replace photo with Les’s headstone when completed


DOB: December 12, 1932
Hammond, IN  

DOD: July, 3rd, 2020
At Home, Arlington Heights, IL 




Son of Walter L. Thielman and Paula M. (nee Kuhlman) Thielman


Brother To: Loren W. Thielman



Les grew up on his father’s airports, first the Chicago Heights Airport and later Governor’s Air Park, Richton Heights, IL 

Chicago Heights Airport

Governor’s Air Park / Wings Field


As a young man he enjoyed fixing and racing stock cars in addition to helping at the airport when needed. He was taught to fly by his older brother “Loren” and his father “Walter” 


1953, At the age of 21 he enlisted in the US Army and served at Fort Sheridan Army Base and  studied Chemical Biological & Radiological Warfare Defense and Artillery Survey Specialist. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and Expert Marksmanship Badge (M-1) He served in Battery 175 Field Artillery Battalion. 

Les ‘s is in the Amy Now

He also Married” Dollie Joanne Johnson 

Husband to: Dollie Joanne Johnson, Married  June 24, 1953


The Army Bridal Hut, Ft. Jackson, SC

Dad told a story about bring Dollie to the Bridal hut and they sent hours cleaning and sweeping it out and making it cozy, Dollie prepared dinner and for desert made a lemon meringue pie, After dinner they put the pie on top of the refrigerator and overnight the roaches ate all the meringue off the top of the pie.  ( it must have been love) 


Father To: Sherry L. (Larry) Gianneschi , Sandra Lee Thielman, Walter Scott Thielman 

In 1954 his first daughter came along: Sherry Lynn Thielman 

Followed by: Sandra Lee Thielman, 1956

And Last his son: Walter Scott Thielman, 1963






in 1959 at the age of 27,  He’s father “Walt” died of a massive heart attach and left his mother to run the airport on her own. Les joined his mother in managing Governor’s Air  park and later took over ownership and changed the name of the Airport to Wings Field. In addition he was a used equipment salesman for Midwest Industrial Properties, Chicago Heights, IL 



As a hobby he also built a Go-Cart track on the airports property and began building go-carts at home.




He also built his own airplane from the ground up in the family garage in Park Forest, IL . It was quite a sight to see the airplane with its wings alone side of it strapped to a trailer and towed to the airport in Richmond Park, IL . 



November 5,  1968 at the age of 36, he lost his wife and the mother of his children: Sherry, Sandy & Scott. 















Husband to: Carol Frances Koehn/Broerjtes , Married August 1969

Got to love the smirk on Les’s face

in 1969 at the age of 37, he Remarried a second time to: Carol Frances Koehn/Broerjtes in August 1969 and became step-father to: Mark, Scott & Kent Broerjtes.

In 1969 after the wedding he moved the whole family, all six kids and his  new wife to Prospect Heights, IL and sold Wings Field to the Civil Air Patrol.

in 1969 He’s started his own used machinery business “Wings Machinery” in Wheeling, IL . at the same time he bought himself a Beechcraft “Staggerwing Beech” model D17 bi-plane. 


Model Airplane collection




Les also owned, Auctions Unlimited and was an auctioneer. He was an avid reader of Si-fi and mystery books, he collected coins, lead soldiers and vintage model airplanes 




In the early 1970’s Les built his own 1939 Roadster from the Ground up, It gave him pleasure for many years and remains in the family to this day.



As the years past, Carol and Les had many good years, many wonderful vacations and many happy holidays together. 

(Create slideshow of vacations & holidays ) 


For many years Les & Carol owned and operated “The Mole Hole” A exclusive gift shop in Glenview, IL and also in Florida 

(add photo of Glenview shop)


The kids all grew up and most got married and the grandchildren started coming, these are just a few photo’s of the grandchildren. Too many photos to show all of them, there are 15 grandchildren & 7 great-grandchildren in all. 

(create slideshow of grandchildren) 

In 2017 Les lost his 2nd wide Carol , mother of Mark, Scott & Kent Broerjtes and for the last 2.5 years he lived in his home with his step-son Mark. 

