Remembering the real estate pioneer

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The business woman who became the first female co-owner of one of the largest real estate firms in Bartholomew County – just five years after joining the company – has passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Janice L. “Ian” Hexamer-Gardner, a former real estate developer co-owner of several Breeden Inc.-affiliated organizations, passed away at 6:07 am Wednesday at a Franciscan hospice in Indianapolis. She was 81 years old.

“She was a stubborn contender who wanted to contribute to the winning team,” said longtime business partner Mark Pratt. “But at the same time, Jan’s ethics were top notch. People knew they could trust her. “

One of her successors, president and co-owner of Breeden Inc. Beth McNealy, described Hexamer-Gardner as “always showing the utmost grace and professionalism.”

“She paved the way (for other women realtors) in many ways,” McNealy said. “While she was a negotiator, Jen had a persuasive personality and the ability to stick to what she believed in. She always defended what was right and fair. “

Young Yang was born to a commercial electricity contractor and raised in the Chicago area. She graduated from East Maine High School in Park Ridge, Illinois in 1958 and then majored in business at Anderson University.

After moving to Columbus in 1969, Hexamer-Gardner began working for the late Virgil Scheidt at Athens Realty. She also became an active member of the Women’s Scouts of America, various parent and teacher organizations, and served on the board of directors of the First United Methodist Church and the United Methodist Church of Asbury.

In 1978, the young mother joined Century 21 ME Smith Co., owned by former government spokesman Milo Smith. Smith recalled that in addition to attention to detail and dedication to his clients, his former employee also had a great sense of humor.

“When I hired her, her last name was Hexamer,” Smith said. “She knew that curse meant curse, so she asked me to call her” Luck Amer. “

Two years later, in 1980, Hexamer-Gardner moved to Breeden, Inc., where she became the Graduate Institute of Realtors in 1984.

During her first year at Breeden, the company sold 95 homes for an average price of $ 55,961, bringing total sales of $ 5.1 million. But in 2019 – the last full year of Hexamer-Gardner’s management – her company sold 469 homes with an average sales price of $ 227,235, generating sales of $ 129.2 million.

“When we started our career, she was the lead sales agent for the company,” Pratt said. “What she brought to the big group was all that made her a personal success.”

“Some of her qualities include a sincere desire to do what is best for the client, a willingness to see both sides in a debate, and the ability to always compromise for the common good of all parties involved,” Pratt said.

Only five years later, Hexamer-Gardner cracked open the glass ceiling for women aged 45, joining company founder Rex Breeden and others in the group of owners. After Hexamer-Gardner was named vice president of the company, he took over the housing division.

Perhaps no other business woman in Columbus understands the hardships that Hexamer-Gardner faced in climbing the corporate ladder than Re / Max Real Estate co-owner and broker Jean Donica. After receiving her Realtor’s license, Donika was told that she would never be successful in selling real estate because she was raising a family.

“I know that Jan also had to fight in the same battles,” Donika said.

But Hexamer-Gardner was passionate about real estate, and McNealy said it was common for her to work late into the night.

“Jen has always said to her clients, ‘I’m available 24/7,’ and she meant that,” McNealy said.

“For a while, I had to trade twice as fast to demonstrate my worth of ownership,” Hexamer-Gardner said in a 2020 interview. “This is a fact for all women.”

In 1998, Hexamer-Gardner and Pratt bought out their remaining partners, with her managing housing stock and Pratt managing commerce and development. Together they owned Century 21 Breeden, Breeden Inc., Breeden Investment Group and other affiliates.

McNealy said that even after Hexamer-Gardner’s health began to deteriorate, she still considered her boss “indestructible.”

But her boss knew better. “Life is short – get the most out of it,” Hexamer-Gardner said last year.

After being diagnosed in 2016, Hexamer-Gardner underwent surgery and chemotherapy and was recovering, she said, before returning to work in 2017.

For more than two years, the cancer seemed to be in remission. She will retire in April 2020 as president of Century 21 Breeden Realtors, while maintaining her co-owner role until she sells her shares to McNeely and Tara Board.

A month after leaving the presidency, medical tests confirmed that the cancer had returned. In her 2020 interview, Hexamer-Gardner revealed that the cancer has reached stage 4, which means the tumors have spread to other parts of the body.

In April 2020, Hexamer-Gardner was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crossroads Association of Realtors, a professional trade organization serving over 400 real estate professionals in south-central Indiana.

What were her personal qualities outside of work?

During her short retirement, McNealy said Hexamer-Gardner displayed the same insatiable desire to learn that he used to garden and create art at her home in Harrison Lakes.

Pratt described Hexamer-Gardner as a good friend capable of exhibiting positive qualities in both social and professional life.

“She could understand the other side of the issue – even if it was different from her own beliefs,” Pratt said. “Yang was very strong in her faith, extremely generous and always wanted to help.”

But the two Hexamer-Gardner qualities that Pratt and McNealy said they will always remember were her positivity and strength.

“She wanted people to know she was good, even when she was quietly suffering in her personal life,” Pratt said.

– Writer and former editor of The Republic Tom Jackel contributed to this story.

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