History of Kathy’s House
Kathy’s House is dedicated to the memory of Dick and Judy Vogel’s daughter, Kathy Vogel Kuettner, who died on July 4, 2000, after a yearlong battle with cancer. Kathy was a kind, generous woman who had great empathy for fellow patients facing serious illness without the support of family and friends as they traveled to Milwaukee for treatment. Her wish – to always make a difference and to help fellow patients – became a reality with the opening of Kathy’s House in July 2001.
A young wife and mother of three small daughters, Kathy Vogel Kuettner was diagnosed in the spring of 1999 with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from her oldest sister, Susan. Kathy was out of the hospital less than a month when the cancer returned. After fighting a year-long battle against this tenacious and rare form of cancer, Kathy passed away on July 4th, 2000, at 39 years old.
Kathy had a wide and deep network of support during her illness. Her hospital room was often full of visitors. As she battled this terminal illness surrounded by her daughters, husband, family and friends, Kathy worried about someone else – a young man down the hall. Like Kathy, he was a cancer inpatient at Froedtert Hospital, only he was dying alone because his family who lived out of town could not afford to be with him. Her nurses, at the time, also lamented the lack of a Milwaukee area hospital hospitality house to lodge and support these families. While there was the Ronald McDonald House, it only served children. Inspired by her wish to right this heartbreaking injustice, Kathy’s House was founded in July 2001 by her family and friends, certified as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Today, Kathy’s House is a loving home-away-from-home for out-of-town families of a loved one who is seriously ill, as well as patients who need to access life-saving treatments. Almost 90% of guests who stay at Kathy’s house have cancer or a loved one with cancer. Kathy’s House keeps families together during a medical crisis by providing lodging, transportation and emotional support to patients of all ages and their families.
While Kathy’s House began as one person’s vision, it quickly became a team effort. Following Kathy’s death in 2000, Kathy’s father, Dick Vogel, dedicated his life to fulfilling the promise he made to his daughter. With the support of his wife Judy, family and friends, Dick served as the Executive Director of Kathy’s House from 2001-2012 and then continued the Board of Directors until his death in 2014.
Seven dedicated people joined Dick Vogel’s efforts to help make Kathy’s wish a reality. Each of the additional founding members, listed below, are credited as the heroes who worked tirelessly alongside Dick Vogel to create Kathy’s House, a hospital hospitality house, which would provide assistance to patients of all ages and their families while they receive long-term care for critical, medical issues in the Milwaukee area. Many of these founders were either family members or close family friends of the Vogels.
Many who knew Herb Ayres and Dick Vogel would say there was only one small separation between them. Dick and Herb shared a friendship forged in the 1980’s when their families attended the same church. Through their friendship, Herb became acquainted with Kathy’s House and quickly took on a high level of commitment and dedication that has never wavered through his nearly two decades of service.
Beginning soon after Kathy’s House opened, Herb served on the Board of Directors, on the Board’s Executive Committee, and served in a staff position as the Director of Operations until his retirement in 2016.
Working at Kathy’s House as well as serving on the board gave Herb special insight into how guests and their families received attention and care. Herb always praised the staff’s dedication and held the countless volunteers who served thousands of hours in high esteem.
For Michael, the commitment to Kathy’s House began as a business association. Michael was the Vogel’s personal attorney and he was all too aware of the heartbreak Dick and Judy suffered throughout their daughter’s long illness. Michael was also inspired by Dick Vogel’s resolve to fulfill his daughter’s vision of helping others
Dick Vogel’s commitment influenced Michael’s determination to help. He provided much of the initial legal expertise, which included negotiating the original lease for Kathy’s House. His enthusiasm for the mission of Kathy’s House was about more than providing legal service. Michael also saw the impact Kathy’s House had on people by supporting them during a time of great need. The vision of Kathy’s House from the very beginning was to help people and that vision according to Michael, “remains as true today as it was when the doors first opened in 2001.”
Dan heard about Kathy’s House shortly after it opened from a member of his wife’s family, who was a friend of Dick Vogel. Talk turned into a tour of the newly opened Kathy’s House. Dan’s commitment came soon after the tour by serving on the board through 2016.
Dan was the organizer and the person most closely associated with “Lobster Fest,” an early and integral fundraising event at Kathy’s House. He served as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors for nearly two decades.
Dan remained steadfast in his support and commitment to Kathy’s House until his passing in 2021.
For Elaine, it’s a family affair but much, much more. Elaine is the sister of Judy Vogel and the aunt of Kathy. “I’ve stayed active on the board all these years because I wanted to make sure the mission of Kathy’s House continues and that patients and their families continue to receive the support and encouragement they so desperately need.”
Elaine knows firsthand the help and support the residence provides. While her young granddaughter was hospitalized at a children’s hospital in Denver, Elaine stayed at a nearby hotel to remain as close as she could to her granddaughter. “The fact that there was no guest residence nearby reinforced my already strong belief in the essential services Kathy’s House provides,” she said.
Elaine served on the board through 2015 and remains active with special events.
Marty pushes back when you label him one of the Kathy’s House original founders. “Kathy’s House was already open, up and running when I joined the board in 2003.” But his association with Kathy’s House began before he joined the Board. In body and spirit, Marty is definitely among the founding group.
Marty’s involvement with Kathy’s House is tightly entwined with his decades-long friendship with Dick Vogel. Marty and Dick met in the early 1960s when both were members of a Mequon-Thiensville newcomer’s club. The Vogels and Kraningers were also associated by coincidence – Marty’s wife Inge and Dick’s wife Judy graduated in the same class at Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School.
Marty speaks with genuine passion when he talks about the services Kathy’s House offers. “Without Kathy’s House, countless numbers of people near and far would go without life-saving medical care and treatment they so critically need. Connecting people with medical care they urgently need is something that happens every day at Kathy’s House.”
Glen Van Fossen
Along with the other founding members of Kathy’s House, Glen Van Fossen makes up the bedrock of support that allows Kathy’s House to fulfill its mission. Glen’s finest moments are those spent offering encouragement and support to the staff and volunteers who make it possible for Kathy’s House to continue offering their time to provide the comforts of home to patients and their families.
Glen, who has served as Board Chairman from 2001-2017, remains involved in strategic planning, fundraising and fund development. Glen is among those who spearheaded the planning and fundraising to build the new House. And that effort has been among his proudest achievements. He’s at his best and feeling most energized developing people. He’s self-effacing when he says, “I don’t know how to do a lot but I’m always confident I can find the right people to do the work that needs to be done.”
While the late Dick Vogel is considered the father of Kathy’s House, his wife Judy is certainly the mother as her influence is evident to everyone who has worked or stayed here.
Judy’s dedication to her daughter’s vision is as fresh and vital as the day Kathy’s House opened in 2001. “The things I enjoy most,” she says, “is to get to talk to the people, hear their stories, and get to know their families. It’s always so gratifying for me.”
Judy is the keeper of both her daughter and husband’s vision. She is proud of how much has been accomplished and how so many people have been helped since Kathy’s House opened its doors.