Jim and Kate Manes
If you look back a couple of decades, it’s hard to imagine how Jim and Kate Manes would meet or make their home in Davenport, Nebraska.
But life’s twists and turns and one chance meeting all led to their tidy gray home across the street from the public school in Davenport - and their new roles as an insurance agent and Realtor® with Fortify Group.
Jim is a Missouri native, born in St. Louis. He grew up on the Lake of the Ozarks, where his parents owned a 5-cabin resort with a gas stock and bait shop. “I grew up on the lake,” Jim said. His family home was a stone’s throw from the water and he spent a LOT of time in boats - if not in the water then on land making repairs.
In most of his childhood memories, he’s on the water with his dad, fishing. Or playing horseshoes at sunset and enjoying the lake life.
After high school, it was natural to begin his career in the boating and power sports industry, working his way up from parts and service at a mom-and-pop shop to management roles with a large Missouri dealership.
Kate grew up in Geneva, where her father Lonnie Kennel, was a dentist on Main Street, Geneva for more than 30 years. After graduating from Geneva High School, Kate earned a business degree from Nebraska Wesleyan and then chose an unexpected path.
She moved to Paris, Texas, to train as a jeweler. “I always loved jewelry and its creative aspect,” she explained. She would work her way up as well, from jewelry repair to sales, appraisals, gemology, and finally, a designer for high-end independent jewelry stores.
So how did a guy who worked on boats in Missouri meet a woman who liked “working with expensive, shiny things” and lived in the northeast part of Texas?
Anything can happen on New Year’s Eve….
Two roads converge in a martini bar...
Technically, they met in a bar. But the story is much sweeter than that.
Kate took a job with a jewelry store in Camdenton, Mo., not far from Jim’s resort. When she walked into the bar (which Kate remembers as a martini bar but Jim is certain was of a steak-and-potatoes establishment, but either way…) on New Year’s Eve, Jim was singing on stage.
“He had a very good voice and he caught my eye,” she said. “But also, I needed a table and he had a table to himself.”
Kate walked up to him (because she is not shy) and said: “Do you mind if I sit here?”
Jim didn’t mind.
“Great,” she replied. “ This is my mom and dad and we’ll be joining you.”
So Jim, Kate, her father Lonnie, and mother, Marsha, spent New Year’s Eve 2002 together, listening to country music by a local band. Jim and Kate set up a real first date -- a solo one-- after that and were married in September of 2003.
They moved to Lee’s Summit, Mo., for better jobs and a good place to start their family. There, Jim took his first insurance role, becoming an adjuster for the non-profit trucking organization OOIDA (Owner-Operator Independent-Drivers Association). He was a physical damage claim adjuster for trucks and semis, reviewing and settling claims with truckers throughout the country.
By 2011, when a job opportunity arose for Jim in Davenport, the Maneses had a toddler and were weary of living in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
“The traffic drove me crazy. To this day I still don’t like driving in traffic,” Jim said. They also were searching for a sense of community. “Knowing your neighbors, not worrying if your kids play outside... things that you can do in a small town…” Kate explained.
The next chapter...
The young family moved to Davenport in 2011. Jim began selling crop insurance, while Kate stayed home with their son, Ben, then 18-months old. Daughter, Ellie, followed four years later.
Kate’s parents live down the block.
The sense of community fell into place. The Maneses met their neighbors (and most of the town.) “We can’t go anywhere in this area without running into people we know well now,” Jim said.
Jim’s name would soon appear on the local firemen and EMT rosters as well as the board of directors for the village and local church council.
He also picked up a whistle, helping coach junior high football for Bruning-Davenport-Shickley.
Kate began working for the Village of Davenport and served on the village’s Achievement Board and Foundation Board as well for a time. One more request from a community member landed her as treasurer of the local library board.
You might say they are fully vested now. They care about Davenport and its future.
“ For everyone -- from the people we sit with at church with, to wing night at RW’s to other parents at school, we want to see this community flourish,” Jim said.
Let’s try on one more hat…
Jim continually broadened his insurance career, becoming licensed in property and casualty, life and health and insurance, and annuities. In late 2020, a mutual acquaintance introduced him to Fortify Group owners Bart Brinkman and Joe Kamler. A few conversations later, they asked him to consider joining the Fortify Group team, and a couple of conversations after that, asked if Kate would consider working with Fortify Group as well.
(Fortify Realtor® and Broker Karla Jacobson had met Kate and thought she would be an ideal candidate to work with buyers and sellers in the Thayer County area.)
Both said yes.
While Kate’s offer came out of the blue, the idea didn’t. Kate’s mom is an interior designer and Kate had looked into the real estate business during her time at Lake of the Ozarks. It didn’t feel like the right time, though.
This time, the idea felt natural. “I ordered the book for my real estate class the week after I talked with Karla.” She earned her title of Realtor® a few months later.
Jim began working with Fortify Group to extend its insurance services to a broader area. Jim set up his office at the kitchen table, alongside Kate as she studied for her tests, with laptops, and cell phones on each side.
They remodeled their shop into Fortify Group offices and look forward to helping people through their new roles, as well as the chance to add another business to Davenport.
“We like the opportunity to bring a business to this community; keeping those things that draw people to a small town,” Kate said.
When they are not working or volunteering or attending school events, they are probably…
Kate: At the lake. My parents have a place in Minnesota and it’s my happy place. We are definitely lake people.
Jim: Bowhunting or fishing. “I fished every day growing up on the lake. I don’t fish as often now because I’ve turned my focus a bit more to hunting.” He is teaching Ben to hunt deer and turkey.
Something that people might be surprised to learn:
Jim: He is a hockey fan. A huge hockey fan, as the replica of the Stanley Cup Champion banner hanging next to his deer heads, can attest. When his family lived in St. Louis, his dad would either get tickets to the St. Louis Blues game or Jim would lay in his room listening to it on the radio. He still gets emotional when he thinks about the U.S. hockey team’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
And even more emotional when he recalls how the Blues won the Stanley Cup championship in 2019.
Kate: Likes to crochet, knit, and try new wines. She also is a fanatic for playing cards.