Awards 2017

Posted on: June 8th, 2018 by

Oconto County Historical Society Awards

Annual Meeting of the Society

Recipient Information

November 9, 2017

The President’s Award – for preservation of Oconto County buildings, constructions, or sites

Leon Janssen has had a life-long love affair with the Couillardville area.  He spent his formative years there.  He is proactive in preserving Couillardville history.  He recently helped in refurbishing the local county park including the placement of a State Historic Marker.  Leon has written numerous articles and books, conducted interviews, prepared videos, and co-sponsors an annual reunion.  As he continues to preserve Couillardville history we continue to honor him.  He well deserves the President’s Award.


The President’s Award – for preservation of Oconto County buildings, constructions, or sites

I can’t remember exactly when I met Kathie Marsh but I suspect it had something to do with a man whom many of you know, Norb Langer.  Norb was the long-time manager of the Holt & Balcom Logging Camp Museum, first as a member of the McCaslin Lions, and then continuing with the Oconto County Historical Society after the Lions Club gave the camp back to the OCHS in 2008.  Norb and Kathie were, and are, great friends, and it makes sense that the three of us met at the camp at some point in 2007 or 2008.   I had joined the Lions Club in 2006, started volunteering at the camp in the spring of 2007, and I could tell very quickly that Norb was starting to groom me to be his replacement as manager.  Norb was around 80 at the time and had a wife whose illness required a lot of hands-on caregiving.

At any rate, I was a committed and involved volunteer in 2007, when it was determined that the roof of the camp needed replacement, about thirty years after the Lions had installed it during their saving of the camp.  The Lions didn’t want to spend any more money on the camp, and dumped in Norb’s lap the job of finding new ownership for the camp.  The Holt family got wind of the possibility that the camp might be moved or demolished, and were greatly dismayed.  Kathie, who was friends with Marcia Wahoske, great-granddaughter of William Arthur Holt, began to find herself more and more involved in trying to preserve the future of the camp.

The outcome of Norb’s ownership determination efforts was the transfer of the camp back to the OCHS.  Norb then leapt into determining what type of replacement roofing would be appropriate and obtaining bids for the project.  Norb soon felt that it would be better if a committee of OCHS members were formed to review and make determinations about the restoration of the camp, and (surprise, surprise!) Kathie became one of the committee members.  And then, she appointed herself chair (and only member) of the Fundraising Committee!

Kathie, as is her wont, immediately jumped into the effort with both feet, writing letters, organizing fundraising presentations and events at the camp and on the golf course in the middle of which it stands.  Her initial success was in raising not only the $12,000 it took to replace the roof, but also to go farther in raising an additional $16,000 in cash and pledges by the end of 2008.  And all the while, Kathie said she had never done this sort of thing before, and really didn’t know what she was doing!

During the completion of the roof project, people took a good look at the camp buildings and determined that extensive restoration work was needed, and it would cost, at first glance, at least $35,000.  Norb and Kathie started to work on the project, with Norb as general contractor, but Norb’s wife began to require more attention and Norb wasn’t getting any younger.  The result was that I became camp manager and Kathie became general contractor, because I was employed and didn’t have the time to devote to the effort.

So, Kathie not only determined what needed to be done and how to do it, but also raised the funds needed to accomplish it!  She dealt with the log restoration contractor, who, it was quickly determined, had egregiously underestimated the cost of his time and materials (that’s a long story in itself), and she also arranged with local artisans, tradesmen and craftsmen to accomplish their tasks at significantly reduced or no cost.  And, while she was doing all that, Kathie organized golf outings, dinners at the camp, more talks and presentations, and then along came “The Red Light Saloon,” a wonderful series of performances that raised multiple thousands of dollars in its five-year run.

When all was said and done, the restoration cost more than $130,000, and Kathie raised it all!  But Kathie didn’t quit there; she knew that more repairs would be a regularity due to the nature of the buildings, and she wanted to have a fund to pay for everything.  So, the Red Light Saloons continued, replaced this year by “Wine, Women and Song,” and other fundraising events continued, as well as the obtaining of thousands of dollars in grants.

