Awards 2013

Posted on: July 27th, 2014 by

Oconto County Historical Society Awards

Annual Meeting of the Society

Recipient Information

November 14, 2013


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


      Jim Lacourciere spent some years of his childhood in Oconto, where his family is originally from.  After many years away he moved back to Oconto in 2000.  Since moving to Oconto Jim has been very active in community affairs.  He has been on the city council and county board, including many committees.  He has been on several committees to help the school district.  He is active in civic organizations.  He is the current president of the Farnsworth Library Board, and the Oconto County Historical Society.  And he isn’t just sitting in meetings, though that does take a considerable amount of time.  He is out helping to clean, paint, repair, or move things.  With all that, it is not what we acknowledge him for tonight.         Besides being so involved in the community, he also has helped to improve the appearance of Oconto.  Jim has bought several homes to renovate and make available for rent.  The house we are concerned with tonight is known as the Barber Rental house.  It is at 558 Main Street.  Built about 1870 by Edward Barber, a carpenter, to be rented, it is a simple one and a half story frame house with intersecting gable roof and enclosed porch.  Remodeling enclosed the front porch in 1935 and removed fancy carved woodwork.  Jim bought the home a few years ago, then renovated it, keeping the charm of the woodwork, fireplace, and kitchen nook.  The outside was painted in Victorian style to blend well with the neighborhood, which was named the West Main Street National Historic District in 1979.  We are happy Jim chose this house as one of his many projects, so that the District can maintain its charm, and we are happy to present him with the President’s Award.


      Alexandria Binkowski was working as a nurse in Milwaukee when in 2000 she decided to find a Victorian house to live in.  She started searching in various towns and happened upon one on the Internet that looked promising.  Her agent arranged to tour it.  A day of looking was planned to cover a dozen houses.  The first was the one she had seen on the Internet, 427 Main Street in Oconto.  Alexandria knew while she toured the house that it would be her home.  Her friend and the agent even commented that as she stood at the top of the staircase it looked like she had a glow around her.  She reluctantly went to the other houses that day, but really didn’t seriously look at them.  She wanted her house.  And she got it.  In 2007 she thought she would have to give up her house as an opportunity to move to Georgia came.  As she drove away she looked back and suddenly had the feeling that she would return.  As luck would have it, the situation in Georgia didn’t work out.  So Alexandria quickly took her home off the market and moved back to Oconto.  Since then she has been diligently refurbishing the home in true Victorian style.

      In 1869 Truman Phelps, the bookkeeper for Holt Lumber, bought the land for $150.00 and built the present house in 1895.  The home remained in the family until 1937.  This home is a superb example of the Queen Anne style.  Its large curved porch features turned post and spindle railings, brackets, and a round conical-shaped turret.  The curved glass windows and double-entry doors with beveled glass windows further illustrate its opulent construction.  This house also is in the West Main Street National Historic District.

      We are indebted to Alexandria for taking such loving care of the Phelps home, and making it the Binkowski home.  We are pleased to present the President’s Award to Alexandria Binkowski.


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


      A spirit of dedication and pride, and a love of the Oconto Catholic Cemetery is what Dolores and Jerry Bickel keep in their hearts.

      Dolores and Jerry Bickel are a storehouse of historic information on Oconto’s Catholic Cemetery, and they are always more than willing to share their knowledge.  It is a pleasure and a true learning experience to spend time with the Bickels and hear them talk passionately about something they truly love.

      The Bickels continue today to take great pride in the loving care they have given to the grounds of the cemetery for so many years.  Dolores and Jerry are the keepers of the large ledger-style book where they continue to record the burial locations and information of those individuals who pass away and are laid to rest in the Catholic Cemetery.  The book is indexed alphabetically by last name of the deceased, and also by cemetery plot numbers.  The book was started in the 1800s and is now entrusted to Dolores and Jerry who meticulously record, by hand, the new additions.  There is no computer for Dolores and Jerry.

      But more than the written record, is the knowledge that Dolores and Jerry have in their heads.  All one needs to do is ask about the location of the burial site of an individual, and after a moment’s thought, Jerry will say, “You know where that is, Dolores.  It is on the right side of the road, near the clump of three cedar trees, down from the crucifix.”  Dolores thinks, smiles, and replies, “Yes, Jerry, I think you are right.”  Then Dolores takes out the large record book and verifies the location.  Yes, Jerry is right, just as he said.

      Not only do Dolores and Jerry know the location of most burial sites, from memory, they can also tell some genealogy – who the individual married, who their sibling were, and where the individual lived.  It is amazing, but not so much a surprise for two people who lovingly care for and tend the cemetery for so many years.  Dolores and Jerry have inspired their two daughters to appreciate the love of the cemetery.

      It is a pleasure coupled with a sincere thank you, to present the 2013 George E. Hall Award for documentation of Oconto County history to Dolores and Jerry Bickel.



Volunteer of the Year Award


      Robert Brown is being honored tonight for his work with the Holt and Balcom Logging Camp Museum in Lakewood.  Bob, with the support of his wife Pam, has played an integral part in saving for posterity the oldest logging camp in America still sitting where it was built.

      Shortly after moving to Lakewood in 2006, Bob joined the McCauslin Lions where he answered Norb Langer’s call for help with school visits offered each spring to area fourth graders.  Being a history buff and willing to spend some time sharing that love with others, Bob volunteered to lead tours at the camp.  He quickly became more and more involved. He spent untold hours reading and researching the history of logging and the legacy of the camp to make the tours as informative and authentic as possible for the students and visitors who came to learn.  He and Norb Langer painted the inside of the cookshack to give it a fresh look.  He and Chris Goetz sorted, cleaned, and repositioned the artifacts to make them more organized and accessible.

      When the Museum’s renovation began in 2007, Bob used his experience in finance to help plan for Phase I: roof replacement.  During the next six years, he worked with Norb Langer and Kathleen Marsh to not only restore the site to its former glory but to ensure the camp’s existence far into the future.  Whether it involved moving artifacts out and back in, consulting with the various subcontractors, doing light carpentry and repairs, helping with fundraisers, or offering badly needed moral support, Bob got the job done.

      Since 2009, when Bob accepted the role of Camp Manager, he has served as liaison to the schools and as docent par excellence.  Bob organizes and conducts tours, oversees the Museum’s finances, and helps with special events and programs.  His love for the camp is contagious, and he is willing to offer private tours annually from snowmelt to snowfall. 

      Bob Brown’s hard work and devotion to the Holt and Balcom Logging Camp Museum deserves the special recognition he is receiving tonight.  We are all grateful to him for all that he has done “out at the camp.”



The Duane Ebert Award – for lifetime achievement in history


Lorraine Gentz has been active in Gillett and Oconto County for many years.  Besides helping to run their family business, she found time for many organizations.  As past president she has worked tirelessly for the Gillett Women’s Club, and to maintain its viability.  She has been a part of the VFW auxiliary.  She was instrumental in the Revitalize Gillett Incorporated program.  She is a very active member of the Gillett Area Historical Society, and is the sole person doing accessioning for the group.  As well as being involved in the Gillett area, Lorraine was on the Oconto County Historical Society’s board from 2000 to 2006, and brought her enthusiasm with her for the Society’s activities.  Lorraine is a wonderful example of what the Duane Ebert Award for lifetime achievement was designed to acknowledge.  We are pleased to present this award to Lorraine for her many years of tireless effort for the community of Gillett and helping to preserve and promote the history of Oconto County.