David Freeman worked in partnership with his father in the family insurance business for many years, and now he’s passed on the legacy to his own children.
The 78-year old Conch’s family ties run deep into the coral rock of the Florida Keys. In the 1930s, he was a student at St. Joseph’s School in Key West. After studying accounting at the University of Miami, Freeman returned to his native island and entered his family’s insurance business.
In 1927, his father bought the Porter-Allen Company at 513 Southard Street. In 1957, Freeman and his brother Billy officially partnered with their father and continued to grow the family empire.
Though his father and brother have since passed, and Freeman’s daughter Elizabeth has taken the reins, he still happily goes to work each day at the office.
“I love my job,” he explained. “Working here is so much fun that it doesn’t even feel like a job.”
Elizabeth joined the business in 1991 and now serves as president of the company. Freeman said he knew that in order to keep the business in the family, he’d eventually have to relinquish control.
“I’ve had my turn,” he chuckled. “I know when to step back and let my kids have their turn.”
He proudly watches each day as his daughter ensures smooth operations.
“They know I’ll stand back and let them run things, but I’ll always be there to help them in any way I can,” he continued.
Freeman said micromanagement of a family business is a common mistake to which he often bears witness.
“The kids naturally grow into their roles, but the parents don’t always know when to stop parenting.”
As a child, Freeman suffered from severe asthma and was unable to participate in sports and playtime with his peer group. Instead, he learned how to be content while alone.
“A lot of people get scared when they are alone, but I’m used to being alone,” he admitted.
He channeled his energy into building model railroads, boats, and planes, as well as in operating ham radios. At age 16, he achieved the highest amateur class license in radio operations and still enjoys it as a hobby today.
This self-taught broadcast engineer enjoyed building radio transmitters, designing antennae, and engineering the legal aspects of running a radio business. In 1977, he and his wife purchased WIIS 107.1. Freeman’s son Doug shared his father’s passion for radio broadcasting and decided to learn the ropes.
After selling what is now known as Island 107 in Key West, Doug and his dad built another radio station from the ground up. After years of licensing applications and permitting with the FCC, a radio tower was erected on a piece of family-owned property just south of the mainland.
Each and every work day, Freeman has lunch with his daughter. Every evening after dinner with his wife of 43 years, he speaks to his son by phone.
His brood has grown to include five grandchildren – two sets of twins and one grandson – but he cautions against giving new parents immediate advice.
“I can’t really give advice to other people on how to parent,” he admitted. “Enough people already do that. Each couple has to figure out how to operate together, and most of it is nature and instinct.”
Doug said his father indirectly imparted valuable wisdom that has been the key to his success.
“He just taught me to be fair to people and do everything right,” the younger Freeman said. “We are really just an old island family with traditional values.”
Since close family relationships, honesty and respect are principles he values, Freeman has made sure to be an example for his family.
“I don’t understand why people are so competitive and always try to be better than other people.”
With a big smile, Freeman said emphatically, “Enjoy life and have fun.”