Bert Behnke
2019 Internal Vice President, Chamber Board of Directors

My wife, Cindy, and I are Frankfort residents and own Behnke Photographers, which my parents established in 1956. Our studio is at 100 Kansas Street in the heart of historic downtown Frankfort.

Cindy and I are M
aster Photographers. Our love of portrait photography brought us together and continues to drive us to create unique, high quality photography for clients all over the world.

This past year, I decided it was time to get back involved in the Frankfort Chamber. Growing up in and around Frankfort all my life, and since moving into the historic district, I knew I wanted to again be active in shaping our community and our business atmosphere. Since being Chamber president in 1987 (yes I was 12!), most of my volunteer time was spent in my professional association and running a non-profit. But as I settled into downtown, it was a natural to step back into a leadership position here at home.

The Frankfort Chamber has been a part of our business since I watched my parents and other volunteers form it way back when I was a kid. I feel fortunate to be able to still get involved and help the current board in making the Frankfort business community the best it can be.

My professional background includes numerous awards in salon print competitions as well as serving professional associations. I have taught or lectured on photography all across the USA and North America as well as in Europe, South America and Asia. I am past president of the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), the Associated Professional Photographers of Illinois (APPI), the World Council of Professional Photographers (WCPP), and the Frankfort Chamber of Commerce. I also was the founder of PPA Charities and currently serve as its executive director as well as a member of the World Photographic Cup organizing committee.

I have been awarded the Master of Photography, Photographic Craftsman and Honorary Master of Photography degrees from PPA as well as the National Award from his state affiliate. I was honored as Portrait Photographer of the Year from the International Photographic Council, a non-profit branch of the United Nations. I am a PPA Affiliated Judge and an Honorary Fellow of APP of Illinois.

Most recently, I was one of the 35 mentors for the popular AfterDark series of hands-on training conferences held throughout the United States as well as Sandy Puc's Hands-On Tours.

5-Minute Q & A
Tell us three things most people don’t know about you.
1. I have traveled to and photo-graphed people on 5 of the 7 continents.
2. I'm a huge White Sox fan.
3. I was president of the world’s largest photographic association.
What does true leadership mean to you?
 Being a team player and making the people around you better.
What would you do (for a career) if you weren’t doing this?
I would run a non-profit helping children all over the world.
Tell us a little bit about your family.
I grew up in the area and am second generation photographer. My wife Cindy is also a photographer and my business partner. My son Al lives in Austin,Texas and also does photography and marketing and is the singer in Spectral Sea, an alt-rock band. My daughter Morgan is a realtor in Gilbert, AZ and she and her husband Jeff will be giving us our first grandchild in June!
Where would you like to travel to? 
I have been fortunate to travel to many places with my work and family. I still want to see Iceland, Scotland and New Zealand. But if I could, I would live part-time in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy!

Sam Schoeler
2019 Fall Fest Artisan Chair

I am fond of saying I was born in the middle of NO Where in capitol letters. People think I’m being funny, but it is very close to the truth. My family has lived in a remote valley along the Penobscot River in Maine for 11 generations. My forebears came there to harvest lumber from the dense forests that still cover most of the state. It’s not so remote now, of course, but it’s still mostly trees. When I was old enough to leave home, I had many odd jobs, married Homewood native Charles Schoeler, and had a child, Heather.

Given my family’s obsession with everything to do with lumber, I guess it’s not surprising that I gravitated to “the trades” for employment. By the 80s, I worked as a purchasing agent for McNulty Bros.—a much respected commercial contracting/supplier in Chicago for many years. A tropical lumber I’d never heard of came my way through my position, but the firm wasn’t interested in taking a chance on it and turned down the offer. It was the beginning of the deck craze, I was bored and the new tropical lumber fired my imagination, so I proposed to my husband that I should take on the line myself. Thus Greenheart Midwest was born. In less than a year, Chuck joined me. He did the mind-numbing paperwork and I hit the road to talk to lumber yards and contractors. We saw a lot of the country together, doing trade related shows to get our product known in the Midwest. By the time Chuck died we had representatives in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

We supplied the materials for thousands of midwestern decks: the Indianapolis Botanical Gardens which was featured in Architectural Digest; many boardwalks, including Coney Island; and my last big sale was The Serpentine Bridge that goes over the highway into Millennium Park.

In 1990, Bob Kennedy was our banker and recommended that we join the Chamber of Commerce. It was a turning point in my life. I served two terms as a director on the Board, was active in the Ambassador Club, the Showcase, golf outings---pretty much anywhere help was needed. But most of all, we started working Fall Fest. Chuck was also a director and was the Sanitation chair at Fall Fest for several years. I’m a lifelong crafter, so I chose the Arts and Crafts Committee. I’ve done many of the other jobs, but mainly I’ve been on that committee since my first year.

Beginning in childhood, I learned nearly every craft medium that came into popularity. I was an artisan in craft shows to help Heather with her college expenses. The concerns and problems on the artisan side and the show sponsor side have been mine, so I see both sides of any issues that arise. Being the arts and crafts chair is a way to share a lifetime worth of knowledge and experience with my comrades and a valuable way to help further the careers of our artisans. 

Chuck died the day after Fall Fest 2006. The Chamber friends we made during all those years came to my aid and supported Heather and I with their caring and compassion.

I closed the business after he died, so I am officially retired. When it's too cold to garden, I spend most of my time working on the Fest, and I have a flourishing little business using all the crafting techniques I learned to fashion one-of-a-kind dolls, which I sell mainly at Isabel's Journey in Frankfort.

5-Minute Q & A
Tell us a little bit about your family. The only blood family I have here is my daughter and her family. She is Heather Ippolito, who has been office manager at Speech Plus for more than 15 years. Her husband, Jim Ippolito, a regional manager for Finish Master Paints. I have three grandchildren: Tess, who is studying to be a chemical engineer at the University of Kentucky; Joey, who will be at Augustana in the fall studying computer sciences; and Noah who is finishing his sophomore year at Lincoln-Way East. But I have an extensive unofficial family that I have accumulated over the years from Fall Fest volunteers.

Three words to best describe you: Optimistic, calm, practical.

What one food do you wish had zero calories? Pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.

If you had to eat one meal every day for the rest of your life, what would it be? Steak and potatoes.

What do you like to do in your spare time? Work in my flower gardens when I’m not shopping for more flowers!