April 27, 1936 – April 27, 2021
Frank Kampen has already hit the jackpot in one of the most unlikely places: a customer’s cap.
In 1974, Frank, an appliance repair technician, was on a service call for a customer whose dryer was not heating properly, forcing him to check the ceiling ventilation. There, stuck in the joist, he found $ 30,000 – almost $ 160,000 in today’s dollars – in forgotten cash.
What to do next was not even a question.
As the client was not at home at the time, he returned home later that evening to report the hidden money. The client, who had forgotten where he had hidden it, was delighted.
It wasn’t the first or the last time Frank went above and beyond for a client. He regularly drove an elderly client from Toronto to see her husband, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and lived in a house in Guelph. Despite the demands of work and young children, Frank continued to drive the client until her husband died.
Those who knew the founder and former CEO of Kampen Appliance Service know that these are just two of the many times Frank has shown his hallmark honesty, kindness and friendship, Frank’s son Andrew Kampen said, current President and CEO of Kampen Appliance Service.
Although he has been retired for over 20 years, Frank’s reputation has survived thanks to his loyal clientele, and his principles guide the next two generations who run the now Woodbridge-based business.
Born in 1936, Frank was the fifth of eight children from Uiltje and Willemke (née Dijkstra) Kampen. The close-knit family, who had a grocery store in Holland, immigrated to Canada in 1951 and settled in Chatham, Ontario, when Frank was 15. While Uiltje worked in a leather factory, Willemke stayed at home with the children.
Frank finished 10th grade in Holland, but did not return to school after moving to Canada, despite having a natural aptitude for math, his son Anthony Kampen said.
In May 1955, Frank moved to Toronto to seek better work opportunities. At 19, he met his first wife, Diane Bouwkamp. They were married on August 1, 1959 at Bethel Canadian Reformed Church in Thornhill. Children soon followed: Theresa in 1960; André, 1961; Fred, 1963; Irene, 1968; and Anthony, 1971. As a father, Frank was both strict and religious, loving and kind, Andrew said.
Frank has worked with household appliances his entire life and was employed as a repair technician for Sarnia Appliance Company in 1955 and Doyle Electric in 1962, with a stint as a delivery driver for Caplan Young Ltd. in 1958. In 1967, Frank made the decision to go into business for himself.
“He wanted more independence and stability to allow him to support his growing family,” said Andrew. “Frank realized that there was a market for reliable and honest repairs. He decided to change the way the service was performed.
Kampen Appliance Service opened in September 1968. As the only employee, Frank used a remote answering service that took calls during the day, which he picked up the next day.
The company’s first two locations were modest, located in the family home on Woodward Avenue in Thornhill, and later on Regent Street in Richmond Hill. Much to Frank’s delight, Andrew joined the company in 1980, followed by his second son Fred.
“The family worked very well together. There has never been a crossword in all these years, ”said Andrew. “He was a great mentor. He practiced what he preached and taught me to do the same. Always do the right thing. “
A few years after Diane died in 1982, Frank met Jenny de Leeuw while attending church in British Columbia. “From the moment Frank saw the beautiful Jenny – who was a nurse – he knew they would be together,” said his grandson, Brandon Kampen, the company’s chief executive. The couple married in February 1985 and Jenny joined the business.
Brandon remembers his Opa as loving, happy, cheerful and kind, who was delighted that his grandchildren combed his hair with the comb he always kept in his breast pocket.
His grandson Trevor Kampen recalls witnessing a moment of joy on a family camping trip to Grundy Lake, where Frank found a kid’s bike and took it around the property. “It was very nice to see Opa happy and her heart full,” said Trevor.
It was only after Frank retired in 2000 that Andrew and Fred, now at the helm, transferred the company to the Concord line of business. The 1,700 square foot building had a front office and a modest warehouse, but the business continued to grow. Over the years, Kampen Appliance Service has twice modernized buildings in Vaughan before moving to its current location on Caster Avenue in Woodbridge.
Over the years, Frank has never deviated from who he is and from the vision he set for the business, Andrew said.
“All of his clients knew they could trust him,” said Fred. “Many would book a service call, tell him where the house key was, and leave a signed check on the counter.”
These customers often became friends. “He had clients who were booked at lunchtime so he could sit down for a nice lunch and a chat,” Brandon said.
Her ultimate goal was to leave a legacy for her children, Andrew said. And he succeeded – 53 years after the boy with a 10th grade education started a business, Kampen Appliance Service has over 30 employees, most of whom have been there for many years. As Jim Macdonald, service technician and company veteran for 20 years, said: “He gave people a sense of belonging.
Frank died of cancer on April 27, his 85th birthday, at the Hill House Hospice in Richmond Hill, with Jenny by his side. His children were with him until the early evening.
Frank is survived by his wife; brothers Ebbel, Martin, Rudy, Hank and Leo and their spouses; her children Theresa, Andrew, Fred, Irene and Anthony, and their spouses; 22 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.
Frank will be remembered as humble, hardworking, honest, caring, loyal and a loyal father, husband and grandfather, Brandon said. “He always put others before himself. “