Preserving Arnie Massier’s Memory
“Arnie was the original preservationist. He never wanted to throw anything out because he knew that his family was able to survive by using what they could.” Jennifer Reichert, who is the surrogate granddaughter to Arnie Massier, is honoring her friend’s memory by preserving it.
The lifelong Naperville resident died on February 14, 2020 at the age of 97. He left his beloved home to Reichert, who was Massier and his brother Adam’s next door neighbor.
“They were in their early 60’s when I met them, when I came over as a little girl,” said Reichert. “And when I started calling them grandpas they were so surprised because they certainly didn’t have any children and they definitely didn’t have any grandchildren but we forged that sort of relationship.”
When Reichert moved away for work she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep the house she inherited from her surrogate grandfather. She didn’t want to see the house torn down. That’s when she turned to BlueEarth Deconstruction to help preserve Massier’s memory.
The company took apart the house piece by piece to save cabinets, windows, and doors to be reused. And the house itself on Franklin Street tells its own story of reuse.
“They actually took pieces of the house and used them,” said Steve Filyo, owner of BlueEarth Deconstruction. “As we’ve taken apart the back porch old pieces of siding and shingles were in there kind of used as shims to bolster up different sides and make it level.”
The around 100 trees worth of lumber taken down will be donated to non-profit Rebuilding Exchange to repurpose it all. “The way it was originally put together is out of date now. People don’t even build houses like this,” said Filyo. “But somehow this house has lasted over 100 years it’s because it’s been done with such great materials.”
Massier’s story won’t just continue through his home. His legacy will also be remembered at Naper Settlement. “I think for Jennifer, being able to know that the collection was going to go to a place where it was going to be revered and the community stories could be told, especially Arnie’s community story. It’s just so important for that local history to be kept,” said Donna Sack, vice president and chief program officer at Naper Settlement.
Reichert shared 22 hours of oral history and gave away around 2,500 objects of Massier’s to the settlement. Items include photographs, furniture, and even old receipts which give a glimpse of what Naperville was like all those years ago.
Massier also served in World War II and was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds he endured as a prisoner of war. His items from that time, like his dog tags, will be showcased at a new exhibit coming to Naper Settlement.
“We got this collection at the same time we were developing these stories and it was just sort of this beautiful happenstance that we were able to use many items from Arnie’s collection and from the family collection,” said Jeanne Schultz Angel, director of learning experiences at Naper Settlement.
The settlement’s World War II exhibit, “Answering the Call,” will be on display April 12.
“Our Best Legacy for Arnie”
While deconstructing the home and giving away parts of it to Naper Settlement was difficult, Reichert knew this was the way she could honor Massier.
“I wanted to make sure that it could be celebrated as much as possible. So in sacrificing the whole structure, we’re able to share the story more robustly with a huge audience and so this is our best legacy for Arnie,” said Reichert.
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.
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