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Bill Butler: Ralph Drees, a model for the present and future leadership of Northern Kentucky

Ralph Drees was, is, and will forever be a model for both the present and future Leadership of Northern Kentucky.

We lament, and yet we celebrate the good to great life of one of our best fellow human beings who has passed on to the rewards of the next life.

Ralph Drees, a homebuilder, a friend, a loving family man, and a good citizen.

Ralph Drees exemplified integrity, good will, commitment, dedication, and purpose in all that he undertook.

He served as a model for all of us who are called to leadership and service — and indeed he did serve in a vast measure of ways, including a huge personal time commitment as the County Judge Executive. In that role, as in every role, in his big national business, in small groups, he manifested the man, the model, the steady movement forward in whatever he may have been involved. One always knew his motives were rooted in good deeds.

I first met Ralph when I first quit my employer Al Lubrecht and opened the door to what is now Corporex. I was young, 22, and full of idealism, and struggling financially from one week to another.

I approached Mr. Drees, 9 years my senior he must have been, say age 32 or 33 at the time. It was on one of his job sites, introduced myself, and told him about my business quest — and he gave me a purchase order to deliver three dozen or so pieces of plywood for the homes he was building. That is a small order by any standard today, but for me at the time it was big.

I ran back to my little office, took off the coat and tie, jumped into my truck and drove to U S Plywood Company located at the time on Wiehe road in Cincinnati. I picked up the plywood from the wholesaler and delivered it immediately to his job. Best service in town!

Here is the point: He and his firm bought plywood in bulk from established suppliers; but his heart, his heart reached out as it always did to help a young man with idealism in his eye. I never forgot.

My dad was a plumbing contractor who did work for Ralph’s dad Theodore. As a kid I remember meeting Theodore while with my dad visiting one of the homes he was building. Theodore had to get out of the ditch where he was manually waterproofing the foundation wall. He had a big smile, and a great attitude. That is all I remember at say age 12 or so. But it occurs to me that Ralph was as his dad in many ways. Hard worker, good will, positive attitude, outreaching. What more to say.

Our “OneNKY Community” as we now refer to it (formerly Northern Kentucky) and the potential we envision ahead, would not be possible were it not for the contributions and leadership of Ralph Drees.

And as Ralph carried his father’s dreams forward, so does the family he leaves behind.

His work to build a nationwide home builder business goes on, and the leadership that the Drees Homes enterprise delivers will be one big part of his legacy.

Bill Butler

I know he did not work or live for the purpose of building a legacy; but with all such humble men, it happens.

His is a model for us of how to work together, to bridge, to team, to serve, to make a difference.

Bill Butler is founder of Corporex and lives in Covington.

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  1. Pat Raverty says:

    Well said. RIP Ralph

  2. Joanne Weckenbrock says:

    Thank you Bill! A great memorial tribute to Mr.Drees! You left us all with a great picture of what business should be about! It is no wonder his business is such a great success! May he Rest In Peace!

  3. jay s hissett says:

    Bill, Thank you for providing this perspective. Greatly appreciated.

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