Kathie’s premonition of ongoing repairs was unfortunately borne out last year when it was determined that some of the logs in the camp’s walls were either incorrectly repaired or not repaired at all, the sealer used on the exterior was improper (done by the log restoration contractor), and that to fix this new problem would cost around $20,000.  Of course, Kathie raised that, too!  Kathie is also responsible for another fundraising coup, which we will announce when it comes to fruition.

The President’s Award is in the highest category of the Society’s honors.  If there were a higher award, I would have nominated Kathie for that.


The President’s Award – for preservation of Oconto County buildings, constructions, or sites

The Leon Bond house has been a unique addition to Oconto’s West Main Street Historic District since it was built in 1929.  Leon, one of the Bond brothers who owned Bond Pickle Company, bought land from the Scofield property next door and built the house for his future wife, Clymene Muehrcke.  Rather than the prevailing style of the neighboring Victorian houses, he built it as a one story, stucco Spanish styled structure with a tile roofed parapet.  Clymene finally convinced Leon to expand the master bedroom and add a family room in the 1960s. After Leon’s death in 1999 the outside was refurbished and landscaping redone.  The home was used as the office of the Bond Foundation until it was sold in 2013 to a private owner.  Kevin and Denise Judy started thinking about moving from Oconto Falls to Oconto about 10 years ago.  They looked at ranch homes but wanted something with a bit more character.  They even called owners of homes they admired who weren’t really thinking of selling.  That included the owners of the Bond House.  It took a few years of attempts but the Judys finally came to an agreement and became the new owners.  Being very interested in the history of the home they wanted to restore architectural aspects while modernizing it.  It’s taken a year but they are happy with the results that keep the Bond House’s place in the community while making it their home.  We’re pleased to present the President’s Award for preservation of Oconto County buildings to Kevin & Denise Judy.


George E. Hall Award – for documentation of Oconto County history

Jay and Sharie Merline were born and raised in Oconto.  Incorporating the importance of family with their knowledge of the city, they developed a deep interest in genealogy and the history of area. Following that interest, they have become involved with many local groups.  Jay is President and Sharie is Secretary of the Oconto County Genealogical Society.  Jay is the Vice-President of both the Suring Area Historical Society and the Oconto Falls Area Heritage Center, and is on the Board of Directors of the Oconto County Historical Society.  They have done considerable research on their families over the years and have been collecting items relating to local communities.  They have included objects, books, maps, postcards, and anything else that they could find.  With the advent of the Internet and social media they found a great way to share their treasures with others.  They have started Facebook pages for the Suring Area Historical Society, Oconto Falls Area Heritage Center, Marinette County History Preservation, Stiles Area History, History of Spruce, and Oconto History.  They also have an Oconto County History YouTube channel with over 20 videos from around the county.  It’s hard to fathom how they have kept all of this straight.  They have certainly earned the George A. Hall Award for documentation of county history.


RAY CLARK – George E. Hall Award Winner

Ray Clark has been a long-time collector of historic memorabilia. A few years ago, he approached Paul Smith, about the Smith family collection of Land Survey records, books, and equipment.  Ray was able to complete the transaction and in doing so helped preserve four generations of the Smith family. Thanks to a loan of some of these items to the Society, we were able to present a history of the Smith family of surveyors in the George E. Hall Annex.  We’re thankful Ray was able to acquire these artifacts and willing to share them.  The recognition that comes with the George E. Hall award is well deserved.


The Duane Ebert Award – for lifetime achievement in history

The Duane Ebert Award was named in honor of Duane, who has given 65 years of his life to the preservation of Oconto County history.  The award was established by the Oconto County Historical Society to recognize an individual or individuals for a lifetime of dedication to preservation, including but not limited to achievement in written local histories, achievements in genealogical research and documentation, achievement in volunteer activities on behalf of the local historical organizations and other achievements related to the preservation of local artifacts, objects, and/or history.

Tonight the Oconto County Historical Society presents the Duane Ebert Award, posthumously to Audrey Cisar.


A Tribute to Audrey Ihde Cisar: The Early Years, by Duane Ebert

     I was 12 when Audrey Ihde came to County Line to be the bride of LeRoy Cisar.  My folks were invited to the wedding and I went too.

     Audrey moved into the old Cisar farm home where she lived with Agnes and Ed Cisar, her in-laws.

