Community celebrates Wally Kautz with a retirement party

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[March 14, 2015]  LINCOLN - On Wednesday afternoon at the Calm Creek Café in Mount Pulaski, friends of Wally Kautz gathered to wish him well in his retirement as one of the principal volunteers at the Mount Pulaski Courthouse.

While born and raised in the Lake Fork area, Wally has spent almost all of his adult life living in Mount Pulaski. He worked for the local post office for many years and made a number of lasting friendships in his career.

As a retiree, Wally became interested in serving the community by serving as a volunteer at the local historic site. For nearly 20 years, Wally has been a mainstay at the Courthouse. He served as the tour guide several days a week and was always on hand to share stories of the Courthouse's rich history associated with Abraham Lincoln.

Wally has always been very open about his battle with cancer. He is a 13-year cancer survivor. In the past year, the cancer has returned, and Wally has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment. He admits this round of treatment has been pretty tough, but he takes it all in stride, and spent time Wednesday with his friends with a smile on his face. He did say that the treatment is affecting his feet, and his ability to stand is not what it used to be.

Wednesday among the folks who stopped in to wish Wally well in his retirement were Mount Pulaski Mayor Jim Fuhrer. Others included members of the Mount Pulaski Genealogical and Historical Society Museum, members of the Courthouse Foundation, and many owners and employees of downtown businesses.

The members of the foundation board posed for a photo op with Wally, then Board Chairman Tom Martin presented Wally with a commemorative gift.

The gift is a gazebo stone that will be engraved in Wally’s honor.

Martin shared the following, "He has been a treasure to our community and a blessing to everything he has been a part of. We are here today because of all the work he has done on behalf of the courthouse.

"Not to have Wally’s face going up and down the stairs all the time, I am happy for that for him, but sad for all the rest of us. I hope that he doesn’t walk away permanently from us, and I hope that he will continue to serve with us at the foundation."

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The brick will be engraved to reflect the words Martin shared.

Wally spoke just for a few minutes.

He began tongue in cheek saying, “as unaccustomed as I am to speaking to people..." When the laughter subsided, he continued, “I would like to say simply a ‘thank-you,’ but more than that these 22 years have been one of the greatest joys of my life. And, this comes from a person who in school hated history.”

Wally mentioned one mentor by first name, saying that Richard had helped him through the initiation process as a courthouse volunteer. He also mentioned all the people who have worked with him throughout the years and noted that they were all special and important to him and the courthouse.

Looking back on his tenure at the courthouse he spoke about how amazing it was to meet the people who come to the courthouse, and to learn where they are from. He noted that bus tours come through, and the riders are folks from all over the country.

He remembered two groups specifically. “Two of the groups that I will also remember is the group of the Polish Army that came. They were guests in the community. They came to the courthouse, and that was a great day. Then we had a group of German Rotary that came through. They were very interesting. They invited me lunch that day, and that was an enjoyable time too."

Wally concluded, "It has just been great to be a part of this and thank-you."

After his speech, Wally was asked to cut the cake decorated with a depiction of the Mount Pulaski Courthouse and “Congratulations on your retirement Wally!”

Other refreshments included a selection of cookies, punch, and other soft beverages.

Wally said that while he will no longer be a daily visitor to the courthouse, he will be around. He said he intended to visit the courthouse at least two days a month for as long as he is able.

Wally Kautz was recognized as a Personality of the Week on December 8, 2008 by Lincoln Daily News. Here is the link to that article: Wally Kautz: Mount Pulaski is his home and its people are his family.

[Nila Smith]


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