Volunteer Gretchen Ramlo holds a vase, one of the many items available at the upcoming estate sale for the late Carol Landgraf. -- Kevin Coss/kevin.coss@austindailyherald.com
Volunteer Gretchen Ramlo holds a vase, one of the many items available at the upcoming estate sale for the late Carol Landgraf. -- Kevin Coss/kevin.coss@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Late Austin woman leaves home to Hormel Institute

Published 1:58pm Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Possessions to be sold on May 31

Gretchen Ramlo lead a small team of volunteers through closets and into storage boxes, sorting and tidying the whole way. It was easy to mistake the project in the southwest Austin home for spring cleaning. But the possessions didn’t belong to anyone there, and the price stickers meant they wouldn’t stick around long.

The late Carol Landgraf's house, valued at $114,900, will be sold along with many of her possessions to benefit The Hormel Institute.
The late Carol Landgraf’s house, valued at $114,900, will be sold along with many of her possessions to benefit The Hormel Institute.

“The house and all of its contents and the car were gifted to The Hormel Institute in an estate,” Ramlo said as she found an empty chair huddled among countertops full of old-fashioned possessions.

She and the other volunteers, many of whom regularly lend a hand to The Institute, are pricing Austin native Carol Landgraf’s possessions to get the house ready for an estate sale. Landgraf passed away in August and left in her will donations to The Institute along with a number of other area organizations. The sale is open to the public.

Landgraf was born in Austin in 1922 to Ralph and Dora Landgraf. She graduated from Austin High School, and went on to become the first graduate of the Austin Area Vocational School, an earlier form of what is today Riverland Community College. She went on to work for Austin Utilities as a bill collector.

Apart from The Hormel Institute, Landgraf left donations to the Red Cross and Historical Society, both of which she had been involved with during her life.

The Hormel Nature Center, the Red Cross, the Humane Society and the Hunting Area Foundation for the Arts were included in her will, too, along with funds for a scholarship to be offered through a foundation at Riverland for about the next 20 years. These organizations were told about her gift in early October.

“A number of them she did donate to while she was alive,” said Webb Davis, partner with Davis, Thoen, Kramer and Associates in Austin.

As a financial adviser to Landgraf for more than 30 years, Davis saw her charitable intent right from the beginning.

“She wanted to do good for the community,” he said.

The two became close friends over the years. Davis went with Landgraf when she decided to replace her old Oldsmobile with a newer car.

“She wanted me to help her wheel and deal on the car at Usem’s,” he said.

Volunteer Cheryl Dunlap puts a price sticker Wednesday on items in one of the bedrooms at the late Carol Landgraf's house. The items will be up for sale at an estate sale at the end of the month.
Volunteer Cheryl Dunlap puts a price sticker Wednesday on items in one of the bedrooms at the late Carol Landgraf’s house. The items will be up for sale at an estate sale at the end of the month.

Landgraf ended up buying a bright red Chevrolet Impala, which she quickly regretted. It stuck out too much, and she didn’t care for all the recognition.

“That was the way she liked to do things,” Davis said. “She was a very humble individual.”

Respiratory issues caused an unexpected downturn in Landgraf’s health toward the end of her life, and she died at 89.

Even before her death, though, Landgraf was a quiet giver. She sent checks anonymously to help fund a flower basket project downtown when the city coffers didn’t have enough money to do so.

There were personal recipients of her generosity, too. Several of Landgraf’s nieces, nephews and personal friends received money. She even left some money to an Austin woman she had met only once, simply to help the woman with her financial problems.

“She was just so thankful because she needed new windows and a new front door before winter,” Davis said. “She just broke down in tears.”

When Dennison found out about Landgraf’s gift, she rallied volunteers to help get the donor’s possessions priced to sell. Not having to hire someone to come in and take care of that step allows The Institute to maximizes its collection.

“A lot of the value would be consumed by professional services,” she said. “It means more money can go to the cause that Carol Landgraf cared about … We all want to honor that.”

The house itself, which will be sold separately from the estate sale, is listed for $114,900. Volunteers estimate the other possessions in the estate sale could total about $50,000 in value.

Ramlo has been a longtime volunteer and coordinator of volunteers for The Institute, and knew Landgraf many years ago. While the other volunteers did not know Landgraf personally, many said they felt like they came to know her while sorting through her possessions.

It was a lot of work, but along the way the volunteers shared plenty of laughs.

A variety of glassware and dishes will be included with the late Carol Landgraf's estate sale.
A variety of glassware and dishes will be included with the late Carol Landgraf’s estate sale.

“We’ve had fun doing it,” Ramlo said.

At the beginning of the month, the volunteers came by to do a full day of sorting and pricing. Wednesday they spent about five more hours. While Landgraf was a neat, organized person, the project is still time-consuming, and the volunteers expect to fit one more day in before the estate sale.

The house is full of curious items, from historical books and glassware to trinkets and hand-crocheted items. Three pieces of furniture her grandfather had made on his farm were part of the collection.

Volunteer Cheryl Dunlap’s eyebrows raised as she pulled a girl’s baptism dress from a pile of clothing that could only have been worn by Landgraf herself long ago. Nearby sat a small children’s oven, made from wood and paint instead of today’s plastic and stickers.

An eBay auction will also take place for Landgraf’s more unique and collectable items. Right now, those items are at The Hormel Institute, where staff will assist in auctioning them off.

Before Ramlo and the other volunteers began, executors Joe and Darlene Collins came in to handle the items pertaining to Landgraf’s will. They have also been taking care of paying any remaining bills and ensuring Landgraf’s wishes are carried out.

Planning a donation as Landgraf had, Dennis said, was a good example for others in the area who are looking to help support a cause.

“She really benefited the Austin community in a whole variety of ways by having a well-planned estate,” Dennison said. “Our thanks to Carol for thoughtfully preparing how she can benefit people with the wealth that she had accumulated.”

Typical research grants fund only a specific line of research, and cannot be used to support some of The Institute’s other needs. With donations like Landgraf’s, however, the possibilities are greater.

“A gift like this can go to other important things, such as technology,” Dennison said, adding the money would not be used for salaries or utilities. “It is a very important, unrestricted fund that comes from gifts like these.”


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