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Moments In Time: Kay Freitag
Kay Freitag (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONTICELLO - When Kay Freitag's daughter gave her a book called "Conversations with My Mother," it offered space for her to write. She found herself drawn to it often, detailing the memories, moments and stories of her life.

Eventually, she was adding pages.

She likes to tell the tales of days gone by. And after years of community involvement, an entrepreneurial spirit, strong dedication to Monticello and paving the way for women in her line of work, she has plenty to share.

"You sometimes don't realize some things in life until they're in the past," she said.

Freitag was raised on a dairy farm outside of Monticello with three siblings. She said she had a wonderful upbringing.

"My parents taught me one major thing in life and that was that I didn't want to milk cows for the rest of it," she said with a laugh.

It was Freitag's job to walk the herd of about 65 cattle each day to the barn for milking; they had to cross County C while her brother and mother stopped passing traffic. She was involved in all of the chores, including feeding calves, bailing hay and milking cows.

She laughs telling the story of her father having to purchase machinery only after she left home and often teased him about what it took to replace her.

"I loved being on the farm," Freitag said. "I don't think I appreciated it then like I do now."

She often spent her days with her brother, riding their bicycles into Monticello to frequent one of the only swimming pools in the county. They would leave in the morning to swim, return home for chores and then head back in until dark. The concrete-bottomed pool had no filter system; it flooded when it stormed and was drained every Sunday and refilled.

"Every other Monday the water was too cold to swim," she said.

Although they weren't in town often, if the family finished bailing hay early enough, they would make the trek to the annual county fair. Freitag took spending money she earned by selling sweet corn for 25 cents per baker's dozen.

She said some of her best memories are simply being with family, sharing daily meals together and talking often.

Freitag attended Monticello Elementary School and by age 7 started piano lessons. Although she never stuck with formal lessons, she continued to play. The self-taught music lover said she comes from a musical background from her mother's side.

In high school, Freitag was a cheerleader, was in forensics and continued with music. She went to state a few times for Solo & Ensemble and played the clarinet. She said her involvement likely stemmed from a desire to avoid as many evening chores as possible.

The 1972 graduate of Monticello High School attended the Blackhawk Vocational School in Janesville with two friends for a secretarial role. When they returned, Freitag landed a job working at the Swiss Colony Data Center in the accounting department.

"I enjoyed it," she said. "I never thought of myself as a numbers person. My least favorite subjects were math and economics."

She was married then, and her daughter was born; Freitag stayed home with her for a while. She then began accounting work at a lumber and supply business in Monticello. When the company was purchased, Freitag worked for the Monticello Messenger in a similar role and helped them start a billing system and incorporate circulation.

Later on, Freitag returned to Swiss Colony. Just before the seasonal job ended, she received a call from someone asking her to be the office manager for a crop insurance company. She said it was the first time she ever used a computer but enjoyed the work that crossed over three states and brought a fun challenge.

"I've done a lot - I just haven't gone very far," she said with a laugh. She has lived in and built different homes within a few miles of each other her entire life.

When the crop insurance company relocated, it wasn't long before Rural Insurance called in 1989 asking if Freitag was interested in becoming an agent. She said she felt she had nothing to lose and went for it. By 1991, she was ready to open an office of her own.

A few years later, she went through a divorce and came to a fork in the road. She said she turned to God, asking for direction. She feels she got it.

The following day, she was asked by the CEO of the Bank of Monticello if she would work there as a financial advisor in 1994. She said she didn't know much about the career - but with help, she made it her mission to learn.

Not only was Freitag doing well, but she brought a new dynamic selling crop insurance through the bank because of her background, something they hadn't done before. She was there for 16 years.

"The bank was good to me, and I loved the people," Freitag said.

As things changed, Freitag said it was a personal decision to consider branching out on her own again. She was remarried and said with support, they purchased 50 percent interest in the building she's currently on Main Street in Monticello and took the plunge to open her own business, Freitag Financial Services.

"Many times, I've wondered what I was thinking," Freitag said.

Several people came to her, and she said she has a deep appreciation for those who have stayed in business with her for so long.

"I help people plan for their future," Freitag said. "I ask a lot of questions - I ask about goals, objectives, and put a plan in place to fit their best needs."

Freitag was named Associate of the Year by the Legacy Advisor Network in 2016 and was the first woman to earn the honor. She said being female in a career once dominated by males has been tough at times but also might have given her an upper hand.

People find Freitag relatable and easy to talk to - she said she's been tested plenty - once forced to walk through a cow pasture before a farmer would speak with her.

Through the years, Freitag has been heavily involved in Monticello.

She and her husband, Dan, are active at their church, Washington Reformation, and Freitag served as the consistory president in the 1990s as the second woman to ever fill the post. In the past, Freitag has taught Sunday school, served on several other committees and filled in as pastor.

She also volunteers for Family Promise and has volunteered at the Green County Food Pantry. She supports the Monroe Arts Center and helps whenever she can.

She is active in the Chamber of Commerce, as well as when it was previously known as the Monticello Business & Professional Association. Freitag has served on almost every committee and as president. She said she's watched Monticello go through the ups and downs all small towns face - and is proud at everything the groups have tried and accomplished through the years.

She is also part of the Montesian Gardens off of Wisconsin 69 near the community park in Monticello, something she started with her mother, and feels it is a special place in town. She enjoys gardening and has six flower beds at her home. She said she often was with her mother in her flower gardens growing up, and it instilled a love for flowers in her that will always be there.

"I don't want the gardens to go away," Freitag said. "I think they're a great asset to Monticello."

The Community Club has a special place for Freitag, since her father once served as the group's president. He was part of the club when Lake Montesian was first made, and she's proud of all that's been done through the group since then.

"I can't imagine me giving it up," she said. "I love the history of Monticello. I was born here, raised here and I'll probably die here."

She has served on the parade committee since the 1980s. Freitag is in her 30th year organizing the popular annual talent show for the group, held on the Friday night of homecoming. She began while performing with Mary Stenbroten, who helped her organize it until a few years ago. Freitag also still performs and sings there. She plays piano at events when requested.

When Freitag takes time to relax, she said she enjoys traveling with her husband. They often go to where they have meetings set up but have enjoyed other trips like an Alaskan cruise and visits to Hawaii and New Orleans, to name a few. She enjoys spending time with her parents, Tom and Ann Saunders, and with her children and grandchildren. She's proud to have the third generation of her family graduating from Monticello High School.

"My kids and grandkids are a big joy in my life," she said. "I'm blessed to have such wonderful family support."

Freitag enjoys quotes, and on her desk offers up a few of her favorites to anyone sitting across from her. She said she enjoys the book "The Dash" and does her best to follow the philosophy of making the "dash," or the time between the date of birth and the date of death, really count.

One of the quotes she shares is from Freitag herself: "The best made plans were made to be changed."