Sister, brother reunite after years of dispute over 80 acres

Sunday, November 21, 2004

CLAYTON, Mo. -- For Helen Schlemper Musenbrock and her brother, both well into their 80s, the years of divisive feuding and fussing over 80 acres of family land finally is one for the history books.

With Friday's court-ordered public auction of one of the last farms in west St. Louis County for $20,000 an acre, the two siblings got reconciliation -- in some cases, better than the money.

After the sale was finished at the St. Louis County courthouse, 87-year-old Ivan Schlemper blinked back tears and moved toward his 85-year-old sister, telling her, "I can go home tonight and sleep."

Over the years, that's been far from the case.

The two grew up working the 80-acre farm in Wildwood, only to disagree years decades later about how it should be disposed of after their mother died in 2001 without a will at age 109.

Musenbrock and descendants of her deceased sister wanted to sell the farm as one tract, then divide the proceeds among the heirs. Ivan Schlemper wanted to partition the farm so he could hold onto a portion.

Over many months, dealmaking went nowhere. So Ivan Schlemper sought a judge's order to divide the farm, though the court ruled the property should be sold in its entirety at a public auction.

Even then, there was no agreement among siblings. While Helen Musenbrock searched for investors who would bid high, her brother sought to buy the farm with an insurance broker.

On Friday as the bidding began at $10,000, brother and sister were in separate corners, waiting for the outcome to a long ordeal. Bidding quickly rose to $1,175,000, when the insurance broker Ivan Schlemper had partnered with barked out a $1.4 million offer.

Hopper Realty's Ron Hopper prevailed with a bid of $1.6 million.

The dispersing crowd congratulated Hopper, who said he planned "some kind of dividing up of the land."

As the crowd dispersed, Helen Musenbrock made her way to her brother, with comforting words letting him know that bygones are bygones.

"It's all right now," she said. "The farm is gone, but we're back together."

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