Obituary for Leslie Ralph Thielman


Leslie Ralph Thielman, 87, of Arlington Heights, IL passed away peacefully July 3, 2020 in his home.

He was born December 12, 1932 in Hammond, Indiana to Walter Louis and Paula Marguerite Thielman. As a teenager, Les was enrolled in a mechanic school and then worked in a mechanic’s shop. He enjoyed working on cars so much that he started building cars, racing cars and go-carts. Les later then served in the United States Army as a land surveyor and mechanic.

While working at his father’s airports, Chicago Heights Airport and Governors Air Park (Richton Park, IL), his passion for planes grew. He became a flight instructor, built full scale, and collected vintage model airplanes. Les took over the family owned airport after his father’s passing and changed its name to Wing’s Field. In June of 1953 he married Dollie Joanne Johnson and had 3 beautiful children: Sherry, Sandra, and Scott. After the passing of Dollie, Les married Carol Frances Koehn/Broertjes in August of 1969. Carol had 3 sons of her own, Mark, Scott and Kent making the family complete.

Les was a true businessman/entrepreneur. After a while, he sold the airport and took on new adventures. He was a used machinery salesman (Midwest Industrial Properties), used machinery business owner (Wings Machinery and Auctions Unlimited). He even dabbled in being an auctioneer and a co-owner of a specialty gift shop (The Mole Hole) before retiring to enjoy quality time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. He had many passions that he enjoyed in his spare time, reading sci-fi and mystery novels, collecting (coins and lead soldiers). Along with being a member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Prospect Heights, the Lions Club of Prospect Heights, and participated in the Beecher Mausoleum National Landmark Restoration Project.

Les was an amazing, strong, and generous man who had a heart of gold. He loved being around friends and family and was always there to help someone when they were in need. He loved to entertain his grandchildren with Donald Duck impressions and singing old time songs that always made them laugh and smile.

Les is survived by his children, Sherry (Larry) Gianneschi, Sandra Lee Thielman, and W. Scott Thielman and Stepson Mark Broerjtes; 15 grandchildren: Justin, Ryan, Shane, Brandon and Marisa Broertjes; Larry, Nick and Amanda Gianneschi; Christina Lee; Samantha, Stacey, Michael, Jacqueline, Alex and Steven Thielman; 7 great grandchildren, Tyler, Layla, Kain, Rocco and Gianna Broertjes; Aryanna and L.J. Gianneschi. He is preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Paula Thielman; a brother, Loren Thielman; his wives: Dollie J. Thielman and Carol F. Thielman; stepsons, Scott and Kent Broertjes.

Les will be missed by all who were lucky enough to have known him. A service will be held on Saturday, July 25, 2020 at 11 a.m. at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, 304 W. Palatine Road, Prospect Heights, IL 60070.

Memorials: Memorial may be made at: Hack-Jensen Funeral Home, Beecher, IL. https://www.hackfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Leslie-Thielman/ or at the Beecher Mausoleum www.beechermausoluem.org/Les.R.Thielman



December 12th, 1932

 July 3rd, 2020

1939 Staggerwing Beechcraft D17S


N236E, November 236 Echo, you are cleared for final take off. Destination – the pearly gates of heaven. Winds are calm, weather is good. Your final pre-flight check list is complete! All systems are go! Look Dad, do you see them? The little BOX family with all the kids are out again on the side of the runway to watch you take off one more time.

As if on an angel’s wing, you left this earthly plain for the last time as you soar through the clouds with aerobatic loops, rolls and spins and practicing your favorite trick with nose up and nose down maneuvers, you float your Zippo thru the air from the dashboard into your shirt pocket, Bravo Dad. Do it again please. Simply enjoying yourself just like you have done so many times before. Fly high Daddy, higher still. I know you can do it! Heaven waits for you now.

As you prepare for landing, your final checklist is complete.

Do you hear the band Dad? They are playing a few of the songs you loved, The Preacher and the Bear, The Darktown Poker Club, Deck of Cards and the 3 little fishes in the itty-bitty pool to name just a few. 

