Kolpin’s story began in Kansas, when she was born in 1922 into a family that eventually included six children.
“My granddad taught all of these kids, even the girls, how to work and provide for themselves,” Petersen says, as well as an unexpected skill: “He taught them how to box.”
Kolpin, the second-oldest child, ultimately married a farmer, and to the union two sons were born. But after several years of troubled crops, a massive hailstorm ultimately convinced her then-husband that enough was enough.
“I remember my dad walked across the road where our field was and we went with him, and he stood over there and he cocked his hat back on the top of his head and he said, ‘Well, we’re going to town,’” Petersen recalls of that moment as a young child in the 1940s.
It was a drastic move for a farmer, Petersen says, but things were dire.
The move to town allowed Kolpin to get a job at a radio station as a script writer. She thought it might be an avenue to get some songs she wrote onto the airwaves — “She saw how it worked and that’s not how you do it,” Petersen says — but it gave way to something greater: A territory where she worked to sell advertising, an unusual job for a woman in 1949.
“She had a little portable Underwood typewriter and she kept it in her back seat,” Petersen says . “What she would do is go into a town and she’d size it up. She’d size up the different clients and so she’d hit the big ones first. She’d have contracts already filled out, and just the name needed to be added.
“She’d go in there and sell the deal to people in town. She’d come back and they say, ‘How’d you do that?’ She said: ‘Go and ask for the business. And if they’d say no, say why not?’ And she would force them to tell her why not.”
The method worked — and she worked her way through the ranks, ultimately leading to moves to Garden City and Dodge, to support her family as a single mother.
Growth in the industry
By the early 1960s, she met and married George Kolpin, an executive with CBS in New York City. The couple decided to purchase a radio station , and one that rose to the top of the list was KDMO AM in Carthage.
Unfortunately, the station was up for sale to another buyer and, out of desirable options, the Kolpins planned to move to the East Coast.
That all changed with a phone call, answered as Kolpin and Petersen stood among moving boxes.
“My mother and I were sitting eating a hamburger on the kitchen counter because all the furniture was packed up,” Petersen recalls. “George called. He said, ‘Take Ron … and drive to Carthage tonight. It’s five o’clock and it’ll take seven hours to drive from Dodge. She said, ‘Now?’ And he said, “Yes, the deal fell through. The financing didn’t happen for the guy that had the offer. And it fell through and we’re next in line.”
In 1962, the family purchased the radio station, moved to Carthage, and began growing the enterprise. Even after George Kolpin died in 1982, Kolpin didn’t stop her work. That same decade, she started the cable television service in Carthage and expanded her cable holdings to 27 communities in southwest Missouri.
Passions of historical preservation and philanthropy
Kolpin also gave her time and energy to community causes, even more so after her retirement.
She also invested great time and energy into the Carter Mansion.
The stately brick home was built in the 1880s by Dr. John Carter, one of the first physicians to live in Carthage after the Civil War. Known affectionately as the “Radio House” by those around Carthage, it was where KDMO was located when the couple purchased the radio station. After the station relocated, Kolpin decided to restore the home to its original glory.