Remembering F. Gregory Opelka

It is with our deepest sympathies that we announce the passing of F. Gregory Opelka, on December 26, 2016. Mr. Opelka served the valuation profession for more than half a century and in 2012, he was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Appraisal Institute. His son George Opelka accepted the award on his behalf and on that night, gave the following speech regarding his father.

Before I begin, first let me say that my father is doing well and still lives in Chicago, but a recent minor health problem has unfortunately prevented him from attending tonight’s ceremony.

We live in an age that prizes superheroes. Iron Man. Spider Man. Superman. Bat Man. It seems every summer there’s a new blockbuster movie about some iconic, larger-than-life figure possessed with daunting super-powers and a mission to make the world a better place.

My father—and tonight’s Lifetime Achievement honoree, F. Gregory Opelka—certainly didn’t wear a cape, and he never bent steel with his bare hands, or watched bullets bounce harmlessly off his chest – but in the world of appraising real estate, Gregg Opelka was something of a civilian superhero. Simply put, my father never met a challenge he didn’t like.

Spider Man had his web-spinning wrists and Superman had his superhuman strength. But the tools Gregg Opelka worked with were much humbler: A Polaroid Land camera, a tape, and his trusty HP12C were the Weapons of Mass Appraisal wielded by my Dad day in, day out, week after week, year after year.

My father tirelessly honed his appraisal skills in his native Chicago—first at Draper and Kramer, and then while heading the mortgage department at Fairfield Savings and Loan, where he eventually rose to become Executive Vice-President where he spent more than four decades of his career.

In the late 1950s, Gregg taught appraisal courses in the evenings at the Savings and Loan Institute in downtown Chicago. Through his teaching ventures, he was invited to serve as an appraisal consultant to the U.S. League. As part of his consulting assignment, Gregg created appraisal form “#17-PRA” in 1962. It wasn’t until after the green form with green ink was in production when the appraisal staff of an Indianapolis S&L submitted a report critiquing the new form which was published in a monthly trade magazine. Of historical note, it was this S&L appraisal committee that mockingly dubbed the new form “The Green Hornet”! Ironically, the name stuck and even today, almost fifty years later, the Green Hornet continues to charm and is synonymous with the residential appraisal process.

Additionally, Gregg wrote a monthly appraisal column entitled “Appraisal Report” which appeared in the Savings and Loan News, a trade magazine of the U.S. League. His monthly articles appeared for over 25 consecutive years —and during that streak he never missed a column! Take that, Ryne Sandberg.

For most mere mortals, that would have been enough. But not for Gregg Opelka. Somehow he found time to become, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, one of the country’s foremost authorities on appraising an unusual emerging form of domicile—the condominium. Intrigued by these parcels of aerial real estate, my dad made it his mission to figure out how to appraise condos. And then he taught thousands of appraisers young and old around the country all about “the back forty”—often using a comic strip featuring wise appraisal proverbs from the great “Condofucius” himself, a fictitious character my father invented.

F. Gregory Opelka had a passion for the appraisal business like few others. And in 1980 his peers recognized this passion by choosing the man behind The Green Hornet to represent our profession and serve as the President of the Society of Real Estate Appraisers. That year, along with wife Duckie, Gregg crisscrossed the country preaching the wisdom of Condofucius to legions of appraisers everywhere. He’d come quite a way from his early days as a young appraiser at Draper and Kramer in Chicago.

In 1984 he was selected as the Chairman of the Uniform Appraisal Form committee where he worked closely with representatives of the appraisal organizations and several other government agencies to create the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. His leadership and commitment to the project earned him the nickname as the Grandfather of the URAR. Not as catchy as Superman, but not bad for a mere mortal.

Gregg Opelka may never have worn a cape or flown through the air. But he has been a superhuman force in the appraisal industry—teacher, mentor, mortgage lender, master appraiser, author, pioneer and—in a pre- iPad world, he was pretty darn swift with an HP12C. His passion for the obligation of the appraiser to tell the truth even caused him to take on the United States Department of Justice—in a case of constitutional freedom of speech.

I realize I may not be completely impartial, but I can’t think of another leader in our industry more deserving of this esteemed honor. As Condofucius may have put it: Without recognition of peers, man who succeed no different from man who fail.

With that said, I am thrilled to be here tonight with each and every one of you to accept this wonderful award on my father’s behalf. He is truly, truly honored. Thank you very much.

F. Gregory Opelka has served as a mentor to thousands of valuation professionals. In addition to bringing standardization to the appraisal profession, Mr. Opelka has been a nationally recognized appraisal evangelist and true pioneer. During his more than fifty years of service, he has fought for our profession with unrivaled passion, integrity, and determination. Our condolences to his family in their time of loss.

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