A businesswoman who became the first female co-owner of one of Bartholomew County’s largest real estate companies – just five years after joining the business – has succumbed to a long battle with cancer.

Janice L. “Jan” Hexamer-Gardner, former co-owner of several entities associated with Breeden Inc. Realtors-Developers, passed away at 6:07 am on Wednesday at the Franciscan Hospice House in Indianapolis. She was 81 years old.

“She was a tenacious competitor who wanted to contribute to a winning team,” said Mark Pratt, longtime business partner. “But at the same time, Jan’s ethics were at the highest level. People knew they could trust him.

One of his successors, President and Co-Owner of Breeden Inc., Beth McNeely, described Hexamer-Gardner as “always the greatest grace and professionalism at all times.”

“She’s paved the way (for other female realtors) in so many ways,” McNeely said. “While she was a negotiator, Jan had this persuasive nature and this ability not to back down from what she believed. She would always stand up for what was right and fair.

Born the daughter of a commercial electrical contractor, young Jan grew up in the Chicago area. She graduated in 1958 from Maine East High School in Park Ridge, Ill., 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 active with the Girl Scouts of America, various parent-teacher organizations, and served on the board of directors of First United Methodist Church and Asbury United Methodist Church.

It was in 1978 that the young mother began working for Century 21 ME Smith Co., owned by former state representative Milo Smith. In addition to being detail-oriented and dedicated to his customers, Smith said his former employee also had a great sense of humor.

“When I hired her, her last name was Hexamer,” Smith said. “She knew ‘hex’ meant a curse, so she asked me to start calling her ‘luck-bitter’.”

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

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

“Early in our career, she was the company’s primary sales agent,” said Pratt. “What she brought to the larger group was all of these things that made her personal success.”

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

It would only be five years later until Hexamer-Gardner broke the glass ceiling for women at 45 by joining company founder Rex Breeden and others in an ownership group. After being appointed vice president of the company, Hexamer-Gardner was appointed responsible for the management of the residential division.

Perhaps no other businesswoman in Columbus understands the hardships Hexamer-Gardner had to face in climbing the corporate ladder as Re / Max Real Estate co-owner and broker, Jean Donica. After receiving her real estate license, Donica was told that she would never be successful in selling real estate because she was raising a family.

“I know Jan must have fought the same battles too,” Donica said.

But Hexamer-Gardner had a passion for real estate, and it was not uncommon for her to work late at night, McNeely said.

“Jan would always tell her clients ‘I’m available 24/7’ – and she meant it,” McNeely said.

“I had to pedal twice as fast for a while to demonstrate my worth as an owner,” Hexamer-Gardner said in an interview in 2020. “It’s a fact for all women.”

In 1998, Hexamer-Gardner and Pratt bought out their remaining partners, she ran the residential sector and Pratt oversaw trade and development. Together they owned Century 21 Breeden, Breeden Inc., Breeden Investment Group and other affiliated entities.

Even after Hexamer-Gardner’s health began to deteriorate, McNeely said she still viewed her boss as “indestructible.”

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

After being diagnosed in 2016, Hexamer-Gardner underwent surgery and chemotherapy, as well as recovery time, before returning to work in 2017, she said.

For more than two years, it appeared that the cancer was in remission. She would retire in April 2020 as President of Century 21 Breeden Realtors, while retaining her co-owner role until she sells her shares to McNeely and Tara Board.

A month after leaving the presidency, medical tests confirmed the cancer had returned. In his 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 received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Crossroads Association of Realtors, a professional organization serving more than 400 real estate professionals in south-central Indiana.

And what were his personal qualities outside of work?

During his brief retirement, Hexamer-Gardner displayed the same insatiable desire to learn that he used for gardening and creating artwork at his Harrison Lakes home, McNeely said.

Pratt described Hexamer-Gardner as a good friend who is able to display positive traits in her social and professional life.

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

But the two qualities of Hexamer-Gardner that Pratt and McNeely say they will always remember for his positivity and strength.

“She wanted people to know that she was good – even though she was quietly in pain on the personal side,” Pratt said.

– The Republic’s retired collaborating writer and editor Tom Jekel contributed to this story.


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