34 years of organizing Kewaunee County
ALGOMA – Janet Wolf spent 34 years organizing the county, and now it’s her turn.
She retired at the conclusion of her third elected term on Jan. 1 as Register of Deeds, a position she held at the helm of the county office for 10 of her three-plus decades there. In the past couple of months, the 64-year-old has been coordinating her own newspaper clippings, photographs and personal piles of paper that have been categorized but not meticulously catalogued.
“You know what I mean,’’ Wolf said with a smile. “You spend years clipping and saving and don’t have the time to go through everything. Keep or not keep. Now I have the time.”
“I miss everything about my job and the people I worked with. I don’t miss driving in winter,’’ she said with another smile.
The Register of Deeds documents real estate transactions for private use, attorneys and title companies. The office also records marriages, births and deaths. It caters to genealogists and fields property easement queries, before everything gets sent to the state office.
“It’s all very technical,’’ said Wolf. “All the information has to be check and rechecked. All of it needs to be exact and abide by the recording requirements by statute. To me, it is so interesting. It fits me.’’
The office also handles an assortment of questions. Wolf remembers a phone call she will never forget, from a California man seeking information about his ancestors.
“He was going to come to the area in the fall. He was looking for his great-grandparents’ home,” Wolf said. “He wanted to search the records to find out where they lived. In the conversation, he said their names were Frederick and Albertina Griese!’’
That’s Wolf’s great-grandparents’ names as well. In fact, she was raised on the same homestead, and it’s the same land in the town of Rankin where she and husband, Ray, built a home. She and the California man turned out to be third cousins.
Wolf began her government office career at the Veterans Service Office at the courthouse in Kewaunee after graduating from Door-Kewaunee County Teachers College in Algoma. She worked in sales at Calumet Co. in Algoma before applying for a position at the Register of Deeds office back in the courthouse in 1982. She then was hired by Alice Flaherty.
When Flaherty retired, her deputy Marilyn Miller was elected Register of Deeds, and Wolf was promoted to deputy. When Miller retired, Wolf ran for the top spot and won a contested race. The office was moved to the Kewaunee County Administration Center about a mile away.
With Wolf’s retirement, former deputy Germaine Bertrand is now Register of Deeds.
Politics ran in Wolf’s family as her father, Paul, was a town assessor.
“When I was little girl, I played office with a cut-out cardboard box (front desk). I would pretend playing office with his old insurance papers,’’ she reminisced.
The office has transitioned into the digital age with lightning speed since then.
“There has been plenty of changes,’’ she assured. “Everything was hand written. Lot of paper copies. Much of it was white on black paper. Documents were eventually scanned and indexed. It would take many hours to find land records before indexing. I had all the real estate and deed books since 1900 redone,’’ which took years. Now most of the information is found online for easy access.
Ray Wolf has been retired for a couple of years after spending most of his career at Emerson Electric in Sturgeon Bay. They are both avid gardeners of three acres surrounding their rural ranch-style house on County D. It’s the same land her family farmed for 141 years.
“Now we can do whatever we want, when we want,’’ said Ray. “Before, we were restricted just to the weekends. Now we can go out for breakfast, for instance, on any day.’’
Not many know Janet Wolf also is a wedding singer.
She also keeps busy now by completing extensive jigsaw puzzles and dabbling with crafts and photography. She has a prized doll collection, arranges flower bouquets and is an accomplished interior and exterior decorator.
Wolf loves to garden with her husband, but most importantly, she cherishes the moments sitting on the back deck with her little Pomeranian dog, Dolly, watching the wildlife of birds, squirrels, turkeys and an abundance of deer passing by.
Contact Tina M. Gohr at 920-304-1142 or [email protected]
This article originally appeared on Wisconsin: 34 years of organizing Kewaunee County