While all of those you once loved stand at the gate waiting for you to land. Look Dad, Your Grandparents are there, your Mom & Dad, your bother Shorty too. Your two beautiful wives are waiting to take your arm again. Scott & Kent are there. Look Dad, more are coming, all your family’s ties are there, The Kuhlmans, Bielfeldts, Thielmans, Johnsons, Stennings and Koehns too. Dad, do you see them?  There’s Shep, Bingo, Big Saam & Sheba, Kim, Dusty, Lucy and Gretel just to name a few, they have all come from across the rainbow bridge to play with you again.

While here on earth, those you left behind wept at your departure as we watched you fly into the clouds for the final time.

We will miss you everyday Dad.

We know our own flights to heaven are scheduled for another day

 So, Wait for us Dad.

Soon we will join you and we can all be together once more.

This is how I wish to remember your last day on earth Dad. I hope Heaven has wonderful Airports, Racetracks and Go-cart tracks waiting for you to play on.

Love you to the Moon and Back!!! Your Loving Daughter

and Daddy’s little girl.

              Sandra Lee 





In Loving Memory 

Editors note:  When  was little I could not say foxes. So every time I asked dad to take me out to see the foxes it came out BOXES. You could only see them when you taxied an airplane down the runway. Otherwise they would always hide. Kits are baby foxes, but again I called them KIDS. 


Up, Up and away on angels wings to Heaven’s gate you Soared : July 3rd, 2020

                      At Dad’s Funeral we had the honor of the US. Military Honor Guard and a few pilots for Galt Field honored Les with a fly over. We are very Honored to have loved such a great man. 

We will miss our Father very, very much, it is very hard to say Good-Bye, So I’ll just close in saying “Till we meet again Mom’s & Daddy” 

Les is preceded in death by his Parents: Walter & Paula Thielman, his Brother: Loren Thielman, his Grandparents: Henry & Minnie Thielman,  his Wife: Dollie Joanne Thielman, his second Wife: Carol Frances Thielman, his Step-sons: Kent Broertjes and Scott Broerjtes

Other family members resting in the mausoleum are: 


Wife: Dollie Joanne (Johnson) Thielman 
2nd Wife: Carol Frances Koehn/Broerjtes Thielman 
(a small portion of Carol’s ashes are entombed with Les
Father & Mother : Walter L. Thielman & Paula  M. (Kuhlman) Thielman
Brother:    Loren Walter Thielman
Grandparents: Henry F. Thielman & Minnie (Bielfeldt) Thielman

Other, more distant family include: Bahlman, Batterman, Bergmeier, Beseke, Bielfeldt, Bohl, Cloidt, Dunlap, Engleking,  Fenske, Fick, Fiene, Freerking, Frobose, Graham, Guritz, Hack, Hager, Haltenhof , Heine, Heldt, Hildeman, Hinze, Hoffman, Hoppensteadt, Horn, Hunte, Kaczynski, Kappe, Kirchhoff,  Klocksieben, Koch, Langreder, Leder, Maass, Matthias, Mc Carty, Meyer, Monk, Niedert, Ohlendorf, Pansa, Peters, Pralle, Riley, Ristenpart, Rohe, Rust, Saller, Selk, Struve, Vagt, Von Engeln, Wegert, Wehmhoefer, Wiechen, Westphal, Wilkening,

(Editor’s note): If you have not guessed, this is my father. This man set me on my path to save and restore the Beecher Mausoleum 26 years ago. I didn’t think it was possible, but Dad gave me just enough time. This year 2020  I hope to complete the last of the restoration that I am capable of. I’m praying there is another out there to pick-up the project and see it into the next century. With a little care the Mausoleum is capable of standing for 100’s and 100’s of years into the future and continue to bury family members next to family for many more years.  With Pride and Love I hope to rest next to my parents and my family in the future myself. 

Sandra Lee Thielman 





Family Reunion, Re-dedication Celebration

The Beecher Mausoleum first family reunion was held Saturday June 27, 2015. 

Family members came to remember loved ones, learn about the mausoleums recent restoration efforts and to be apart of the 101 year old re-dedication of their family’s resting places.

