Kenneth Kinna’s family members don’t care about the money.
They care about Kenneth—or “Babe” as he was more commonly called.
More than 46 years after Kinna’s death, a newspaper story revived memories of the bachelor farmer who married late in life, embraced a large, ready-made family and kept a savings account in the back of a kitchen cupboard.
The Gazette published a story Monday about Carey Burkhard, a Janesville resident who found Kinna’s receipt book and wallet containing $1,160 in that cupboard. Burkhard has owned Kinna’s house since the 1980s. The wallet had been there since at least 1973.
Burkhard donated the money to the Good Samaritan Fund drive, a holiday charity sponsored by The Gazette, WCLO and WJVL. Burkhard’s mother had worked at The Gazette, and he hoped his donation would motivate others to give.
What he didn’t know was how happy the discovery would make Kinna’s family.
“It’s been so much fun,” said Kinna’s stepdaughter, Jackie Hessian of Loves Park, Illinois.
Kinna was born in 1897 and farmed with his family outside Footville.
“It was the first farm on the right, just before you got into town,” Hessian recalled.
He first appeared in The Gazette as a note in the Footville news in 1915.
“Kenneth Kinna was hurt Monday morning unloading hay,” the story reads. “Dr. Harvey was called and Mr. Kinna is resting quite comfortable.”
He was part of a juicier story in the late 1920s.
Kinna and his brother John Lee Kinna had joined a group of men who were operating a still in a veterinarian’s barn in Reedsburg.
“Nine Nabbed in County Dry Raids” read the front-page headline in the April 28, 1929, issue of The Wisconsin State Journal.
“Yes, he was a bootlegger,” his step-granddaughter Sue Hessian said with a laugh.
Kenneth was fined $200, the equivalent of $2,938 today. His brother received four months in a Milwaukee jail.
Either way, their father wasn’t happy about it.
At the brothers’ arraignment, their father “declared himself highly incensed over the predicament of his sons. He provided bond for Kenneth but refused to aid in Lee Kinna’s release,” the story said.
Jackie Hessian said her stepfather met her mother, Hazel Voldbrecht, in the mid-1940s at a Janesville rooming house. Voldbrecht’s husband, Henry “Heine” Voldbrecht, had died in 1945. With seven children to support, she had taken a job cleaning the rooming house.
Kinna came there to visit his brother.
“At some point, he said to her, ‘It’s been a year and so many months and so many days since Heine died, and I think it’s time that we start courting,’” Hessian said. “It was an old-fashioned thing to say, even then.”
He was 50 at the time. Hazel was 51.
“I think he had a better life with all of us,” Hessian said. “He was the only grandpa the kids knew. He took right to us.”
On July 3, 1976, Kinna recorded his final deposit to his secret stash in the cupboard. On July 4, Hessian and her boyfriend took him to see the fireworks at Traxler Park. As they walked up a slight hill to the car, Kinna collapsed.
“The firemen were right there to help him, and Mercy Hospital was right there,” Hessian said.
He died the next day.
At the time, Kinna was living on Rockport Road in the house now owned by Burkhard.
Last month, Burkhard was hunting for hand towels in the little-used cupboard when he found the wallet.
“We don’t care about the money,” Sue Hessian said. “We think it’s great he donated it to charity.”
She plans to contact Burkhard to get the wallet and the receipt book.
“It will be neat to have something of his,” she said of Kinna.