Remembering Pella’s Avid Preservationist; Stu Kuyper, Oct. 14, 1921- July 5, 1980

By, Bruce Boertje 

Stu Kuyper, 1921-1980. Pella's greatest proponent.

Stu Kuyper, age 58, passed away forty years ago, on July 5, 1980. As a community Pella still reels from his loss.

The Historic Pella Trust traditionally focuses on Pella’s buildings and sites, but today we want to honor one of the individuals who was instrumental both in preserving Pella’s heritage and helping to forge the community into what it is today.

Stu was an extremely gifted man, who came from an extraordinary family. His talents knew no bounds: he was a hugely successful businessman, inventor, benefactor and philanthropist, sportsman, musician, artist, husband and father. He was also a preservationist laser-focused on preserving Pella’s Dutch heritage and promoting it as widely as possible.

Stu was born on October 14, 1921 to Pete and Lucille Kuyper and was welcomed by his older sister Joan. Before Stu was four years Pete and Lucille purchased a fledgling Des Moines company named Rolscreen and moved it to Pella. Today, Rolscreen is known as Pella Corp. and has grown into a billion-dollar a year company known around the country for manufacturing world-class windows and doors.

Stu attended Pella Community schools and then went on to receive an engineering degree from Iowa State University in 1943. While attending college Stu was a member of the ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) and following graduation served three years in the armed forces, stationed at Fort Belvoir, VA.

Following his military service Stu returned to Pella and worked under his father at Rolscreen. A decade earlier, as a teenager, Stu had begun working in the factory. His first job was unloading incoming raw lumber from railroad boxcars; a hot, back-breaking job. Stu eventually became Vice-President of Manufacturing for the company, accumulating many patents for his creations along the way – not the least of which was one for folding doors – a one-time staple of the business.

In 1976 Stu became President of Pella Corp., a position he held until his death four years later. The family business grew to employ thousands of people in and around Pella. The company eventually expanded to include facilities in multiple states. Stu was also founding director of Pella B.V., a Rolscreen factory in Panningen, Holland.

The first two generations of the Kuyper family: Pete, Joan and Stu, were deeply involved in both the growth and preservation of the community of Pella. Stu was perhaps the most involved in promoting and preserving Pella’s heritage. He was a creative, hands-on type of person. He personally designed many of the floats used in Tulip Time parades.

He was instrumental in introducing and helping fund the concept of Dutch fronts for downtown business buildings. He had a vision that entailed turning part of downtown Franklin Street into a canal. His modified vision later became a reality when the Molengracht was constructed in the 1990s. The existence of Pella’s railroad Depot is another landmark that exists thanks to Stu.

When Casey’s came to Pella, Stu personally designed the Dutch front for their building; it was the first Casey’s store not to have a corporate-branded exterior. Stu and his wife, Eunice, along with Bob and Doretha Klein, rescued a Pella landmark building by renovating it and opening the nationally-recognized Strawtown Restaurant and Inn on West Washington Street. For years Eunice personally oversaw the restaurant. Later, when Casey’s began selling pizza, it was based on Eunice’s recipe suggestions.

One of the largest local landmarks that owes its existence to Stu and his sister, Joan, is the Pella Community Center – constructed as Pella’s first high school. In the late 1970s the building was slated for demolition. The man who was hired to remove it (ironically named Wrecker Hall) came to Stu and said that the building was too good to be demolished.

Stu and Joan then agreed to donate the funds to have the building renovated, becoming the Pella Community Center. The building’s auditorium still bears Joan’s name as a tribute to the contributions she and the Kuyper family have made to the community.

Stu was extensively involved in business, civic, religious and government affairs. He was a member of the Board of Governors for Iowa State University, was a consistory member of the 2nd Reformed Church in Pella, served as president of the Iowa Manufacturers Association, chairman of the Marion County Republicans, Chairman of the Red Rock Lake Association, member of the founding board of the Pella Golf and Country Club, and a director of both the Central National Bank and Iowa Bancshares Corporation in Des Moines. He served on the Pella Community Development committee and the Chamber of Commerce. He was a member of the Iowa College Foundation Board of Directors and the Executive Committee of Central College’s fundraising drive “Bridge To Tomorrow”.

In his spare time Stu was an avid traveler, boater, golfer and shooter. As is abundantly apparent, Stu packed several lifetime’s worth of achievement into his brief 58 years. There have been few Pella citizens that have contributed so much to both the community and to preserving and promoting Pella’s heritage.

With the passing of Stu, Pella’s heritage lost a valuable patron, the likes of which has yet to be seen. One can only wonder what Pella would be like if Stu had been granted a few more decades to further see his dreams of Pella’s preservation completed.

Next time you think of the 4th of July, try to remember what Pella lost on the 5th of July

All photos of Stu courtesy of Eunice Kuyper Folkerts – who remains a wonderful supporter of Pella’s heritage and (was a longtime board member of) the Historic Pella Trust

Stu during his military service days
Stu was the founding director of Pella NV - a Rolscreen (now known as Pella Corp) factory located in Panningen, Holland.
Stu in front of Pella's first high school - a building he later saved from the wrecking ball. It is now the Community Center.
A candid photo of Stu sitting at the soda fountain counter of the Ideal Pharmacy, now the site of Smokey Row. Photo taken by Sara Caldwell.
Stu, his wife Eunice, and Bob and Doretha Klein saved this historic building, originally constructed in the 1850s and renovated it into the Strawtown Restaurant and Inn. The restaurant, seen in these before and after photos, was nationally recognized for its fare. Eunice oversaw the restaurant for years. The building is now on the National Register of Historic Places
Stu at the dedication of Whitebreast Campground. Stu was president of the Red Rock Lake Association, not to mention his association with many other organizations.
Stu and his mother, Lucille
Stu and his sister Joan. No other duo has done so much to promote and preserve Pella's heritage as these two. Both are sorely missed.
Pella's railroad depot, originally constructed in 1906, was saved thanks to Stu's efforts and love of trains. It is on the National Register of Historic Places
Stu and his sister, Joan, were instrumental in preserving this historic building from the wrecking ball. It was originally constructed as Pella's first high school. It is now the Pella Community Center and is on the National Register of Historic Places
Stu showing his creative side" he made the horse as a Halloween costume for his daughter and friend - and also designed his western-motif costume.
One of Stu's doodles - this one made on a napkin at a Japanese restaurant.
When Casey's came to Pella, Stu personally designed this Dutch front for their building. It was the first non-Casey's branded exterior. This photo was taken immediately prior to the building's demolition in 2018 Click on link to join Historic Pella Trust

Your membership to Historic Pella Trust will help to protect the historic buildings in Pella, Iowa from being replaced with new developments. Stu and his family have been strong supporters of historic preservation. Please help HPT continue to protect these valuable historic resources so that future generations can enjoy them.