Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Having spent several hours placing Franczek's marker with the help of Joey and Peggy, I pleaded with them to accompany me to Florian. Since I had never been to that cemetery and only vaguely knew what to expect via cousin Kathy (Wilebski) Schafer, I was pretty nervous. As always, Joey and Peggy agreed to follow us down there.

Upon finding the cemetery, I looked around trying to find the existing grave marker. I at once saw a cross that looked identical in shape to the one that was on "Frank's" grave at Kroze. And, since I saw it in amongst other relatives such as the Kuznias and Kazmierzcaks, I was 90% certain I had found it. But, I told our placement guy, I wanted to be sure.

Kathy had indicated that Mike Kuznia, who lived nearby, would be there to meet us. Alas, no one was around, so I ended up going to the rectory where I met the deacon. I explained my plight and he provided a map of all the graves. This was a good thing since upon finding Antonia's name, it was on the opposite side of the cemetary.....Thank you lord Jesus!

When I finally located the site, Joey and Peggy were pulling up in their Sunday go to meeting sedan and joined us. I also went back to the deacon to see if we couldn't have a local "expert" tell us if we were doing things correctly according to their rules. The deacon called Mike Kuznia and he promptly showed up with his son in law in tow. Mike was a great guy, and of course knew about us and our family since Tom Wilebski was married to his aunt. He explained that before uncle Tom left for St. Paul and the railroad job, he was a carpenter in the Florian area and also was responsible for many of the early cement grave markers in the area. Who would have known?

O.K. so far so good. But again we were faced with the dilema of the original cross. When we tried to jiggle this one loose, it would not budge. Darren shoved his shovel down a couple feet behind the cross and hit cement. His and our thoughts were they have poured a huge slab of concrete and that we would never be able to budge this baby. The prospects that were available to us then were not all that great, since we would be forced to put the new marker on the other end of the grave. And that meant it would be almost out of view and under a row of spruce trees. Realizing the goo that oozes from spruce trees unabated over the months and years, gloom descended upon our small group.

Thankfully, Peggy kept insisting that we move the existing monument, or at least try to see just how much trouble it would be. I have to say knowing Mrs. Peggy for as long as I have, I have come to appreciate her mild mannered insistence. I'm sure the Stennes guy rolled his eyes, but we listened to Peggy and it was a good thing. As we came to find out later, the cement that Darren hit was the outline of the grave. And here's the funny part, or unusual at least. Since there were some very dramatic sand storms in this area during the depression in the late 20's and early 30's, the graves had accummulated an additional foot and a half of dirt since Antonia was buried. Amazing!

Upon digging out the original cross, we found additional inscriptions. Joey was quick to get a bucket of water and clean it off so that after we placed it, it could be read. I've included a couple of pics of the before and after.

The only other issue that arose was in connection with the placement of the new marker. Since the majority of the "fronts" of the markers faced East, that would mean to comply our marker would be viewed primarily by the spruce trees and would not be viewable to someone entering the cemetary. So, the dilema was how could we circumvent this implied rule without offending the locals. The Stennes guy came up with a solution. He said that for a few hundred more U.S. dollars, he could bring the stone back to the shop and put some limited wording on the back side to comply, while still retaining all of the good stuff and the picture on the side most people would see....our "front" side.

Executive decision made amongst the cousins and the stone was heading back to the shop for the additional lettering. While the stone did not get placed on Monday, we are led to believe it should be done in the not too distant future.

Should any of you ever have the opportunity to make it to this graveyard, you will probably notice there are more of our relatives buried here than at Kroze. Although other than Antonia and Paul, there are no others with the last name of Wilebski. But, you will see a ton of Kuznias, Kazmierzaks, Prices, etc.

FYI, Peter Wilebski's son Paul buried not too far away from Antonia.

Hope you enjoy the pictures and the story of the end of this 15 year quest to honor our great grandparents. And yes, we can use any donations you can spare to reimburse the family member that fronted this endeavor.

Kroze Marker Placement accomplished!!

After almost 15 years, the deed is finally done. I was beginning to think just this month that is was not to be with all the fits and starts this project has had. In fact we had 2 different placement dates, and if it wouldn't have happened this Monday, well who knows if it would have gotten done this year.

First off, I want to thank everyone that has provided input on this project. I truly appreciate all of the proof reading and comments. Your support, whether monetary or morale was appreciated more than you may realize.

So how did it finally go on Monday? Well, Joey and Mrs. Peggy agreed to meet me at the Kroze cemetery early Monday morning. It was a cold and blustery day for the middle of August. Our point man Darren Nelson of Stennes Granite arrived about 9am with his son Tanner riding shotgun. After a brief consultation, Darren pointed out the marker was fairly heavy, something on the order of 800 pounds. And, that getting it to the gravesite of Francszek would be a somewhat "monumental" (pun intended) task if he could not manuever the truck with overhead crane closer. In effect, we would have to get it there by hand cart. Neither Joey or I were too enthused about that prospect. The problem as we saw it was that to get the truck closer to the gravesite required us to find a path across existing graves. And many of those were from around the turn of the last century, before those cement enclosures were being used. In other words we were concerned that the weight of the pickup and several ton of granite could possibly cave in an existing grave. Since the majority of the Wilebski clan is not exactly in good graces with the Kroze congregation, we were somewhat concerned about the prospects.

After much discussion, the decision was made to try get the truck closer to the site and take the chance it would not fall into any existing grave. It worked, perhaps due to some unknown force. But again, we didn't damage any graves in the process.

Upon looking at the grave with the original cross, we reiterated our desire to salvage the original marker. This cement cross was constructed by Frank's son Tom, who we found out made quite a few of these monuments prior to his leaving the area to become a carpenter for a railroad in St. Paul.

Darren from Stennes was more than happy to move the existing marker, but was concerned that it would break if we tried to do so. Again, Joey and I agreed to take responsibility if it broke. But we were somewhat nervous. As with everything this day that went right, we were able to free the existing original marker with ease and place it at the back of the gravesite while we installed the new memorial.

All of this went quite well. Throughout the process Peggy was our final word in the placement and alignment of both the new memorial and the replacement of the original cement cross marker. Mega thanks to her and Joey for being there, as I am not sure it would have turned out as well if I were there on my own.

I have attached a few of the pictures of the process for your viewing pleasure.

Oh, almost forgot to tell you that decades ago when our family was still a part of that congregation and our family worked to raise money and clean up the cemetery, a map of the graves was obtained. Suprisingly, Frank's brother Peter Wilebski is buried beside him, but there is no grave marker. For those of you wondering about Peter, he was perhaps the most instrumental person in terms of establishing the Polish community up in Kroze, or Richardville Township. He was the one who enticed Poles, many of which were originally from the Posnan area in Poland, to move farther North. This he did with letters to Polish language newspapers in the Chicago area, and of course via word of mouth to those who had already moved from Chicago to the Wilno/Ivanhoe (Minnesota) area. It's a shame this pioneer of the community lies in an unmarked grave.

FYI, this is also the father of our grandfather Joe's second partner, Antonia. We also believe that Peter's wife is buried not too far away in yet another unmarked grave which is labeled Mrs. Wilebski on the handwritten chart. Perhaps once we finish paying for these 2 stones for the great grandparents, we may want to think of some way of identifying these individuals too. Just a thought.

The next blog entry will relate to our Florian experience.