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One of Elm Grove's founders remembered

Feb. 10, 2014

No sidewalks. No stoplights. No curbs. Those were three of the first rules Edward Grede implemented in Elm Grove after he helped found the village in 1955.

He wanted to make sure the village retained its country charm — which is part of the reason he had thought the village should break away from Brookfield, Grede's son, Robert, explained.

Grede died Jan. 23, almost 60 years after becoming one of the first trustees in the village. Services were held Sunday.

Although he moved to Hartland in 1990 and later to Florida, he never forgot about the village where he raised his children.

"One of the last things he told me before he passed was he was disappointed Elm Grove had not retained the country feel he envisioned," Robert said. "It's become much more citified."

Grede saw signs of urbanization as soon as he arrived in Elm Grove. His original parcel of land, atop Sunnyslope Road and with a view to downtown Milwaukee, was taken through emminent domain for the construction of Interstate 94. That was just about a week after he purchased it.

He had hoped that by incorporating the village, he would protect some of its country charm.

"As I recall, it was years of aggravation trying to get this thing done," Robert said. "He was very much focused on service above self. I would say he's passed that on to my siblings and me; we've all been very active in community service."

According to the Elmbrook Historical Society, the village was incorporated in 1955 after two failed attempts, with one in 1953 falling through because the village failed to publish intent in the local paper. Grede and others achieved incorporation just five months after Brookfield became a city.

"Elm Grove felt they were part and parcel different than the rest of Brookfield, which was going the way of the city," Robert said. "He didn't want it to become like a city suburb."

Although his first city-resistant zoning rules have gone by the wayside, there are still several artifacts of Grede's time in the village, including two years as a trustee from 1955 to 1957.

One of his jobs was to name new roads, including several in the northeast part of the village, like Dunwoody Drive, Wrayburn Road and Lee Court. Many were named after counties in Virginia, "for no better reason than he liked them," Robert said.

Edward's wife named Gremoor Drive, dubbed partially for the family's name, and ending in "moor" because she had always wanted to live on a moor, having seen photos of Ireland and Scotland. Robert said the street is sometimes mispronounced "Gree-more" rather than the intended "Gray-more," after the family's name, which is pronounced "Gray-dee."

Elm Grove also continues to support high property values, something Robert said his father wanted to protect by founding the village. According to City-Data.com, the median value of a home in Elm Grove in 2011 was $343,725, while Brookfield's was lower, at $271,517. Both far exceeded the state median of $166,700.

"My father wanted to live in a town where the real estate values would remain high," Robert said. "Elm Grove has retained it's value so well, a lot of people will buy a house, tear it down and rebuild because they want the location."

Grede is survived by his children, Richard, Donald, Robert and Elizabeth; his adopted son Ingemar; and six grandchildren. Grede's wife of 64 years, Mary Jane, passed away in 2008. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Milwaukee YMCA or Milwaukee County Zoo.

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