated to helping others, such as inviting "a houseful" of displaced North Beach residents to the family home in Glen Hill during the Blizzard of 1978.
"He has always been the go-to guy — a community advisor. He has always had his finger on the pulse of what was going on," Kara said. "He's a behind-the-scenes-donation kind of (person) who very generously filled needs as he saw them. He has helped a lot of people, but in a very quiet way."
Nyhan agreed, observing, "He didn't want to get a lot of attention, but if you needed something — a donation, a service — very quietly he'd do these things."
Looking back on the many years Fred Schaake Sr. has devoted to Hampton, family and friends are looking forward to seeing him represent the town as parade grand marshal.
"He wanted to invest in this community, and he made that investment," Nyhan said. "He absolutely loves this town."