Richard Koster Inducted 2002 - Class of 1941
In 1948, Richard Koster had to make a choice, which would affect the rest of his life. Should he pursue his dream of a career in art or take a secure job with The Kroger Company? He chose Kroger. Upon reviewing his illustrious forty years with Kroger, two words come to mind: CREATIVE GENIUS. Ironically, these same words would also perfectly describe a successful artist, the career not chosen. Read on to see how Dick managed to succeed in both business and art.
Dick Koster attended Lagrange Elementary and grew up on Locust Street, between Cherry and Bush Streets. "The population was ethnic ...Greek and Arabic."
Dick's time at Woodward was shared with special friends Chuck McFarland, George Jaschke, Leo Dressel, Jake Przybysz and Helen Schinler. He participated in three sports, starring in football, basketball, and baseball. He lettered in each sport three times, and was captain of both the football and basketball teams. He made the All-City Football Team in 1940 and received the Woodward
Michigan Plaque in 1941. The Michigan Plaque recognized outstanding achievement in both athletics and academics. Dick was also a member of the German Club, Senior HiY and was Sports Editor of the Tattler his senior year. His favorite memory of Woodward was the Senior Prom. He doesn't provide the details as to why. We'll have to ask him about that!
Dick's favorite teachers included Annee Wetterman, "a great German teacher", and coaches Hanham, Taylor and Robie. "Homer Hanham was a great leader. He turned boys into men and set an excellent example. He taught me to be ethical, honest, and a vigorous fighter, persevering in whatever I do in life. Leo Robie was an excellent teacher and coach. Jack Taylor called me 'Ace' and made me believe in myself."
After graduating from Woodward, Dick played football at Denison University for two years until World War II broke out. He left school and enlisted in the Marine Corps. There, he spent three years in the Pacific Theatre of War. After leaving the Marines, Dick spent 1 1/2 years "logging redwoods and playing poker in Northern California". He also took classes at the Toledo Museum of Art before embarking on his career with Kroger, which lasted forty years. Dick started in management training programs, and worked as a Store Manager for ten years at five different Toledo locations - Perrysburg, Broadway and South, East Broadway, Miracle Mile and Swayne Field. He gradually moved up the corporate ladder, serving in such positions as Advertising Manager and Zone Manager. In 1960, Dick became Merchandising Manager in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was later named President of the Kansas City, Chicago, and Market Basket divisions of Kroger. Dick returned to the Kroger Company headquarters in Cincinnati, in 1975, to head up marketing and private label as a Corporate and Senior Vice President. In 1982, he was promoted to Corporate Executive Vice President, responsible for private label, manufacturing (27 plants) and corporate marketing and merchandising. This was the third highest position in The Kroger Company.
Feeling that he had accomplished all his goals, Dick retired from Kroger in 1989. Billboards in Cincinnati bore his picture and the Kroger logo, with the message: "40 Years of Creative Leadership …. Thanks Dick". Dick had become known as an innovator in his industry. He was credited with developing and installing a number of consumer-oriented specialty departments in Kroger stores, including floral shops, fresh salad bars, cosmetics and fragrance departments, in store seafood counters, in-store bakeries, in-store gourmet dinners, and full-service delicatessens. He was also credited with devising an aggressive and exciting merchandising format, and striking an effective balance between lower-priced private store brands (the Cost Cutter Kroger Brand), and national name brands with higher consumer demand. "Dick Koster's impact goes well beyond the substantial mark he has made within The Kroger Company," said Kroger's Chairman of the Board Lyle Everingham. "His ideas - and his ability to put those ideas to work in the retail setting - have fundamentally changed the way consumers shop. I believe his influence as a merchandising leader will be felt for many years to come. Dick Koster will always be a winner!"
Dick downplayed all the compliments that came his way. He cites his management dealings with Kroger employees, sometimes called "Koster's Raiders", as his proudest accomplishment. "The thing I've always relied on are the outstanding, talented people who worked with me on projects. My style of management is management by participation of all the people you work with. I have a management style that is more a counselor and teacher-type. I let people help in making the decisions. The checkers and cashiers are where all the ideas come from. We just test them and then spread them."
Dick speaks proudly of his family. His first wife, Rosalie, is deceased. They had two children, Mark and John. They are both married. Mark has two sons, Markus and Josh. John has two daughters, Sara and Elizabeth, and one son, John. Dick is now married to Sue Koster. She has one son, Ryan, whom they have adopted. Dick's personal life has always been full. "I have been a dedicated and loving father and grandfather. I try to demonstrate the significance of love and kindness to my family. Let your life and works reflect the soul of your creator, Almighty God."
Dick has not slowed down since his retirement. He and his wife have traveled around the world, and have enjoyed visiting Europe, the Holy Land, the Greek Islands, Rome, and The Vatican. They've seen Rhodes, the Acropolis of Athens, the Great Pyramids, and the Sphinx of Egypt. Dick has also continued his life-long hobby of sculpting and painting. "I love the creative process." Dick has completed more than fifty sculptures in wood, stone, bronze and steel, along with many paintings and drawings. "A church in Kentucky recently accepted a wooden sculpture I created, 'Christ, the Good Shepherd,' for the front portico above their entrance. I was delighted." Visit Dick's website at www.KosterGallery.com which displays pictures of his sculptures.
Dick has also contributed to the fight against hunger. He is proud of his role in developing the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen in Cincinnati, in 1987. "Feeding the hungry has been an objective of mine for some time now. The community kitchen is still in operation and going strong." The Kroger Company has also participated in this effort. In 2001, Dick was inducted into the Toledo City Athletic League Hall of Fame.
Dick was "extremely happy and very pleased" when notified of his selection as a WHS Hall of Famer. Few, if any, are more deserving of the honor.
Congratulations, Dick! The next time we "go Krogering," we'll think of you.