Janesville63.5°

Sexton’s home returns to dust

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Catherine W. Idzerda
November 9, 2007

The Oak Hill Cemetery Association was stuck between an expensive rock and an even more expensive hard place.


It could spend thousands to insulate and remodel a 110-year home with no historical significance. Or, it could spend many fewer thousands to get rid of the problem.


The organization chose the latter, and on Wednesday the sexton’s house just inside the gates of Oak Hill Cemetery came down.


“We’ve been seriously evaluating the situation for three years,” said Gordon Engebretson, president of the cemetery association. “It was terribly energy inefficient; there wasn’t any insulation.”


Since the time it was built, the house has been part of the sexton’s benefits. The sexton, who was in charge of taking care of the cemetery, lived in the house rent-free.


“It was part of their salary, but they paid utilities,” Engebretson explained.


Several months ago, the current sexton, David Green, and his wife, Cindy, moved into a home of their own.


“It was really a time of reckoning,” Engebretson said. “We couldn’t afford to bring it up to today’s standards.”


The nonprofit association has been struggling with the upkeep on the 110-acre cemetery, and the house was an additional burden.


“The trimming, the mowing and the leaves, it just goes on and on,” Engebretson said.


The association asked the Janesville Fire Department if it wanted to burn it down, as a training exercise, but closer inspection revealed that the siding and other parts of the house contained asbestos.


Still, even with cost of asbestos removal included, the demolition will cost much, much less than a remodeling job.


Engebretson estimates the entire project will total about $15,000.


Craig Gramke of Gramke Monument Works watched the old house come down.


His grandfather, Julius Gramke, was the sexton and lived in the house for “20-some years,” Gramke said.


He was able to rescue an old oak desk from one of the rooms before the house came down.


“It might very well have been my grandfather’s desk,” Gramke said.



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