By: Sharon Aron Baron
Kenneth Eugene Behring, founder and former developer of the City of Tamarac has died at the age of 91.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, his son David Behring confirmed his death in a Facebook post on June 26:
“My father passed away peacefully last night at the age of 91. He was both a Lion and a Dragon and could not have lived a fuller life,” he wrote. “He loved business, sports, travel, automobiles, family, adventure, life, and helping others. His family and friends will deeply miss him and pledge to carry on his legacy. Our family is so appreciative of the hundreds of phone, text, and email messages that have poured in today. I will write more reflections of him this weekend.”
Born on June 13, 1928, during the Great Depression to a family of meager means, Behring vowed at a young age that he would never live a life of poverty. He was a self-made millionaire, destined to live the American Dream.
In 1956, at the age of 28, Behring moved to Fort Lauderdale and started the Behring Construction Company. Growing up poor in Wisconsin, he first earned money delivering newspapers, cutting lawns, caddying, and as a teenager, working in a lumberyard and a retail store. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin on a football scholarship; however, he dropped out after losing his scholarship because of an injury and went to work as a salesman at a Chevrolet and Chrysler dealership.
By the age of 21, he had started a used car business in Monroe, Wisconsin. Afterward, he managed to buy the local Lincoln-Mercury dealership, which he owned until 1956 when he moved to Florida to become a home builder.
At the age of 27, Behring was already a millionaire when he helped plan and develop the entire city of Tamarac.
The City of Tamarac was named after a country club in Oakland Park called the Tamarac Country Club. What may have confused many people over the years, was that the owners of the club owned a car wash business up north called CarMat. That’s how they got their name. It didn’t have anything to do with Behring and Behring didn’t name the city after car washes spelled backward as many people tend to believe.
Behring described the vast open spaces of land back then in an interview in 2012.
“If you’d been here at that time, there was nothing out here, there was this country club, and that was about the only thing.”
Behring was instrumental in adding an interchange connecting his new land west of the Sunshine State Parkway, now known as the Florida Turnpike, to the buyers of his new homes. Before 1971, the only way across was through a tunnel which only fit one car at a time.
Behring petitioned the Turnpike Authority to add the interchange at Commercial Boulevard and ultimately had to deed 27.5 acres of prime real estate that was valued at over $1 million to get it. It opened in November of 1971.
Behring was instrumental in building the communities of Tamarac Lakes. However, his largest ones were the Mainlands – where homes started at $8,900, and the Woodlands Country Club – where homes started at $20,000.
Behring lived in The Woodlands for several years with his wife and his children. His custom home still stands today off of Woodlands Boulevard. It now has a gate in front of it, something his son Jeffrey Behring, who lived there as a teenager, said it didn’t have while he was growing up.
The clubhouses in the communities were very busy during those days, and bingo night was a big event.
“My mother got into going to bingo,” said Behring. “We knew if it was Thursday because every Thursday night I’d call her and say, ‘Will you come over for dinner?’”
“‘Well, I’m tired tonight,’ she’d say, and we knew she was going to bingo.”
Behring moved to California in 1972 where he would develop the Blackhawk development near San Francisco. He said if he had stayed in Tamarac, he would have continued building single-family homes. “I still think that (it) was the finest living that people from the north could get at that time.”
Behring enjoys looking back, not only on the homes that he built but on the relationships that he created by bringing people together. He describes his communities as “…a place where they could communicate with people that all had the same problems. But they became friends. They all had the same interests.”
He remembered every New Year’s Eve; he recalled laughing, “I would go to all of the clubhouses. We would have fun. Each would have their own band, and I’d walk in, and they’d play ‘Hail to the Chief.’”
“They were the nicest, most wonderful people that I’ve ever met in my life.”
In 2012, the City of Tamarac invited Behring to their 50th Anniversary gathering where then-mayor Beth Talabisco and the commission greeted him, along with many of the residents who remembered him back from the days when he lived in their community.
Before his speech, Behring reminisced about the many friends he met while living here and the work that he did as a developer.
“I’m more proud, I think, of what we did here in the beginning [than] of anything I’ve done in my life. I think I made more people happy. We gave them an opportunity at a great price, to have something at that time, which was paradise. They could come and go as they wanted.”
Since his days in Tamarac, Behring bought and sold the Seattle Seahawks football team, in 1997, contributed $20 million to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and in 2000 Behring contributed an additional $80 million to rebuild the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
In 2000, Behring founded the Wheelchair Foundation which has helped over a million adults, teens and children in 153 countries in need.
During Behring’s years of travel, he made it his personal mission to help those in need. His donations of food, medical supplies, clothing, toys, and educational materials have helped people in some of the most impoverished nations on earth. Not one to sit back at his desk, his first-hand involvement throughout the years has given him a realistic picture of how much help is needed.
- Sharon Aron Baron created the Woodlands Tamarac in 2010 for original News for the community. In 2011 she went on to create Tamarac Talk, in 2012, Coral Springs Talk and 2017, Parkland Talk.