The 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 who traveled to Milwaukee for medical treatment and were facing illness without the support of friends and family. 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, Kathy Vogel Kuettner was diagnosed in the spring of 1999 with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She underwent multiple rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from her oldest sister, Susan. She 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 thirty-nine years old.
Kathy was a person of kindness, generosity and true compassion. She had a wide and deep network of support during her illness, and often her hospital room was full of visitors. During her time in the hospital, she learned that many patients had few visitors to help support their journey. Her nurses also lamented the lack of a Milwaukee area hospital hospitality house to lodge and support those families. While there is the Ronald McDonald House, it only serves children. Before her death, Kathy expressed a wish to her family that they open a hospital hospitality house to serve patients of all ages.
Immediately after Kathy’s death, her parents, Judy and Dick Vogel, began working on Kathy’s House. Through fundraisers, donations and a year of tireless hard work, her family and friends opened this house to accommodate those seeking medical treatment and support in southeastern Wisconsin.
Kathy’s House, Inc. was certified as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization and opened its doors to patients and their caregivers on July 1, 2001 and has been fulfilling Kathy’s wish ever since.
Kathy’s House began as one person’s vision and a promise. Kathy Vogel Kuettner was a kind, generous woman who had great empathy for fellow patients who traveled to Milwaukee for complex medical treatment and faced illness without the support of family and friends. Her wish, which she shared with her family, was to provide assistance and comfort to patients and their families while receiving long-term care for a critical medical issue.
Following her death from lymphoma in 2000, Kathy’s father dedicated his life to a promise he made to his daughter to fulfill her vision. Seven dedicated people, all members of her family or people who knew Kathy and her wish, joined and turned one person’s vision into reality.
Dick Vogel and those seven devoted, single-minded people are the founders of Kathy’s House. Kathy Vogel Kuettner’s dream became a reality in July 2001, a year after her death. Since then, Kathy’s House has been like home for more than 16,000 patients and their family members.
The seven founding members, most of whom are still serving on Kathy’s House Board of Directors, are among the heroes who helped achieve one person’s vision to provide comfort and care that is so critically needed.
As is the case with most, if not all, of the founding board members, there’s one single degree of separation between Herb and Dick Vogel, Kathy Vogel Kuettner’s father. Dick and Herb shared a friendship forged in the 1980s when their families attended the same church. Through their friendship, Herb became acquainted with Kathy’s House and quickly took on the same commitment and dedication as Dick. That commitment has never wavered through Herb’s nearly two decades of service.
Beginning soon after Kathy’s House opened, Herb served on the board, on the board’s executive committee, and in the active capacity as director of operations, from which he retired in 2016.
Working at Kathy’s House as well as continuing to serve on the board gives Herb special insight into the attention and care guests and their families receive. The dedication of that staff gets special appreciation from Herb. He also holds in high esteem the thousands of hours volunteers donate to the needs of residents. “The volunteers treat everyone as family and I hold them and what they do in very high regard,” he says. To Herb, Kathy’s House means “dedicated people providing a valuable service.”
For Michael, the commitment to Kathy’s House began because of a business association. Michael was Dick Vogel’s personal attorney and he was all too aware of the heartbreak Dick suffered throughout his daughter’s long illness. Michael was also inspired by Dick Vogel’s resolve to fulfill his daughter’s vision for Kathy’s House.
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 helping them when help was needed most. The vision of Kathy’s House from the very beginning was to help people and that vision “remains as true today as it was when the doors first opened in 2001,” Michael says.
Dan started hearing 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. A founding member, Dan remained on the board until 2016.
Dan was the organizer and the person most closely associated with “Lobster Fest,” one of Kathy’s House important fundraising events. He served as vice-chairman of the board for nearly two decades.
Today, Dan remains steadfast in his support and is committed as always to Kathy’s House vision. “The mission of Kathy’s House is very important and I’m proud of my service and the service I was able to offer over the years.” Asked for a few words to describe Kathy’s house and the service it provides, Dan says, “help and dedication.”
Elaine Hoth honors Kathy Vogel Kuettner’s vision with her abiding commitment to Kathy’s House. For Elaine, it’s a family affair but much, much more. Elaine is the sister of Judy Vogel, Kathy’s mother. “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 first hand 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 serves by remaining active on the board and by helping with special events and donating items for the auction Kathy’s House sponsors periodically. “Comfort and support” are the words Elaine uses to describe the value Kathy’s House provides to guests and community.
Marty pushes back when you label him one of Kathy’s House seven founders. “Kathy’s House was already open, up and running when I joined the board in 2003. Technically don’t call me a founder.” But his association with Kathy’s House began before he joined the board. In body and spirit, Marty is definitely among the founders and keeper of Kathy Vogel Kuettner’s vision.
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 and evident pride when he talks about the service 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 motivates and inspires. His 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 since the beginning, has also remained involved in strategic planning, fundraising and fund development. Glen is among those spearheading the planning and fundraising to build a new, larger facility to welcome more guests. And that effort has been among his proudest achievements. But 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.”
Glen describes the value that Kathy’s House brings to patients and families by saying, “we care.”
If the late Dick Vogel could be considered the father of Kathy’s House, than his wife Judy is certainly the mothering influence that is evident to everyone who has worked or stayed at the guest residence.
At age 82, Judy’s dedication to her daughter’s vision is as fresh and vital as the day Kathy’s House opened in 2001. So her enjoyment in the opportunity to associate with members of the staff and volunteers and to get to know the guests. “One of the things I enjoy most,” she says, “is to get to talk to the people and hear their stories and get to know their families. It’s always so gratifying for me.”
Judy is the keeper of her daughter’s legacy and her husband’s vision. Each day she wears a badge of pride and glows in the knowledge so much has been accomplished and so many people have been helped since Kathy’s House opened its doors nearly two decades ago.