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A new home for more history

Grundy County Historical Society opens addition at museum

MORRIS – Inside the addition to the Grundy County Historical Society Museum, among the exhibits – some new, some moved and some unfinished – lies a modern desk setup.

With its desktop computer and power cables, it seems out of place against the backdrop of old military uniforms, prairie living rooms and 19th-century farming implements.

It’s informally called “Ken’s Corner,” and it’s one of the many ways the legacy of local historian Ken Sereno looms large over the museum and its addition.

The desk was Sereno’s, and meant to look like it was in his basement at home.

There also is a bronze plaque at the entrance to the addition, dedicating the space to Ken and Joan Sereno.

“He loves this place,” Joan Sereno said. “He loved the history of Grundy County and the people in it.”

Ken Sereno died a little more than a year ago on July 15, 2017. He’d owned several businesses in Morris and, when he retired in 1996, became a prolific local historian, researching and writing about local businesses and events.

“We used to drive around on Sundays, just looking for things,” Joan said. “They had to be from Grundy County. ... We got into arguments about that.”

The society broke ground for the 4,500-square-foot addition to the museum in December, but planning had been in the works before then. Ken Sereno had been a part of it up until he died.

Dan Dransfeldt said he had visited Ken in the hospital to discuss the color of the cement for the floors the day before he died.

Funding for the $400,000 project came from a donation from Ken and Joan Sereno.

“It really was a gift from heaven,” Dransfeldt said. “Without the Sereno family’s support, we could not have done this.”

Donna Sroczynski, president of the Grundy County Historical Society board of directors, said the museum began to outgrow its original space, located in the old Coleman Hardware building at 510 Illinois Ave.

The museum moved there from its old home on Liberty Street in 2008.

The exhibits have grown in number through the years, and then the museum took on a large collection earlier this year, when the Morris Area Public Library decided not to keep its local history materials.

The museum needed to find space to keep the new materials, which included more than 150 years of microfilm and other reference materials.

Some other items also have been donated to the museum recently as well that required a lot of space.

Near the entrance to the new addition sits a piece resembling a large wood cabinet. It’s so large, it did not fit through the door of the museum without workers removing the threshold above.

In fact, the item is the freezer from the old Roth Bakery in downtown Morris. Moving it in was no feat, requiring the manipulation of doors and dollies to get it into place.

The museum now is creating or remodeling new exhibits and filling out the space. There even is talk of opening Sundays, although Sroczynski said that is not yet decided.

Inside the addition, beneath the surprisingly small desk in Ken’s Corner, a strip of wood with a quote marks an invisible boundary: “Great things come to those who believe.”

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