     Audrey immediately became involved in the social activities of the small hamlet of County Line; the County Line Grange, and the County Line Bridge Club of which my mother was a member.  My dad called them the “Bridge Builders”.  Audrey was the last member of the Bridge Club.

     As time went on Audrey was active in the raising of her children, and our family moved from County Line.

     I was pleasantly pleased when Audrey showed an interest in the Oconto County Historical Society, eventually becoming president.  Bob will tell you the rest of the story


Audrey served as President of the Oconto County Historical Society for two terms, totaling six years.  Duane and I both had the privilege of working with Audrey during this time.

Audrey was an excellent President.  Her ever present smile, calm demeanor, work ethic, desire to do what was best for the Society, striving to get members involved, ability to make sound decisions for the betterment of the organization, and sincerity, were her admirable traits.  Audrey always listened and offered sound suggestions and advice in a positive manner.  She conducted very business-like monthly Board meetings.

Of course, with Audrey as President, LeRoy came along as an added bonus.  Many projects that Audrey undertook required more physical labor, and these projects saw LeRoy or the Cisar boys involved.  Audrey and LeRoy were a great pair.

There was no project too big or too small for Audrey to undertake.  She worked closely with Kay Hermsen Stewart.  When the Board of Directors decided to restore the wall paper in one of the Beyer Home rooms, Audrey and Kay took it upon themselves to strip off the old paper and hang the new paper.  All done with little fanfare.

On the days Duane, Audrey, and I worked at the museum, about mid-afternoon, Audrey would disappear to her car and a few minutes later would reappear with a delicious treat…all homemade…cake, pie, bars, cookies, torte, cinnamon rolls.  One special treat was something called Mississippi Mud.  Oh, to have Audrey’s recipe for that dessert, or better yet, to have some of it to share with you.

Over the years, Audrey and LeRoy donated a number of artifacts to the Society, some items with County Line history and some with history from the Cisar family.  The generosity of donating to the Society was carried on by Audrey and LeRoy’s children.

Audrey lived to be 91 years old and passed away on July 25, 2017.

Receiving the award this evening, are Audrey and LeRoy’s daughters, Jill and Lynn.


Outstanding Dedication Award Winner

When I was asked to present this next award, I was reluctant to get up before all of you to make the presentation. But, after sitting down to write out some thoughts about the recipient, I realized what an honor it is to have the opportunity to recognize this very dedicated man for all that he has done for Oconto County Historical Society.

In the twenty plus years that I have known him, I have always been aware of his integrity and excellent work ethic, his intelligence and quick wit.  Since he became involved with OCHS, I have seen his generous and determined spirit manifest itself through the countless hours he has dedicated to the many projects he has completed for the Society.

Beginning in September of 2012, he completed several extensive restoration projects, including two electric cars, three horse drawn carriages and most recently the large Bond Pickle sign now on display in the Carriage House.

He also led the project to build the Carriage House itself.  His efforts included design input, seeking out a builder, soliciting funding for the project, installing landscaping and setting up the displays in the completed showroom.  In addition to all of these major projects, he also was instrumental in making changes to the existing gas and electric service at the museum complex which have resulted in significant savings in utility expenses.

He has promoted our organization by exhibiting restored vehicles at public events in our community and recently at a prestigious car show in Milwaukee.  He has even appeared in Oconto’s Holiday Parade dressed as a reindeer pulling an antique sleigh from the Museum’s collection.  This very dedicated individual has served as a tour guide, handled many business transactions for the Society, participated in the annual Cemetery Walks, portraying local residents featured in the events, and written articles on behalf of the Society.  He has also been a guest speaker for our monthly speaker series, been a general handyman and jack-of-all-trades at the museum and so much more.  And, as if this was not enough of a contribution, he is currently remodeling a portion of the Main Street exhibit in the George E. Hall Annex.

If I had to sum up this man’s dedication to Oconto County Historical Society in one word, I would have to say ‘amazing’.  He is a great role model for his sons and I have no doubt that when his grandkids are old enough to realize his many accomplishments, they will be very proud of their grandpa’s contributions to our community.

I am honored to present this very special award for Outstanding Dedication to Mr. David Retzlaff with extreme gratitude for his many hours of service to our Society.