Work ethic keeps family business floating for 50 years

NORTH BENTON — You may be aware of the famous Duke of Wellington. But are you familiar with Duke Katterheinrich of Dutch Harbor Marina in North Benton?

They call him the “Duke of Berlin Lake.” He started a family-owned business in 1974 at the Berlin Reservoir by purchasing C&K Marina, which sat on 15 acres leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The family will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the business in October.

His daughter, Jennifer Kirk, said her dad has the best work ethic of anyone she’s ever met, and he is not stopping anytime soon even though he is 85. Katterheinrich grew up working in his own father’s family cement business in New Knoxville in western Ohio.

“Father’s business was very physical, also. My brother, sister and I helped in the cement business while in high school. We built burial vaults, septic tanks and even tile,” Katterheinrich said.

He said his mother, the former Anna Marie Maurer, had 11 siblings. The family began to grow back then and now has 51 living cousins, most of whom live in the Shelby County area.

A sweet neighbor girl Katterheinrich met at church camp when he was 16 was Ellen Rae Platfoot. She later became his wife.

A few years after high school, he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Hawaii from 1958 to 1962. He was a petty officer third class on the USS Walker, a destroyer escort carrying 200 military personnel. While he was in the military, Ellen was busy concentrating on her career. She started nursing training and then became a registered nurse.

Near the end of Katterheinrich’s tour of duty, the couple reunited. They lived in San Diego for a year and then decided to marry in 1962 in Hawaii. He became a traveling salesman with the Pratt & Lambert Paint Company and both lived and worked in different areas together until 1974, when they then ended up in Mahoning County.

They both enjoyed theater and even auditioned here for several plays, got their respective parts and were able to perform in front of an audience at the Youngstown Playhouse and the Dutch Haus Inn Dinner Theater in Columbiana.

While Katterheinrich was working as a salesman, Ellen was working as a hospital nurse in Ohio cities including St. Marys, Cleveland, and Columbus, along with raising three children.

“Our hard work ethic is instilled in us from our hard-working parents and family. We are thankful for their life lessons,” Katterheinrich said.

Ellen also worked at South Side Hospital and Allergy Associates of Youngstown before retiring.

Katterheinrich’s first boat was a pontoon boat he made himself and used on Grand Lake St. Marys near his hometown. He loved boating and admired the ever-changing pattern of animal life and colorful scenery Berlin Lake had to offer, as well as camping, boating, picnicking and fishing.

In 1974, he made an offer on a small marina on 15 acres leased from the corps of engineers that included a 24-by-36 foot building that needed work on Berlin Lake. The acreage had enough waterline to include dock space for nearly 100 small boat docks. So he began building and renting docks and selling ice, pizza, ice cream and other snack items, along with fuel for boaters.

He also began to buy and rent rowboats. He soon saved enough money to expand his services. He even bought a 24-foot Chris-Craft cruiser for the family to enjoy. In 1988, a new larger 60-by-80 foot building was erected to house a parts stockroom area, and room for new and used boat motors.

At 85 years old and three open-heart surgeries later, there is no chance of slowing him down any time soon.

All three of his children — Lu Ann, Jennifer and Mitchell — graduated from Berlin Center Western Reserve High and worked in the family business. Even when Ellen was assisting hospital patients in the doctor’s offices or hospital all day, she still worked at the marina in the evenings and on weekends.

The business began to be more profitable, but only because more services were added and more hours were spent on boat and motor maintenance and repairs.

He has a business partner, Eric Fuson, five full-time employees, including his daughter, Jennifer, and grandson, Caleb, and three part-time employees who work year-round. He also hires three or four high school students during the summer.

“It is important that we stay on top of all services in order to satisfy our customers. As we kept adding services, we tried not to get behind. We have been building and servicing docks, selling and servicing boats and motors, renting boats, putting them in the water and pulling them out with new expensive boat lift trailers, winterizing, shrink wrapping, and then finding room for all boats inside our storage building or on the outside storage area,” Katterheinrich said.

When asked if there is any time for fun and relaxation, he said of course. He would take the family out on the pontoon boat and even water-skied with them on a larger boat.

“We were all good skiers,” he said.

He also mentioned time he spent with actor Martin Sheen, whose mother-in-law lived next to the marina. Sheen’s wife and family enjoyed the convenience of Berlin Lake, too. Katterheinrich also works for a company named “Hot Shots,” which hires him to transport boats and trailers from coast to coast.

On many occasions, he has picked up boats in New York and transported them to Seattle or to San Diego. The job has taken him to 48 states. But his greatest joy of all is traveling each year with his wife back home where they both grew up in New Knoxville. There they both have a chance to relax and celebrate life with their huge families, including their 51 cousins and their children.

To suggest a Friday profile, contact Metro Editor Marly Reichert at

mreichert@tribtoday.com or Features Editor Ashley Fox at afox@tribtoday.com.


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