Early challenges influenced Wellington businessman Lou Kinzli

The Beatles said it best, but Lou Kinzli, broker associate with Re/Max Alliance in Wellington, has lived a life that included a very, very long and winding road.

Kinzli turned three on October 17, 1944, the day when he and his sister, then five, fled their birthplace in Romania with their grandparents. The Russian Army’s advance was only eight miles from their little German farm village in Romania. As they made their way towards Germany with retreating German troop convoys, Lou was separated during an allied air attack near the German-Austrian border. During the attack a German soldier picked little Lou up and ran with him for cover in the nearby woods. When he awoke, with Lou still in his arms, the convoy was gone. He dropped Lou off in the nearest town in Bavaria. There he was given to a refugee family who were living in an attic. After a time he was discovered by a woman whose husband was still in a prisoner of war camp. She became his foster mother.

That summer of 1945, while still lost, Lou was hospitalized for 30 days with a severe case of the encephalitis. Doctors gave up hope, but his foster mother bicycled every day to be with him and prayed for a miracle. Her prayers were answered. Lou was discovered by authorities at the end of 1945 and reunited with his mother, who had fled with a younger brother separately. Kinzli had become so attached to his foster mother that returning to his own family was difficult. The family then entered Germany and a short time after when his foster parents came for a visit (his foster father had been released from prison camp by this time) Kinzli finagled a visit to their home for a couple of weeks. The visit turned into five years and to this day Kinzli holds great affection for the family that cared for him during those hard times.

“Until I had children of my own, I didn’t understand how hard it must have been for my parents when I showed a preference for my foster family,” Kinzli said.

When his birth family began making plans to immigrate to America in 1950, Kinzli had to leave his foster family and joined them. In May, 1956, the family arrived in Detroit and settled into a slum area without jobs and not knowing any English. Kinzli wanted nothing more than to return to Germany.

“Within a year things began to improve,” he said. His mother, who had been a kindergarten teacher in Germany, cleaned houses in America. His dad, a tailor in his homeland, learned to be an electrician. “No matter how hard the times were, “Kinzli said, “we never took a dime from the government or anyone else.”

In 1960 Lou turned 18 in Caracas, Venezuela where he was sent to help his uncle and learn the lithography business. He returned to Detroit in 1961 and worked as a plastic fabricator.
By 1964 Lou became a citizen and joined the Marine Corps and specialized in amphibious reconnaissance. He also qualified as a member of the Marine Corps National Rifle Team. “That spirit de corps along with the semper fi was good for me,” Lou says.

In 1966 Kinzli was on the road, this time ending up in Denver where before long he became the youngest foreman in the drilling department at Redfield Gunsight Company. He joined the Marine Reserves so he could continue to participate as a member of the National Rifle team.

None of these experiences would appear on the surface to lead Kinzli into a career as an outstanding and successful real estate broker associate, first in Denver and later in Northern Colorado. He had no college experience or specific real estate training. What he did have was a vision and a willingness to risk, no doubt born out of his experience as an immigrant.

“When I realized that all I had to do was turn 18 in order to buy property, it became a turning point for me,” Kinzli said. Before I moved to Denver I bought five acres in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan for $2,000. I had saved $200 and I put that money down, promising to pay the remainder over time”.

Three years later, when he was living in Denver, a buyer came along and paid Kinzli $5,000 for his land. He took the money and bought 30 acres near Central City, convinced that it was a viable recreation property.

“I love selling real estate,” Kinzli said. However, his career in the business has not always been smooth sailing. In the early 1970s he invested in Stagecoach, a Steamboat Springs development that led to disaster. By that time he was married and had two daughters. His marriage fell apart along with his finances, but he wasn’t down for long. By 1974 he and Linda, now his wife of 41 years, had married and four years later, his business had taken a turn for the better. He and Linda each have two daughters by their first marriages and a daughter of their own, Kareen Kinzli Larsen, a partner in their business.

Before long Kinzli grew tired of life in the big city and decided he wanted his kids to grow up in the country. Linda went along, despite some early doubts. By 1980, the family had moved to Fort Collins and bought a home on five acres. Kinzli spent 10 years working in real estate in Fort Collins, with the Van Schaack Agency, and later formed his own firm, Kinzli & Company.

By 1989, Kinzli had decided that Fort Collins wasn’t rural enough and purchased 160 acres with an old farmhouse in Waverly, where he raises and sells hay and cattle and where he and Linda live to this day. He commuted to his business in Fort Collins until he “saw an opportunity” in Wellington, bought property on the main street of town and decided to “go for broke” and build an upscale office for his real estate business.

Despite the early naysayers, Kinzli has thrived, though he admits to three rough years in Wellington early on. Linda, and daughter Kareen, have had a major role in the success of the business according to Kinzli. A man who likes to venture out where not many want to go and take risks, Kinzli said, “I shoot and talk straight. My customers trust me and that is of utmost importance to me.” I’ve embraced America. The opportunities are endless.”

Now, 73, Kinzli said there are those in his family that think he should retire. It doesn’t look likely.

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