‘Papa Jake’

Beloved senior is unsung hero of FPS drop-off area

Jake “Papa” Kreis, right, is a familiar face every morning at Farragut Primary School, where he opens car doors for children in the drop-off line. Typically excited to see him, the children also run to “Papa” for morning hugs, as Madelynn Crabtree does.
Only one thing has been more reliable than the building itself at Farragut Primary School — Jake Kreis.

Known affectionately as “Papa Jake” or just “Papa,” Kreis has been a near-permanent fixture at the school for the last four years. His face typically is one of the first children see in the mornings, as he is there every day, opening vehicle doors in the drop-off line.

Almost 71, he began volunteering in the FPS cafeteria when his grandson, Aidan Kreis, began school there as a kindergartener.

Though Aidan now attends Farragut Intermediate School, Papa Jake has stayed.

“I started doing it to see him,” Kreis said of his only grandchild. “But then I discovered how much I love the children, and I stayed.”

Kreis is well-known for his frequent hug distribution, embracing many students as they emerge from their vehicles or pass by him.

Cynthia Shultz’s daughter, Greta, is one who insists on beginning her school days with a hug for — and from — “Papa.”

“If she doesn’t get to hug him, she said, ‘I get sad,’” Shultz said, as she watched them go through their morning routine. “She adores him — we all do.

“He is the absolute best.”

FPS principal Gina Byrd is equally effusive.

“He shows up every single morning,” she said. “You just see the kids light up when they see him and run screaming for him, yelling ‘Papa Jake! Papa Jake!

“He is just completely kid-centered.”

Students aren’t the only ones glad to see him coming.

“He also brings hot chocolate, frappachinos, apple fritters and bear claws for the teachers every Friday,” Byrd said.

“He is just a super cool guy.”

Jessica Taylor, an FPS parent whose children attend the school, is one of several volunteers who join Kreis in the car lines most mornings.

“He is awesome,” she said. “We appreciate him so much.

“He is my Papa, too.”

With enrollment standing at about 900 students a year, Kreis acknowledged he has “known thousands of kids,” even if he doesn’t know all their names.

Kreis, a retired senior mechanical engineer, said he now sees Aidan a couple of times a week, but it’s difficult, since the young man is more active as he has gotten older.

They have always been close, as Kreis also was Aidan’s primary babysitter for the child’s first two years while his parents worked.

Aidan’s mother, Amy, is Kreis’ only child.

“It broke my heart when he turned 2 and they put him in day care,” Kreis said about Aidan. “But, I understood them wanting to have him around other kids.”

Now Kreis also has that luxury.

“I’ve got over 1,000 grandchildren,” he said.

“I am really living the dream.”