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Emil Popke, Jr. Collection

Identifier: RH-A-3626

Scope and Contents

This collection is composed of a number of documents detailing Emil Popke’s various ventures and miscellaneous school work from Emil Popke and his son, Jeff Popke. Also in the collection is a large number of letters written to different members of the Popke family. Additionally, there are photos ranging from Emil Popke’s High School senior photo to little league shots of Emil’s children Jeff and Jon.

Material includes information detailing Emil Popke's work with WYYYY (AM 1470), Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Emil's various business ventures including Dutch Treat Bakery, Wayside Lanes bowling alley, Colony Room nightclub, and a Superbook coupon franchise in Indiana and Michigan. Also included are family correspondence, photographs of the Popke family, and information on Emil's various community activities.


  • Creation: 1940-1999


Biographical / Historical

Emil ‘Buddy’ Popke was born June 23, 1925 in Danbury, Connecticut, to Emil Julius Sr. and Florence Popke. Emil had four older sisters, Beatrice, Marie, Arlene, and Ruth. After Emil attained his diploma from Danbury High School he attended Dartmouth College where he earned his degree in geology, graduating in 1949. During Emil’s college years he met his first wife, Joan Stephens, shortly served with the Naval Air Corps, and was the general manager of the campus radio station, which spurred the beginning of a 30-year career in broadcasting.

Emil and Joan moved to Michigan in 1951 and had two children, Donna and Bruce Popke. In 1953 Emil moved to Kalamazoo. In the early 1960s Emil became the General Manager of the WKMI radio station. While working there Emil met his second wife, Nancy Gruizenga. The two got married on May 22, 1964. Emil and Nancy had two sons, Jeff and Jon Popke. In 1963 Mr. Popke acquired the WYYY radio station, AM 1470. Under Emil’s management the radio station became the highest rated rock station in Kalamazoo. Thanks to the success of the radio station, Emil was able to involve himself in other business ventures. Emil had owned the Dutch Treat Bakery, Wayside Lanes bowling alley, and the Colony Night room club. In the 1980s Emil get out of the radio business and started a Superbook coupon franchise. Emil and Nancy ran the successful franchise together for 15 years, having locations in more than half a dozen cities across Indiana and Michigan. Nancy Popke died in 2007 of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

During his time in Kalamazoo Emil was active within the community, specifically with the Kiwanis Club. Emil served as the President of the Portage Kiwanis from 1978-1980, and as Lt. Governor of Division 13 of the Michigan District in the 1990-1991. In his twilight years, Emil, and his sister Ruth, inspired by the Kalamazoo Promise, established the Popke Family Otsego Scholarship Fund. Which was created to give graduates of Otsego High School extra funding if they needed, although the students must have at least a 2.75 gpa, and maintain through college. Also they must be full-time students attending a “degree-granting institution” with preference toward applicant in financial need. Emil Popke died in his home on May 24, 2012.


5 boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Description

This collection amounts to 5 cubic feet, and is composed of various paperwork documenting Emil Popke’s various interests including Pelmanism, Real Estate, and the Kiwanis Club. All of which are in great condition. Other paperwork includes various high school and university school work for both Emil and his son Jeff Popke.

Also in the collection a large amount letters addressed to various members of the Popke family, such as Emil, his sisters Ruth and Vivian, his mother Florence, and his son Jeff. The letters are clipped to the envelope they were sent in. Nearly all of the letters are in near pristine condition, and are fully legible.

Additionally, there is a collection of photos, some were pulled from an already assembled photo album. Others were still in the sleeves from when you get photos developed. Some of the older photos showed some ageing, but overall the items are well maintained.

Emil Popke Finding Aid
Matthew Kerr
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490