Many traveled across country to be apart of the celebration. We had family’s come from, Florida, West Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Idaho.


Family Reunion, Re-dedication of the Beecher Mausoleum to be held

Family Reunion, Re-dedication of the Beecher Mausoleum to be held

Restoration Efforts Celebrated

Family traditions once revolved around visitation and remembrance at the gravesites of loved ones. That custom will be recreated as the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association will host families of ancestors buried inside the Beecher Mausoleum. At the same time, the building, which is undergoing restoration, will be re-dedicated in this, its 101st anniversary.

At noon Saturday, June 27, some families will travel to Beecher, some for the very first time, to enjoy a solemn moment with their loved ones as well as celebrate the mausoleum restoration.

Representatives from the Bahlman family will be coming to the event from Virginia, Indiana and Florida. The Wehmhoefer/Hoffman family descendants from Missouri are planning to attend. Members of the Thielman / Bielfeldt / Kuhlman families are flying in from Georgia. Other family members from California and Idaho are also expected. Some of these family members will come to Beecher for the very first time, while others are returning after years of absence. All of the ancestors whose relatives are buried in the mausoleum have been invited. It is hoped that many local families will also attend the celebration.

The day will also be a festive event to celebrate the ongoing restoration of a beautiful national landmark. Entertainment will be provided by Civil War re-enactors.

“There have been great strides made in our restoration efforts,” says Sandra Thielman, president of the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association. “The community is encouraged to join in this celebration. So much work has already gone into preserving this historical building, though there is more to be done to ensure the future of this prominent place.”

“Admittedly, there have been times when I was discouraged, but to see the progress that has been made in this restoration project, is positively exhilarating, Thielman said. “There is no limit to what can be accomplished when a community comes together.”

Thielman adds that with the support of Landmarks Illinois, Berglund Construction and the trade unions we really do have something to celebrate. The major restoration needs to preserve the mausoleum are now complete. But despite all that has been done, there is still work to do. Restoration work is ongoing. Maintenance of the building and its grounds will continue in order to return the mausoleum to a functioning asset to the community it once served.

The next phase of the work to be undertaken will include marble restoration, stained glass replication, and landscaping.

The Bricklayers Union #21 that did work on the limestone have been in contact with suppliers and craftsmen who work with marble. The marble panels and head stones that were damaged by vandals in the past are slated for repair or replacement as funds become available.

Stained glass windows will be replicated by Eric Suevel, Suevel Studios, Arlington Heights. The Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angels and the Thielman Family are sponsoring several windows. Other windows are available for sponsorship.

A landscaping plan will be in part designed by Theresa of Harms Farm, McHenry. Along with donated landscaping material from local nurseries. Local community groups are encouraged to help in the planning, planting and maintenance of the landscaping. We hope to return the mausoleum grounds to a park like setting.

Refreshments and entertainment will be provided.

For further information, contact Sandra Thielman at: (815) 788-9710, cell 815-382-7703 or by email at: sandra@beechermausoleum.org

Beecher Mausoleum Plans Include ‘Re-Dedication’ In German And English

Beecher Mausoleum Plans Include ‘Re-Dedication’ In German And English

Beecher Mausoleum restoration plans include a festive, bi-lingual re-dedication

Beecher Herald – Staff Report -March 19, 2015

Plans for the restoration project of the Beecher Mausoleum continue as the venerable structure enters its 101st year.

Three new main objectives have been outlined by the Guardian Angel Association for 2015, the not-for-profit organization that oversees the Beecher Mausoleum restoration project.

The Guardian Angel Association will host a gathering at the Beecher Mausoleum at noon, Sunday, June 27, for family members whose relatives are buried inside the Mausoleum. The public also is invited to attend.

Refreshments will be available for the many guests planning to attend. Already families – Bahlman and Woehmhoefer – from the states of Virginia and Missouri respectively have committed to attend. The guest list includes approximately 40 people.

Guardian Angels hope for participation from area churches, all of which had members’ families at one time, interred within the building throughout its 101-year existence.

“Wouldn’t it be fitting to hold a re-dedication in both English and German?” asked Sandra Thielman, president of the group, adding that German was the language used initially when the building was dedicated.

