House gets makeover after 40 years

Staff writer

The farmhouse southwest of Marion being renovated from top to bottom is not just another house to its new owners, Neal and Christine Hett. It’s the home in which Neal and his three older brothers and sister grew up, and it’s where they and their children gathered to hear Willard Hett’s stories and play together.

Willard built the house in 1974. Neal and Christine inherited the house after Willard died in February. For them, renovating the house is a labor of love and a means of preserving it for future generations.

“This house is such a big part of Neal’s family and something that Willard built for Alvina, so it is special,” Christine Hett said. “We want to keep it special, and I feel honored to be able to play a part in that.”

The modern one-story house has three bedrooms on the main floor and a full basement with two bedrooms. The Hetts, who have been married for six years, own a smaller house adjacent to Neal’s rock business on Nighthawk Road. But they are excited for the chance to own a larger house and keep it in the family.

Christine Hett has five brothers and sisters and two grown children —Tyler Neal, 22, who lives in Florida, and Rachel Neal, who graduated in May from Marion High School and is a freshman at the University of Iowa. She is looking forward to having the space to accommodate them and other family members.

She said not much had been done to the house since it was built. She noted that Alvina Hett died in 1996 after a long struggle with cancer, and Willard lived alone there after that.

“We are starting over with this house,” Hett said. “Everything in this house was still original. We are updating it.”

They contracted with Lucas King of Marion to renovate the house.

“He has been awesome to work with,” Hett said. “He is open to ideas and makes good suggestions. It feels like a partnership between you and the contractor.”

Chad Adkins of Marion is doing the flooring.

The renovation is a work in progress. The couple has incorporated hardwood and antique pieces into their home. Some pieces were purchased in Marion.

New kitchen cabinets are made of natural maple wood. A unique feature is an antique bedpost that supports a short breakfast bar. French doors have been installed in the dining room.

One bedroom has been made into a pantry and walk-in closet.

Walnut milled by Willard Hett and his father, Ron, 25 or 30 years ago was used as special trim in the bathroom. The unique vanity is an antique chest of drawers, with a porcelain sink built into it.

Hett incorporated several unique shelves and cubbyholes into an enclosed space under the basement stairs. Each one has a specific purpose.

One spot Hett is fond of is an area under the stairs where King created a bookshelf with an overhead light and antique pillars in front of it. Hett got the pillars from Marion Ogden of Marion. The sides of the cedar shelves are tongue-and-groove barn wood trimmed with walnut. The back is lined with maple paneling.

“What I love about it, Luke took all the things I talked about and turned it into that,” Hett said.

The basement fireplace has walnut paneling above it and an extended walnut mantel.

An added feature is a basement bathroom that features a claw-foot bathtub from Neal’s aunt Janie Meierhoff of Marion, and a pedestal sink.

Hett did much of the wood finishing. Bret Voth, now a senior at Marion High School, helped her. Michelle Adkins did a lot of the painting.

“She was marvelous,” Hett said. “She was so meticulous.”

The final touch will come when new carpeting is installed throughout the house.

The update assures that members of Willard Hett’s family will continue to make memories in a house that was like a second home to them.

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