Sunday, May 8, 2016

Jerry Wittmer Was A First Class Businessman

Gerald Jerry Wittmer Gerald Jerry Wittmer, 77, Topeka, passed away Tuesday, May 3, 2016. Jerry was born July 11, 1938, in Sabetha KS, the son of OJ Bud and Frances Barndt Wittmer. He graduated from Sabetha High School in 1956 and was planning to attend their 60th reunion Memorial Day weekend. He attended Washburn University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. He served our country in the Army National Guard. Jerry married Sandra Bromich and they had two children. They later divorced. Jerry was a member, social chairman and past president of Phi Delta Theta, a Washburn University yell leader and a member of Topeka Jaycees, 20-30 Club, Toastmasters, the Shrine, Shawnee Country Club, Topeka Country Club and Alcoholics Anonymous. He was a member of Topeka Beautification Association and won first place one year in the yard beautification contest. Jerry attended Fellowship Bible Church. Jerry had many business interests, including having an office in Costa Rica. He began his business career with Aetna Insurance Company and Dave Neiswanger Real Estate before he started his own insurance agency. He was part of Wittmer Farm Realty before he started Wittmer and Associates and Midwest Management. Jerry was a wonderful dancer, serving several times as a dance host on cruise ships. He enjoyed participating in ballroom dance competitions, traveling and competing in over 25 marathons, including the Boston Marathon, multiple times. He purchased the Metrot Castle on Huntoon and enjoyed renovating it and the grounds for his office. Each October, for several years, he held Halloween Festivals and gave tours of the castle. Survivors include Jerry s son, Wade Wittmer, Topeka; his daughter, Wendy Cain (Rich), Cypress TX; grandchildren, Adam and Sara Cain; sisters, Janis VanderLaan (Dave Dutch ), Tempe AZ, and Peg Wittmer, Topeka; and sister-in-law, Barbara Wittmer, Topeka. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Doug Wittmer. Family will greet friends from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 11th, at Fellowship Bible Church, 6800 SW 10th Street, where Jerry's Celebration of Life will begin at 10:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to Valley Hope, for patient scholarships and Topeka Beautification Association sent in care of Kevin Brennan Family Funeral Home, 2801 SW Urish Road, Topeka KS 66614. Condolences may be sent online to

The following is an article that I wrote in 2007 about Jerry Wittmer for The Topeka Capital-Journal:

Retired real estate 

agent has vision for

land near Matrot Castle

Posted: Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Jerry Wittmer wants to develop a small town with a winery, castle and shops inside Topeka.
Mike Burley / The Capital-Journal
Mike Burley / The Capital-Journal
"We'd like to have a European, old world environment," said Wittmer, who lives in Miami Beach, Fla.,
and Topeka and owns the Matrot Castle & Vineyards at 6424 S.W. Huntoon.
Called The Vineyard, his development includes the existing Matrot Castle, Bear Lake Subdivision and
the proposed Kansas Heritage Park.
The Topeka City Council will vote today on whether to approve a planned unit development for
Kansas Heritage Park, which would include 18 buildings around a water feature.
The plan, approved 7-0 by the city planning commission, calls for building a road from S.W. Huntoon
north to vacant land that borders Interstate 470. The land would accommodate facilities associated
with the production of wine, plus buildings in a town square/Main Street environment similar to early
20th-century Kansas small towns. The structures would be three-story, with retail on the first floor,
office on the second floor and loft apartments on the third floor.
Wittmer, 68, retired 13 years ago and moved to Florida. About four years ago, he had the opportunity
to buy the Matrot Castle, which was established in 1883 by Seraphin Matrot, a French immigrant and
wine merchant who came to Kansas to escape political oppression. Wittmer, who has spent
thousands of dollars restoring the castle, has planted nearly 1,000 vines to grow grapes on the property.
"We're preparing to offer properties," Wittmer said. "We're looking for investors."
But is his idea a pipe dream influenced by too much wine? No, says longtime friend Ping Enriquez.
"Knowing Jerry Wittmer, anything he puts his mind on, it happens," Enriquez said. "He really believes
 if he can think it, he can do it."
Enriquez, owner of Adveritas Construction, said he first met Wittmer in 1975.
"Back then he was into marathon running and making real estate deals," Enriquez said.
Wittmer, a 1961 Washburn University graduate, started Wittmer Farm Realty in 1968,
specializing in farm and ranch properties. At one time he had offices in 15 counties and
a staff of 72 agents. In 1972, he started investing in farm properties, and in 1979, he started
building and investing in apartment complexes. He built apartment complexes in 100 cities
before he retired in 1994.
Today, Wittmer is enamored with the history of the Matrot Castle. He said Matrot built
a secret tunnel from the wine cellar to a point 500 feet from the property to be used for quick escape.
Wittmer said he doesn't drink alcohol, but he appreciates the wine industry. Using grapes from the
Matrot Castle, he said, the Davenport Orchards & Vineyards bottled a Matrot Merlot. He has used the
castle for fundraisers, wine tasting and Halloween parties. More than 600 people attended
the Halloween parties last fall.
He researched the Matrot name in France and found three vineyards there with the
Matrot name, including Domaine Joseph Matrot vineyard. He hopes to go to France
in the fall during grape harvest.
Asel Mukeyeva, a native of Central Asia and a former World Bank employee, works for Wittmer
and is president of Midwest Management Group Inc., which handles asset management and
real estate development.
Mukeyeva said The Vineyard will promote the heritage of the Matrot Castle and be a destination
place for Topeka.
"We're just waiting for final approval so we can proceed with the streets and infrastructure," Wittmer said.

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