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Leading Women: Angeline Kopka

by Tracey C. Velt

UnknownWhen you hear the words tenacious, determined and spunky, most real estate professionals from Nashua, New Hampshire, think of one person—Angeline “Angie” Kopka, who turned 100 years old on April 17, 2016.

Kopka has been pushing boundaries ever since she was a little girl scrambling to keep up with her brothers. Married to the late John S. Kopka in 1935, she fell into a busy life as a young mother. Kopka’s son Jack was born in 1937 and daughter Janice was born a full 18 years later. Janice Geno, who took over Kopka’s office in 2002, became the second-generation broker for Kopka Real Estate.

Born in 1916, one of 10 children from a working, middle-class family, Kopka liked to stay busy. According to an article by Dean Shaloup in The Nashua Telegraphy, “Angie recalls one of her first jobs hanging curtains in the Lincoln Store in Nashua, which paid her $9 per week. In later years, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President of the United States, she recalls receiving a significant raise in her weekly salary when minimum wage laws were passed.”

Building A Real Estate Brokerage

In 1953, Kopka decided to open a real estate office. “She was working at [U.S. Army Base] Fort Devens during World War II. When the war ended, she decided to get into real estate,” says Geno. “She did her research and talked to a man in the business who told her, ‘There is no room for women in real estate.’ Of course, she filed the paperwork to open her own office immediately,” laughs Geno. “My mom doesn’t buy into the ‘bunk that women didn’t belong,’” she says.

With that attitude, it’s no wonder she was a real estate success. Her main office was located in downtown. “It was the first real estate office you would encounter when entering New Hampshire from Massachusetts,” says Geno. She grew the brokerage to multiple offices around the state. “She was always very involved in community development,” says Geno. In fact, she owned the land that Pheasant Lane Mall ended up buying to bring a mall to Nashua.

That same year, 1953, the National Association of REALTORS® was led by Charles B. Shattuck from California. A woman wouldn’t lead the Association until 1992. The big issues of the time are much like they are today: property rights and rebuilding the mortgage markets. However, says Kopka, “A lot has changed.” She remembers the bulky Multiple Listing Service (MLS) books and the changing market as, she says, “after the war (World War II) people wanted to move away from the downtowns.” It was the beginning of suburbia. “I look at the changes in real estate to be positive,” says Kopka. “It’s really a profession now and that’s good.”

Servant Leader

During her real estate career, Kopka understood the importance of being a servant leader. She was active in her local, state and national REALTOR® associations and served as Women’s Council National President in 1974. In 1991, she earned the National Association of REALTORS® Distinguished Service Award and served as president of the Nashua Business and Professional Women group, as well as a Grand Regent for the Catholic Daughters Association. 

With a successful real estate career under her belt, Kopka decided to run for public office. “She didn’t retire from real estate, instead she decided to invest herself in the House to better serve the state,” says Geno. She served as a Democrat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives from 2002 to 2010. She was 86 years old her first year in the New Hampshire House. She won re-election in 2012, becoming the oldest lawmaker in the United States. “She was featured in a legislative magazine for being the oldest representative in the country. At the time, New Hampshire had the oldest [Kopka] and the youngest, who was 21 years old,” says Geno. The idea of retiring wasn't something Kopka was ready to face. In an article in the Concord Monitor, she says, “But what would I do if I retired?” However, she did officially retire in 2014, when she was 98 years old.

Kopka’s spunk and tenacity still shines through at 100 years old. She says, “It wasn’t easy to adjust to the changes [in real estate and over the years], but I did it, and I’m still here today.” Says Geno, “She was a great mentor and a tireless advocate for her community.” Kopka just celebrated her 100th birthday. She enjoys socializing with her peers at an independent living senior residence in the area. “She continues to be a dedicated member of her family and community, exemplifying the strength and perseverance that Granite Staters are known for,” reads a Proclamation given to Kopka by New Hampshire Governor Margaret Wood Hassan. Kopka continues to inspire us all to push boundaries and aim high.

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