“I just wanted to make a difference and I think in my little niche of the world, I did,” Connie Friesen says of her 35 years at McGrew Real Estate. Considered one of the “kindest, most caring, tough-as-nails REALTORS®” by Mike McGrew, Chairman and CEO of the agency, Friesen leaves a legacy of honesty and integrity behind as she ventures into retirement. “It’s hard to walk away, but all of a sudden I just knew it was time,” she says.
Born and raised in Idaho, Friesen grew up clearing land and nurturing crops like potatoes, alfalfa and wheat. The dairy farming was most difficult—getting up at 4 a.m. every day to milk cows and doing it again after school. Although her responsibilities did not leave room for much else, she is grateful that it taught her the importance of work ethic.
After attending college in Portland, Oregon, Friesen moved back to Idaho briefly where she reconnected with her future husband, Dale. They married in the summer of 1969 and moved to Kansas City in the fall so he could attend medical school and a residency at the University of Kansas Medical Center. “I say he married me to put him through medical school,” she jokes.
Friesen was a trauma nurse at the University of Kansas & Olathe Medical Center prior to relocating to Lawrence. “When my husband and I and our two sons moved to Lawrence in late 1976, LMH [Lawrence Memorial Hospital] was so different from what it is today,” she explains. “I wanted to work at LMH, but at the same time all trauma that arrived at LMH was shipped out either to KC or Topeka.
Friesen knew she needed a change and wanted to stay busy while her husband worked long hours and her children participated in school and traveling sports activities. “I just had that drive. You work hard on the farm, then you work hard in college. I didn’t know how to not work. It just wasn’t in me,” she says.
Not knowing where it would take her, she enrolled in a career class at KU and eventually landed in a business real estate class. The idea of assisting others in a different way intrigued her. “I have always worked hard and was happiest when I was helping people,” she says. “It wasn’t over making the deal. It was helping people find the right home.”
Friesen ended up at McGrew Real Estate, where she quickly became part of the McGrew family. Officemate Kay Johnson and friend Barbara Hodgson became lifelong friends, as well as her first real estate agent in Lawrence – McGrew REALTOR® Sam Shipstead. She credits Shipstead with setting a good example of what an agent should be: honest and genuine. “Two words I like a lot,” she says.
Friesen attributes her success as an agent to the team efforts that McGrew provides. “McGrew’s management and support staff are truly the best in my opinion,” she says. “There is a huge expectation of all agents to learn how to do business the right and legal way. My job was a great source of pride, and McGrew set the highest standards for professional excellence.”
Watching the agency’s current leaders, President and Managing Broker Dennis Snodgrass and the aforementioned Mike McGrew, grow into their roles was an exciting development. “Dennis was a youngster starting in the business and to see him end up where he is now—is that not incredible?” Friesen reminisces. “Watching those kids grow up and have families and move on has been amazing. It’s just one extended family. We’ll be friends forever.”
Snodgrass offers Friesen deep praise: “Connie always acted with the highest of integrity in all of her transactions. She truly cared about her clients and what was best for them.”
Mike adds, “I was so lucky to have her as a partner at McGrew Real Estate for many years. She had a quiet but clear way of letting both Dennis and I know when we were not doing things in the most Connie way!”
That “Connie way” centered around building relationships and disapproving of the infamous hard sale. “I am a really low-key person, and my true passion was helping put the pieces together for my clients. A lot of times the pieces didn’t go together and that was okay,” she says. “I treated people like I would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.”
To withstand over three decades as a REALTOR® Friesen credits, “Honesty, hard work, commitment, knowledge, and again, hard work” for her triumphs. When asked what she would offer as advice to up-and-coming real estate agents, she says: “Learn the business, be prepared that most people looking for homes have day jobs, and you’ll be working a lot of evenings and weekends. Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and to let people know you don’t know the answers but will find out and get back to them right away (and do this right away).”
Through the years, she saw the Lawrence market change from extremely high interest rates—up to 20%—to the unbelievable low they are now—hovering near 3%. She recalls having no choice but to build when they first moved to Lawrence. There were no houses to buy. Lawrence’s western growth had stopped at Monterey Way Drive in 1976.
Connie was active on the board of the renowned Alvamar development with John McGrew and Bob Billings. Outside of the real estate world, she served her local community as an early co-chair of Art in the Park with Markie Bieri and continues to support many local charities, along with KU Endowment, Kansas Athletics, and LMH.
She is thankful and blessed to have made friends all over Lawrence. “That’s what drew us here. The sense of community. Becoming friends with so many amazing people that we never would have been able to meet in a big city,” she says.
In her next chapter, Friesen will nourish hobbies that she loves, including tending to her home and yard, traveling once she can do so safely, and continuing involvement in clubs for needlepoint, books, and investment. “I’ve always worked,” she says. “So, slowing down will be something to look forward to.”
Most of all, she’ll spend time with the ones she loves. “My family is very important to me. I am also very fortunate & blessed to have a wonderful circle of cherished friends,” she says.
As she’s done before, Friesen will undoubtedly flourish in her new chapter by doing it the “Connie way”. From all of her family at McGrew Real Estate, we wish Connie Friesen peace and joy in her well-earned retirement!