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Going Home

June 7, 2012
by Jane Whitmore , Emmetsburg News

"Home" isn't all that far 25 miles across the way to West Bend.

Each Memorial Day we have a Mikes reunion I join my cousin and her daughters from Omaha at my brother and sister-in-law's home for brunch after Memorial Day services. We've gathered there for several years now, catching up on family events and remembering "when" In recent years we have expanded these family gatherings to visit landmarks of our youth.

Peggy and Chris Dieterich purchased my grandparents' home and Jean McClendon now owns the Presbyterian Church that we attended. Both of these places are now on our Memorial Day "tour."

Grandma Mikes' house is 130 years old this year, according to Peggy. We always referred to it as Grandma's house because Grandpa Mikes died before I got to know him. Adolph (my grandfather) and Joseph Mikes began Mikes Meat Market in West Bend. Then my father, Harold, and his brothers, Paul and Frank, owned the business for many years after that.

When Peggy and Chris bought the house, they contacted me to see if I had any photos. Most of the photos were slides and there were boxes and boxes of them, none were dated and none showed the event. It would have taken most of forever to search through those. But, I did located photos of the exterior of the home. Some of these were apparently taken after a snowstorm there were no branches on the trees and the architecture of the house was plainly visible. There were also a few of my parents and my sister in front of a bay window that showed off the architecture.

I enjoyed a trip through the house with Peggy and Chris before they got started on the renovation, remembering the purpose of each room. Funny how small the rooms seem to have become. When we were children, everything seemed huge.

As they began renovating, Peggy removed layer after layer of wallpaper from various rooms in the house and she saved pieces of each. When we visited on Memorial Day this year, there were several frames on the wall with the different wallpapers showing through circles and ovals. What a unique way to remember the house from years ago.

We enjoy watching the house being transformed, year by year, to its former glory.

Jean McClendon also contacted me after she purchased the Presbyterian Church, wondering if I had any history. I shared with her a history booklet that was printed in 1972 when the church closed.

There was one page in the book that listed over 30 Presbyterian businessmen, prior to 1920 including, three medical doctors, a dentist, bankers, a food inspector, implement dealer, jeweler, mail carrier and Postmaster, harness and blacksmith shop, hay dealers, hotel, confectionery, poultry and eggs, creamery, construction, auto sales, implement dealer, furniture and undertaking, and shoe repair.

Anyway - the First United Presbyterian Church was chartered Dec. 23, 1883 and dissolved July 30, 1972. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places just a couple of years ago, thanks to Jean's work.

Jean has owned the church, and the neighboring home (which had been owned by a Mikes cousin) for a little over five years. In that time, she has searched the soul of the church building and painted it the colors it must have been over a hundred years ago. The windows were opened up and the building seems to be able to "breathe" once again. She can tell you where and when the addition to the church was built when the congregation outgrew its living space.

In my search through Mother's photos, not only did I find pictures of Grandma Mikes' house, I also found Sunday School pictures from the Presbyterian Church. We were a happy bunch of kids, all dressed up, sitting on the front steps of the church. Jean must really have copies of those "priceless" photos. She is looking for people to share memories from their days at the Presbyterian Church.

At some point in the future, a new basement will be put under the building and then the lower level will be renovated to a bed and breakfast. And Jean hopes to have a reunion of parishioners at the church and make it an annual event.

We enjoy our tour and are always extended an invitation to return next year. It's rewarding to see Peggy and Chris, and Jean bringing the Mikes' home and the Presbyterian Church back to life. It's also good to go "home" again.

 
 
 

 

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