The Verona Area Historical Society is an all-volunteer nonprofit group dedicated to saving and telling the story of Verona, Wisconsin and the people who lived here.
Small towns are defined by their shared culture and memories, and we find great joy in helping Verona keep both of these.
We are an affiliate of the Wisconsin Historical Society, a registered 501c3 nonprofit since 2015, and hold a charitable organization status with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. We closely with Verona city government and school district on issues requiring a historical and cultural perspective, and we are grateful for these relationships.
Our current permanent group formed around 2006 when retired city treasurer Bev Beyer held former mayor John Volker to his earlier promise that when he retired from local politics they would re-start a local historical society (an earlier iteration was active in the 1980s). We've been going strong ever since and currently have a board of directors and an annual membership of around 50 people - and ALL of our events are open to the public.
Feel free to contact us with your ideas and questions!
Our Board of Directors
Jesse Charles, President.I have been with our historical society since 2015, having been inspired to become active in Verona history due to the possible demolition then facing the Matts House, Verona's oldest home (currently home to the Kismet Books). I grew up in the Verona school district and attended all grades there K through 12, graduating in 1997. My wife Erin and I bought our first home in Verona in 2004 and continue to live here with our two children - who also proudly attend Verona schools!
My favorite part of local history is hearing stories from our older and longtime residents about "back in the day" and drawing connections between them. Even as Verona has grown, it is amazing how much we all still share in things like the schools we attended, stores we use to visit, places we hung out, and events around town we remember. When you start learning about some of the longtime names in the area (Miller, Feller, Gust, Kunstman, Stewart...) and former community sites (rural schools, "The Auditorium", "The Eagles Nest", various Dane County homes...) it becomes quickly apparent that the "small town" web of connections from generations ago is still present today. Physically visiting these sites with a black and white photo and a story is a form of time travel!
Art Cresson, Vice President.Art has lived in Verona since the 1960s and is one of those people who seems to know everyone! This is likely because he dedicated his career to various facets of public service - from being a walking mail carrier, to one of our first alders in 1978, and eventually mayor of the city of Verona. Art is also a former sexton of the Verona Cemetery, and knows much about the history of that special place and many who rest there.
Ruth Jensen, Secretary.Ruth was born and lived in Minocqua until she left to attend college. After graduation she taught for several years before moving with her husband Dick to the southern part of the State to teach. With their two daughters, they moved to Verona in 1970 and have lived on Paoli Street the entire time. As a stay-at-home mom with numerous interests, she began volunteering in the village, at the grade school and at St. James Lutheran Church. One of her first volunteer positions was at the Dane County Home for ten years before it closed. During the same time period she was a foster mother of infants (at the time a volunteer, non-paid job). For over thirty-five years she has been both an election worker in the City and a Board member of the Friends of the Verona Library Board (including several years on the Verona Library Board). More recently she has been a Board member of the Friends of the Senior Center.
Ruth has always been interested in history choosing to make it half of her double major in college. In the mid-1980s she was one of the founding members of the Verona Area Historical Society until the organization disbanded a few years later. She has been involved with the new iteration of the Society for eleven years, as Secretary for eight. Ruth enjoys the connections she makes with the several-generation families in Verona and is always interested in what and where events took place.
Lisa Olmsted, Treasurer.
I've lived in the Verona area since 1997 when we lived on Timber Lane. My husband Jim and I sold our property there in 2013 and moved into the city of Verona. We joined the historical society in 2016 and I became treasurer in 2019. I love meeting people and telling potential members about all the exciting projects we have done and will do. Before I retired from full time work in 2014, I worked in the Mayor's office in Madison and was the chair for several different committees there.
History has always been a favorite subject of mine. As I've gotten older, I've grown to appreciate old buildings and people who have lived longer than I have. Their experiences and memories are priceless! If we don't learn lessons from history, it can repeat itself, not always on a good way!