Entertainment will be provided by Brian Conroy and Jill Silbert, First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, Company E, the reenactment group that performed during the Halloween Festival.

The hodge-podge of glass block windows, which have been installed over many decades, includes nine huge panels and two family compartment windows. They will be replaced this spring.

Crawford Material Co., Chicago, will supply the glass block windows and vents. The windows will be installed by a local Masonry company, A-Above Masonry Co., Crete.

Extra hands are being sought for work during the weekend of March 21, through the spring and summer months. At that time, one of the glass block window panels will be removed for the purpose of providing a clean opening to allow measurements for the replacement project.

Once removed, the windows will be boarded up until the new panels of glass block windows can be installed. The only requirement is a pair of heavy duty leather gloves.

Now that the roof no longer leaks, volunteers are needed to help set up scaffolding, as well as to prepare to scrape, repair plaster, and paint the mausoleum ceiling.

Also, a professional or organization is needed to help design a historically-correct landscaping plan. Volunteers to implement such a plan are needed.

Anyone interested in helping with this or any other mausoleum project may email Sandra Thielman at sandra@beechermausoleum.org; or call her office at 815-788-9710; home, 815-728-8318; or cell, 815-382-7703.

Beecher Mausoleum Gets New Roof Gratis From Unions, Suppliers

Beecher Herald – 12-25-2014 – Staff Reporter 

Beecher Mausoleum’s Guardian Angels Association grateful

for the landmark’s new roof

A long-awaited goal has been achieved at the renowned Beecher Mausoleum: The decayed roof on the century-old structure has finally been replaced.

The effort to restore the building began in 1994 by Sandra Thielman, who spearheaded the drive with the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angels Association. She is a direct descendent of several family members buried there and the great-grandaughter of Henry Thielman, one of the men credited with getting the mausoleum built in the early 1900s.

Thielman first traveled to Beecher in 1994 to research a proper burial place for her then elderly grandmother, Paula. She said she was appalled at the condition of the once regal structure she remembered as a child.

Thus began her tireless effort to restore the building.

Thielman identified the need for a new roof early on, recognizing the potential for, and later actual damage to, the marble interior.


Friends said she was so dedicated, she even climbed atop the roof with buckets of tar year-after-year in an effort to provide a barrier to the harsh, damaging Midwest weather.

All the while, she knew it was just a ‘band-aid’ solution.

Now, 20 years later, the roof has been replaced, and she is elated. She also is very grateful.

With the assistance of Lisa Di Chieria, of Landmarks Illinois (credited with helping Thielman achieve National Landmark status for the building), and Jack Tribbia (Landmarks Illinois board member from Berglund Construction), she brought in Roofers Local #11, Bricklayers Local #21, Carpenters Local #434, along with material suppliers Knickerbocker Roofing, Galloy and Van Etten Cut Stone contractor and Illini Hi-Reach.

All donated their efforts to help restore the mausoleum roof and needed masonry repairs.




Thielman believes these workers to be the mausoleum’s newest ‘guardian angels.’

After fretting for 20 years about how she would raise enough funds to pay for the work, she learned after the work was completed that it all had been donated. The labor and materials didn’t cost the mausoleum group a penny. All was donated to the Guardian Angels 501c13 charity.

The Beecher Mausoleum, a national landmark that stands just outside the corporate boundaries of the community it is named for, has just marked its 100th year. Thanks to the efforts of those who worked on its behalf, it is guaranteed to stand for years to come.

“We are so humbled by this experience,” said Thielman. “It truly is an amazing gift.”

Beecher Mausoleum Fall Festival Celebrates Centennial Year

The Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Restoration Project is progressing amid autumn celebrations

‘Party on’ was the mantra, despite cold weather, ongoing restoration work, and costumed kids that were too cute to pick just one. The Beecher Mausoleum 2014 Fall Festival and Halloween Party earlier this month on the mausoleum grounds was a smashing success,

with over 200 guests showing up throughout the afternoon. There were lots of new faces, including some descendants of families interred who introduced themselves for the first time, as the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angels Association commemorated the mausoleum’s 100 year anniversary. The event was meant to thank the myriad volunteers, professionals and union craftsman who have stepped up to aid in the building’s restoration efforts, but also to celebrate the season with a little Halloween fun, said Sandra Thielman, who heads the Guardian Angels Association. “Without their support,” she said, “there would be no restoration at this level.”

