By Michele F. Mihaljevich
COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. – Gene Klingaman, a long-time fixture with Schrader Real Estate and Auction Co., wasn’t expecting to hear his name called from the stage during the National Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame induction ceremony in late July.
“I’ve gone to many of those meetings in the past,” he explained. “You’re sitting there enjoying your meal. Then the guy got up and started speaking, and I thought, ‘who are they talking about?’ Then I realized, they’re talking about me. Once I realized he was talking about me, I got emotional.”
Klingaman’s Hall of Fame honor was presented during the association’s conference and show in San Diego. He almost missed the conference due to some burns he suffered in an accident.
“If I hadn’t had to teach a class, I probably wouldn’t have gone,” he stated. “No one said anything to me (in advance) about the award. It was hard for me to talk (after the honor was announced). I got choked up.”
The induction ceremony included nearly 40 friends and clients from across the country who went to the conference to help honor Klingaman.
“They came from all over – Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana,” he said. “I didn’t realize they were there. You think about them taking the time to fly out there, to stay in a hotel. It was also neat that all these people, who had heard about each other from me, had a chance to meet each other. That was a real blessing.”
Klingaman, 75, currently Schrader’s executive vice president, has been with the company 48 years. While he has an auctioneer’s license, he’s never been a bid caller. He has, however, sold real estate in more than 40 states and managed thousands of auctions.
Auction management begins well before the auction itself, Klingaman noted. “Some people may think the auctioneer goes to the auction, says some numbers and sells the property. But you first have to determine the market value of the property. Is it a local, regional or national market? You start building a portfolio for that property. You have to consider how you would divide the property (into tracts). You want to increase the amount of buyers so you go around and talk to any potential buyers. There’s a ton of work that has to be done before an auction. You have to look into zoning and have survey work done. You do all of this work so that when sales day comes, it looks like a well-oiled machine.”
R.D. Schrader, president of the company, said in a press release that Klingaman played a key role as one of the inventors of the multi-tract marketing approach that has been adopted for farmland across the country. “Gene has never rested on his laurels,” Schrader said. “He tackles each new challenge with enthusiasm, attending to hundreds of details to lead to a successful auction.”
Klingaman joined Schrader’s as a go-fer for Denzil Schrader, the company’s founder. “For the first six-eight months I was there, Denzil and I shared an office. Denzil had a slight heart problem and was told he should take a daily nap. So for those first few months, when he would take a nap, I would too. Then they gave me my own office, so no more naps. We had a great time together.”
His role grew as the company’s reach pushed beyond northeast Indiana and parts of Ohio. “At that time, there were no cell phones,” Klingaman recalled. “We had two-way radios that just reached a certain distance. I used to know where all the phone booths were in the area.”
Klingaman has a Bachelor of Science degree in forestry and a master’s in agronomy from Purdue University. Being hired by Schrader’s allowed him to return home.
“I always wanted to come back to Whitley County, to my home community,” he said. “We live on the farm I grew up on.”
Klingaman said he occasionally thinks about retiring, but added, “I enjoy meeting new people. The agriculture community is a great community. I just feel blessed to do what I’m doing for as long as I’ve done it. I’ve really been blessed by the Lord, blessed to be in an industry that I love.”