Evart Leo Gonder
as told by his grandson - Jim Hofstra of Jenison, Michigan

May I share a little family history. I visited the cemetery many years ago for the first time in the 60's and recently two years ago. The caretaker of Silverbrook gave me a tour on one of my visits in the late 90's. He was a teacher from Kentwood, Michigan. My first visit was when grand father was still living. I was there with my mother and father when I was a teenager. Judson Clay Webber was credited for the design of the entrance way but my grand father was the builder of the chime tower and entrance way. I'm not sure who built the office building. Not sure if the chime tower was built in 1926 when the stone entrance was constructed. I noticed Evarts work on the walls for the 1930 sign in the pictures of Silverbrook. Since I retired I have done more extensive research on our family. We recently found new family in Ohio and last fall we put together a visit. We visited my great great grandparents family cemetery.

Evart was born in 1897 and died in 1977. He was born in New Troy, Michigan. Mother spoke often of his work. His work also included many interesting stories that included repairing the" Grotto" stone work at the University of Norte Name in South Bend, Indiana. My mother Kathleen Frances Gonder was the eldest of three children of Evart and Mamie Gonder, mother was born in Niles. She was the historian in the family and she shared picture and stories of her father with me and my siblings.

Evart often said, he got his education at many universities. What he meant was that at Ferris State College and Grand Valley University in Michigan were job sites where he worked laying brick and stone.

My mother Kathleen said that even after a hard day of work, grandfather always found time for her and her brothers. Family was important. She told me that her father would invite other veterans to the house for a bite to eat. Often they would show up with Evart at the end of the working day and the veteran would leave after sharing a meal. My mother would ask, dad what do we call this man, and he would say, just call him uncle.

He was a stone mason and brick layer. His father Joseph Arthur Gonder from Niles, was a carpenter and Evart worked with his father often since leaving the 3rd grade and until he went in the Army. He was a WWI US Army veteran and served in France. He received the Purple Heart for a wound he received in France.

My wife Patti and I last year, visited the first home in Niles that he built and that the grandparents lived in. It's original foundation was a milk house for a dairy farm. Although, the house has been updated and remodeled, the original concrete is there. The barn and buildings are gone, but the farmers home has been remodeled and is being lived in.

His last home that he built the grandparents lived in, is in Cadillac, Michigan. This stone outer walls were made with the same design and his signature mortar radius shape around his cut field stone. Not all his work was done this way, cost and time often determined the design. The signature of his work "raised mortar" built around his stone is how I can determine his work. A delicate work of art.

I am amazed how fresh the mortar looks after all this time "85" years on the Chime Tower at Silverbrook. His stone entrance work has been repaired but most is still looking great. When I visit Silverbrook I hold the stone walls against my hands and try to connect with my grandfather. My brother Don told me that grandfather told him how he made his mortar that held his stone together.

I would love to share more family stories of my grandfather and hope that his work becomes part of this record.

William E. Williams and other family members are buried in Silverbrook. William was his grand father.

General Henry Morrow a "Union Metal of Honor Civil War Veteran" is buried at Silverbrook. He was the commander of James Gonder, Evart's Uncle who served in the Michigan 24th Infantry. The Michigan 24th "Iron Brigade". Evart had two uncles that served our country during the US Civil War. They were William Riley Gonder and James Gonder my great grand uncles. Evart must have known at the time that his uncle James served under the command of General Henry Morrow. James is buried in New Troy next to my GG/ grand mother Sarah Gonder.

Additional family notes
Evart was a union man who paid monthly dues from 1939-1975 to the International Union of Bricklayer, Mason and Plasterers Union of America. IU number 29703.
In 1939 he paid .50 cents monthly to the local union and $1.50 to the International Union (IU).
Evart was also a member of Veterans of WW 1of the USA Inc. membership number 039834 and he was a Life Member of the Disabled American Veterans WW1 membership number 54713 of Inland lakes Chapter number, 39 DAV
He Was a loving husband and had he lived a few more months, he and Mamie would have celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary.

Documented Information from family files:
Evart Leo Gonder - Born Aug 4, 1897 in New Troy, Michigan & died Jan 28, 1977 in Cadillac, Michigan
Married April 6, 1920, Cadillac, Michigan to Mamie Frances Anes
Mamie was born Jan 12, 1901 in Stanton, Kentucky and died Nov 15, 1986 in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Both are laid to rest at Maple Hill Cemetery in Cadillac, Michigan.

Return to Berrien Co.MIGENWEB