Six local kids dressed in costume.




“Everyone that liked a photo (on the mausoleum Facebook page) was a judge. I just could not exclude any of them. So I chose all of them,” Thielman added. Each participant, was awarded $10 each.



Knickerbocker crane outside, in the front of the building, the work continued during the festivities, as the roofing project which is part of the building’s main repair, remained in full swing. Cranes and scaffolding along with workers hoisting roofing material onto the roof illustrated just what has made mausoleum supporters so grateful.


Brian Conroy & Jill Silbert Around the back of the building, Brian Conroy and Jill Silbert, First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics, Company E., dressed in period costume depicted what a Civil War camp was like. Such a scene may have been familiar to Civil War Veteran Joseph Cloidt, a former Beecher resident buried inside the mausoleum. Most notable was the fact that several young people came and showed an interest in the mausoleum’s history. In addition to the festivities on the ground, two local pilots flew overhead, waved their wings and circled the grounds to honor the fallen pilots inside. At least three of the souls buried in the mausoleum were known aviators. The Fall Festival was such a success that Thielman says it may just be repeated next year. The Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Restoration Project is a 501c13 not-for-profit organization. All cash and material donations are tax deductible. Contributions can be made through PayPal. More information about the history of the project and current photos of the restoration are available online at http://www.beechermausoleum.org.

Beecher Mausoleum centennial to celebrate 100-year mark highlighted by important restoration work

October 23, 2014 Beecher Herald

Roof repair and water proofing have been deemed two of the most important and necessary steps to safeguarding the future of the Beecher Mausoleum. That work is now being undertaken by volunteer labor force through the combined efforts of the United Union of Roofers and waterproofers Local #11 and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, District Council 1 of Illinois and  Berglund Construction would not have been possible without the efforts of Landmarks Illinois’ continued support as well as Berglund Construction, Chicago, which is overseeing and coordinating the work to repair and replace the entire roof system, and deteriorated drain scuppers, badly damaged by the passage of time and neglect. The work is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Landmarks Illinois, the only statewide not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Illinois historic places, approved the Beecher Mausoleum application to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2013. In addition, the agency placed the mausoleum on its list of “Illinois Ten Most Endangered Historic Places.” Moreover, the agency has awarded the mausoleum a “Heritage Grant” of $1500 to aid in restoration efforts.

To celebrate this achievement and to thank the tireless volunteers, the Beecher Mausoleum’s not-for-profit Guardian Angels Project will sponsor a Fall Festival at the mausoleum. There will be tours of the interior of the mausoleum and information about some of the souls who once lived and worked in the Beecher area and surrounding communities.

The festival, to be held from noon until dark Saturday, Nov. 1, is meant to thank the many volunteers that have helped to protect and preserve this local landmark, now recognized on the National Register of historic places.

The Festival will carry a harvest theme, but in keeping with Halloween, participants will wear costumes befitting a celebration of the past 100 years.

Brian & Jill @ Will County Historical Musuem 9 2014The celebration will also include entertainment from members of the First Michigan Engineers & Mechanics Co E, a group of Civil War, World War I, and World War II re-enactors who will be setting up tents, displays and will perform a rifle firing drill.

Food and beverages will be available. Hot dogs, chili, apple cider, cocoa, popcorn

Additional funds will be raised through donations at the event with the sale of homemade baked goods as well as home canned items: i.e. tomatoes, pickles, jams.

Firemans Park to Mausoleum map (3)Parking at the mausoleum is limited. Additional parking will be available at “Fireman’s Park – 623 Penfield St. Shuttle service to the mausoleum will be provided.

