Officials with the Dean V. Kruse National Military History Center museum in Auburn are optimistic they will be able to work through the recent foreclosure judgment ordered by a DeKalb County judge.
On July 11, DeKalb Superior Court Judge Monte L. Brown awarded a judgment of $2.9 million to Farmers State Bank of LaGrange and against the Dean V. Kruse Foundation, which operates a World War II museum, as well as the Kruse Auto and Carriage Museum.
As part of that judgment, Brown ordered the property, which includes 28.27 acres at DeKalb County Road 11A and General Doolittle Drive, as well as the buildings and their fixtures, to be sold at a sheriff’s sale. A date for the sale has not been set.
But the order does not include the contents of the museums, with the exception of three vehicles to be sold later as part of a judgment in a different case, officials said.
Tammy Hantz, operations manager for the museums, said the foundation and the bank are working on a plan to make the mortgage and satisfy both sides. She hopes they can have a formal agreement next week.
The plan will likely include the sale of what officials call the “Granatelli building” – a completed structure near the larger museum built to house the memorabilia of former racer Andy Granatelli.
The foundation defaulted on the loan taken out to build that museum, which fell through when Granatelli changed his mind about the location, wanting it closer to Indianapolis. No agreement between Dean Kruse, the non-profit foundation that bears his name, or Granatelli had been in writing, except for the mortgage.
Any balance left on the judgment after the sale of that building will then have to be worked out, Hantz said.
Financially embattled in recent years and stripped of his auctioneering license, Kruse has been unable to continue to contribute as much capital to the ongoing operation of the museums, Hantz said.
Kruse bought the property, secured the collection from a Belgium museum located near the site of the Battle of the Bulge, and gave the foundation enough cash to operate the museum.
“It’s one of the very good things that he’s done for the community,” she said.
Kruse is still the president of the foundation’s board and gains no financial benefit from the museums, Hantz said.
Museums, unless provided state or federal funding, never make any money, Hantz said, adding they have a full-time staff of three people, including herself.
Any money received into the foundation goes back into enhancing the museum experience for the visitor, Hantz said.
“We are as lean as we can be,” Hantz said.
Three vehicles from the World War II collection, including a Horch car and an Opel Super 6, will be sold by Auctions American by RM at its Auburn Fall Auction, across the interstate from the museum.
The sale will cover the remaining debt owed by the foundation to Guy Franz-Arend, who won a lawsuit against Kruse in Belgium for $521,482, according to court documents.
The foundation paid more than $400,000 already toward that debt, Hantz said.
After that is cleared up and the mortgage issue is resolved, the foundation, and its museums will owe nothing, she said.
“We are open, business as usual. We still have facility rentals and are open for admission. We are not going anywhere,” she said. “We don’t want to be in debt, and we don’t want to owe anybody.”
Several attempts to reach Dean Kruse by phone, and in person, were unsuccessful.