It’s always hard to say goodbye to loved ones. And that includes our family homes.
Joan Brown will soon be bidding adieu to her home of nearly 40 years on Lac La Belle, a home she is most fond of.
“I bought it a cake for its 100th birthday,” said Joan of the 1912 home.
She and her husband, Bruce, longtime publisher of the Oconomowoc Enterprise who died in 2014, bought the home in 1978, moving just a block away from their Maple Terrace residence. Bruce and Joan bought the home from Bruce’s parents, who were moving to the Shorehaven retirement community, just as Joan is planning to do.
“It’s a wonderful house,” says Joan over the phone. “I’m sitting in the sunroom right now.” That room is among her favorites in the nearly 4,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home on the lake.
Joan recalls what made her fall in love with the home. “It’s close to the lake, accessible to the water, and it’s situated in a wonderful way. You can’t see the houses on either side,” she says, adding, “It’s so pretty. It has these big white columns in front.”
She and Bruce had five children – Brad, Gayle, Kimberly, Carter and Jennifer – four of whom are living. (Kimberly died of breast cancer.) Joan has 12 grandchildren.
The children are sad to see the beautiful home leave the family, but Joan is hoping that the next occupants will enjoy many happy years there as well.
“I wish it’s a family that moves in,” says Joan.
Joan, who is 85, says, the decision to move was hard, but with all the upkeep and expense the big old home requires it is “a good time to start unloading things.”
Joan grew up on Lake Nashotah and graduated from Oconomowoc High School and Carroll University (then, Carroll College), where she studied chemistry and biology. She loved to participate in all kinds of sports, especially water sports, and sailed competitively with her husband. Her children learned how to sail, too. In winter, the family would go skiing to places like Powderhorn. Joan also was an avid golfer.
Each room has it own magic and it's own relationship with the lake. From the sunroom, you can see the entire length of Lac LaBelle from downtown Oconomowoc to the site of the old Monastery. It's the perfect place to take in all the activities on the lake.
“We have a hurricane boat now,” she says. “It’s wonderful skiing for the grandchildren.”
While her Lac La Belle home contains volumes of memories, she has wonderful memories of faraway places she and Bruce traveled to as well.
In 1936, Bruce’s father, C.W. Brown, bought the newspaper, which dates to 1888. The Brown family published the newspaper until 1990, when it was sold to Conley Publishing.
For many years, Joan wrote a column with Bruce for the Enterprise called “I Must Be Nuts.”
“It was funny,” says Joan. “I would say I have a good sense of humor.” Joan says the column was “sweet,” sometimes including poetry or poking fun at marriage.
She also would talk about her many trips in the column. As president of the National Newspaper Association, Bruce would travel around the world with Joan. She still remembers the thrill of traveling to Jerusalem, Egypt, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other far-flung destinations.
Joan calls the ability to see the world “a big bonus,” something she and Bruce probably wouldn’t have done if Bruce hadn’t been involved with the newspaper. Joan says that before marrying Bruce she didn’t travel much. “It was quite a learning experience,” says Joan.
While the big, beautiful house with the lake view will soon be part of her past, Joan will still be on Lac La Belle when she moves into her new home, which is being built as part of Shorehaven’s expansion. She expects to move in in August or September. When she moves, she’ll know a number of people at Shorehaven. Several of her friends live there, including one who is on the board of directors.
Joan’s heart has always been in the community. She is a charter member of the Oconomowoc Area Foundation. “I was on every committee,” Joan recalls. Yet her work is not done. She is one of the leaders of a fund-raising committee for the exercise room which is being built at Shorehaven.
The big, beautiful, old house with the lake view holds lots of memories for Joan as she starts this new chapter of her life.
“I’ll miss the beauty of the lake and the yard. It’s a very comfortable home.”