Should you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Sandra Thielman at (815) 788-9710 or 815-728-8318

Beecher Mausoleum’s Fall Festival To Celebrate 100 Years


October 16, 2014 – Beecher Herald – Staff Reporter 

Volunteers are needed for a Fall Festival at the Beecher Mausoleum from noon to dark on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014

Beecher Mausoleum Fall Festival flyer 11 1 14The festival, while still in the planning stages, will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the historic Beecher Mausoleum. It is also meant to be a party to honor and thank the many volunteers who have donated and helped to protect and preserve this historic national landmark.

One major cause for celebration is the replacement of the mausoleum roof, badly damaged by the passage of time and neglect. The huge undertaking, which will be done by volunteer labor, is expected to be completed within the month.

Often times, folks in and around Beecher are unaware of the existence of the mausoleum. This festival will be a chance for folks to visit, tour the interior, and to learn about some of the souls who once lived and worked in their town and its surrounding area.

Brian & Jill @ Will County Historical Musuem 9 2014The festival being envisioned, will carry a harvest theme, but with a touch of Halloween. Participants are asked to wear costumes–anything befitting the purpose that celebrates the past 100 years. That could mean anything from a period costume, historical characters to a favorite Disney character. Nothing ghoulish, please. Prizes will be awarded.

There will also be entertainment. The First Michigan Engineers, a group of Civil War, World War I, and World War II re-enactors will perform.

Food and beverages will be available.

Much of the success of this festival depends on volunteers. Therefore, the Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angels Association is looking for a few of the following items:

Bales of hay,
* Autumnal harvest decorations, pumpkins, gourds, potted plants
* Vertical heater to use inside the mausoleum in case of inclement weather
* Popcorn machine, hot dog machine or grill, cotton candy machine (electric power will be available via generator)
* Items would be appreciated to donate for use as a fundraiser, such as bake sale items or home-canned jams and jellies, homemade candy apples
* Participants interested in setting up a quilting display, or any other historical items, tooling, medical equipment etc

If anyone is interested in helping out or wants to donate one or more of the above items, or has anything else they would like to add, please contact Sandra Thielman at her home, (815) 728-8318, her office (815) 788-9710, or via email at sandra@beechermausoleum.org.

U. of I. students working to preserve Beecher Mausoleum history

Chicago Tribune October 5, 2014

By: Angie Leventis Lourgos – Tribune Reporter

U. of I. students working to preserve Beecher Mausoleum history


Sharon Krause-Earl of Steger, Ill. smiles as she finds the crypt of her great-grandmother, Mary Wilkening, inside the Beecher Mausoleum in Beecher, Ill. Saturday September 27, 2014. A group of University of Illinois graduate architecture students is drafting drawings of the historic landmark… (Stephanie Dowell, Chicago Tribune)


Associate professor of architecture Paul Kapp (second from left) and graduate students (from left) Nancy Edwards of Peoria, Ill., Katie Ferrari of Lisle, Ill., and Muhammad Sarwar of Pakistan work inside the Beecher Mausoleum in Beecher, Ill. The group of University of Illinois graduate… (Stephanie Dowell, Chicago Tribune)


Muhammad Sarwar, a second-year graduate student from Pakistan, measures the elevation of crypts at the Beecher Mausoleum in Beecher, Ill. A group of University of Illinois graduate architecture students is drafting drawings of the historic landmark building. (Stephanie Dowell, Chicago Tribune)

Dana Burgess, a graduate student from West Chicago, Ill., (right) does field sketches as University of Illinois associate professor of architecture Paul Kapp (center) looks over the Beecher Mausoleum, with Beecher Mausoleum Guardian Angel Association founder and president Sandra Thielman, in… (Stephanie Dowell, Chicago Tribune)

Glimmer of hope for decaying Beecher Mausoleum?
U. of I. students documenting history of century-old mausoleum in Will County

As Katie Ferrari of Lisle measures the interior of one of the few unoccupied crypts at the historic Beecher Mausoleum, she’s keenly aware she’s working alongside the dead.

The architecture student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is helping record the history of this deteriorating national landmark deep in Will County, about 40 miles from Chicago.

“As humans, I think we have a fascination with death,” said Ferrari, 27, her words reverberating slightly off the marble floor of the above-ground tomb. “We always want to live on. We always want to be remembered.”

