Generations: A success story, Frazee’s Dave Jopp says his childhood mentor changed his life
Later in life, Jopp said he realized that having a mentor “might have taught me a few core values – don’t judge people, a good work and play ethic, and if you start something, finish it before moving on.”
Editor's Note: The following originally appeared as the cover story of the Detroit Lakes Tribune's Generations magazine, which was included as a free insert in the March 27, 2022 issue of the Tribune. Read the magazine in its entirety HERE online.
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Dave Jopp knows first-hand how nice it can be to have an adult mentor when you’re a kid growing up in a tough situation.
Jopp is the weekday morning talent on KRCQ Radio (where he goes by Dave Lee) and is a longtime rhythm guitarist and singer with the popular Fat Cats band.
He and his wife, Aleisa, have raised four children together and lived in Frazee for the past 22 years, where he has served on the city council and as vice mayor.
Jopp, 57, leads a busy, involved life, but he went through a rough spell after his parents divorced when he was young and growing up in Hutchinson, Minn. That was in 1968, and divorce was pretty much unheard of at that time in small town Minnesota, he says.
Both his parents worked at 3M, and after the divorce his dad left the family and his mom got very sick. He lived with his grandparents while she spent a month recovering at the Mayo Clinic. She never went back to 3M, and Jopp went from middle class to poor overnight.
“I was 8 or 9 years old, living with my mom, when I met my Big Brother,” he recalls.
The Big Brother youth mentorship program in Hutchinson was sponsored by the Optimist Club, and Jopp’s Big Brother was John Miller, the local State Farm Insurance agent.
“He was a very prominent insurance man in town,” Jopp says.
Jopp and his mom lived in an apartment building dubbed “Divorce Court” because a number of divorced families lived there.
“He would pick me up from Divorce Court and take me to the most prominent housing development in Hutchinson – Shady Ridge,” Jopp says.“He had a sauna and a gym with a basketball court and racquetball court in the basement.”
Miller and his wife were raising two sons and a daughter at the time, and they all welcomed Jopp into their home.
“They were very, very good,” Jopp says. “When I was with his family, I was treated like one of the kids. It’s amazing, the generosity.”
He spent two or three weekends a month with the family, depending on the time of year, helping with yard work, learning to fish at their lake cabin, and learning to golf, since the home was on a golf course.
Miller had his pilot’s license, and Jopp remembers flying with the family to Grand Rapids, and being allowed to sit up front in the cockpit to help “fly” the plane.
Jopp was learning Judo at the time, and there was a martial arts mat in the basement, too. “I ‘taught’ him Judo – a kid flipping a grown man, and he taught me how to play racquetball,” he says.
Later in life, Jopp realized that having a mentor “might have taught me a few core values – don’t judge people, a good work and play ethic, and if you start something, finish it before moving on.”
Also, he said, “my mentor instilled in me a desire to get involved in the community over the years. I’ve served as president of the Nisswa Jaycees, a volunteer firefighter in Frazee, and also served two terms on the Frazee City Council, and one term as vice-mayor here in Frazee.”
Jopp spent a lot of time with his Big Brother over the span of five or six years; less as he got into high school and got involved in activities there.
He met his wife, Aleisa, in high school.
“We were both involved in concert choir, sixth hour,” he says with a smile. They graduated in 1982.
Jopp went to college for a year and then joined the Army: “All my buddies from high school were in the Army, the Guard or the Marines,” he says.
A hitch at that time was three years active duty and three years in the reserves, he says. He specialized in combat mobile communications.
“I regret not doing 20 years (in the Army),” he says, adding that the pension would have been nice.
But he took his honorable discharge after one hitch, grew his hair out, joined a rock band and never looked back. He learned his broadcasting skills at the Brown Institute in the Twin Cities.
He’s worked at KRCQ Radio in Detroit Lakes for 22 years, and he and Aleisa own the Chic Shed Junque Boutique in Frazee, which she manages.
Mentorship, he says, “is a great thing. If it’s a good fit, it’s a great thing.”