Caretaker's involvement with Greenleaf Fisk house is 'a labor of love'

STEVE NASH steve.nash@brownwoodbulletin.com
Caretaker Ron Howze stands outside the Greenleaf Fisk house at 418 Milton Ave., across from the Brownwood Coliseum. The well-manicured lawn is the result of Howze's work.

Ron Howze hasn't done all that well at retiring. He's on his third try.

And this third try seems to be working out. For the past two years, Howze has been living as the caretaker at the Greenleaf Fisk home, which is nearly 150 years old and sits on 9 acres at 418 Milton Ave., across from the Brownwood Coliseum.

The house, constructed of asphalt, sandstone and stone, was run down and boarded up for years. That changed when Richard and Jaye Hodges of Brown County bought the then-dilapidated house three years ago and began making repairs, and Howze, a former classmate of Richard's, went to work as caretaker.

As a visitor parked near the spacious front lawn recently, Howze rose from his chair on the front porch and offered a greeting. He invited the visitor inside, where antique furniture is spread throughout the well-maintained interior.

Howze said his involvement with the house has been "a two-year labor of love."

Howze grew up in Brownwood and moved away for 49 years, working for the U.S. Postal Service for part of that time. Howze retired from that job in San Antonio in 2002, but retirement didn't work out. He went to Kuwait as a contract employee, working as operations manager for a military postal facility.

Howze returned to San Antonio and retired again, then came to Brownwood, where he has family, to visit.

The Hodges "said they had bought the house and were looking for a caretaker," Howze said. "It took a little while to decide to take the job. The more I thought about it, the more I became intrigued with the place."

Two years ago, Howze said, the house wasn't in the same condition it is now. The house has received a good deal of work including plumbing and electrical, Howze said.

Jaye Hodges explained how she and her husband ended up as the owners.

"My husband has loved that house forever," Hodges said. "He loved the straight walls. It was so sad to see it keep deteriorating.

"We wanted to keep it from getting torn down and thrown away. The house was in so bad a shape for so long, people forgot about it."

On Saturday, a grave dedication and ceremony honoring William Augustus Fisk, child of Greenleaf Fisk, the “Father of Brownwood," will be held at 11 a.m. at Greenleaf Cemetery.

The public and interested family are invited to join the Mary Ann Manlove Fisk Fund for Historic Preservation and Education, the Welcome W. Chandler Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the Colorado River Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans Second Texas Frontier Camp 1904 in dedicating the 147-year old unmarked grave. 

Following the ceremony, guests are invited to tour the Greenleaf Fisk house.