University of Illinois students visit the Beecher Mausoleum in an attempt to preserve the building which was on the 2013 list for the ‘Ten Most Endangered Historic Places’ in Illinois.

She is among a half-dozen or so U. of I. architecture students spending several Saturdays this fall crafting field notes and sketches of the mausoleum, recordings they plan to submit to the Library of Congress for posterity.

When founders dedicated the Beecher Mausoleum in 1914, they believed they were erecting a house for the dead that would endure. Yet like so many mausoleums across the country, the structure is falling to ruin.

The Beecher Mausoleum was named to the National Register of Historic Places in September 2013 — just a few months after state preservationists declared it among the most threatened historic sites in Illinois. The Tribune wrote about the structure’s plight in December, and its condition remains largely unchanged today: The once vibrant stained-glass windows are missing. The Bedford limestone veneer is marred by cracks and crumbles. Some of the crypts were desecrated by vandals.

Sandra Thielman, of Wonder Lake, in northern McHenry County, a descendant of the mausoleum’s co-founder, has made it her mission to restore the once-hallowed ground of her ancestors and other local folk. She believes she’s hit a turning point: In February, the nonprofit Landmarks Illinois awarded the mausoleum a $1,500 grant to help repair the roof, and several local labor unions also agreed to donate their time and materials, though construction is still pending.

Thielman has spent the past two decades collecting documents on the mausoleum and researching the lives of the 173 souls interred there, everyone from a Civil War veteran who served as a bodyguard to President Abraham Lincoln, to doctors and mayors and town paupers.

But she said any historical drawings of the building were lost years ago. The work of the architecture students will fill that void — potentially saving Thielman thousands of dollars had she paid for drawings out of pocket.

“It’s very honoring,” Thielman said, as the students snapped photos, sketched drawings and traced the interior and exterior of the 100-by-50-foot building with measuring tape. “This is a great archival document to have. One hundred, 200, 300 years into the future … hopefully this is a permanent recording of the mausoleum’s history.”

As the students comb through the nooks and crannies of the mausoleum, they’re also on the lookout for a time capsule alluded to in local newspaper clippings from 1913, but yet to be recovered.

Associate professor of architecture Paul Kapp said the project gives his students real-world field experience in recording a historical building in jeopardy. Previous class work on the Illinois Supreme Court Building in Springfield has been recorded in the Library of Congress as well.

Kapp, also a member of the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council, lamented the particular quandary of historical burial sites.

“Cemeteries and mausoleums are tough,” said Kapp, who leads the class and is also a member of the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council. “People die off, then the business model and the cash flow dries up.”

Mausoleums — in contrast to cemeteries — have the added burden of a building to maintain. Once likened to the pyramids of Egypt and the Taj Mahal, many of these structures now dot Illinois in varying states of disarray.

Bodies have already been disinterred at the decaying Sunset Lawn Mausoleum in Harrisburg in southern Illinois and the all-but-abandoned Fernwood Mausoleum in Roodhouse, southwest of Springfield. Former owners of the American Mausoleum in Peoria filed for bankruptcy and left the building in disrepair about six years ago, until the county state’s attorney’s office took over and renovated it.

“Our old buildings are our heritage,” said architecture student Kelly Valin, 23, of Elgin. “If we don’t preserve our old buildings, we’ll lose our heritage. And we don’t have much, as a young country.”

As the students worked, Sharon Krause-Earl of Steger and her 8-year-old grandson, Brandon, came to pay their respects. Krause-Earl recently learned that her great-grandmother Mary Wilkening was buried at the Beecher Mausoleum in 1927 after she died in a fall down a flight of stairs. They were elated to find her crypt inside.

“I’m reconnecting with my family,” Krause-Earl said.

As for Thielman, saving the Beecher Mausoleum will also preserve her final resting place.

Her mother, grandmother and other family members are entombed there, and she wishes to join them. And after decades of research, she believes she’s come to know many of the other men, women and children in the mausoleum’s crypts. She wants to spend eternity alongside them, too.

“When I do come to those pearly gates, it’s going to be one hell of a party,” she said.