Rotary star brings hope

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As you look to the night sky in Guttenberg, a shining star rises above the city as a symbol of hope. Join the community in sending a message of hope for brighter days ahead by creating your own Star of Hope. Light the yard, decorate your window, or make your own Star of Hope tribute in whatever manner you decide. Hope over Fear! (Press photo by Austin Greve)

By Caroline Rosacker

The star on top of Guttenberg's west bluff, normally lit to herald in the holiday season, is back on this April  in an effort to bring hope to Guttenberg's residents during this time of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mandatory school and business closures and recommended social distancing have left area residents feeling uneasy. 

A Facebook post, inspired by Toni Boardman, prompted community member Jackie Lee to organize a community-wide Star of Hope campaign. She encouraged, "As you look to the night sky in Guttenberg, a shining star rises above the city as a symbol of hope. Join the community in sending a message of hope for brighter days ahead by creating your own Star of Hope. Light the yard, decorate your window, or make your own Star of Hope tribute in whatever manner you decide. Hope over Fear!"

In the pages of The Guttenberg Press, we learn that the star was added to the community's holiday decorations in 1954. The news item describes the community's Christmas  decor and notes: "Most striking innovation of the Christmas decoration scheme here, however, is the giant star planted atop the hill by members of the Guttenberg Rotary Club with the cooperation of a number of other citizens." 

The lighted star was originally built by Burnell Reinitz and John Eslinger with materials furnished by Meuser Lumber Company. The work of wiring and setting up was done by Paul Jones, W.E. McGrew, Irwin Degnan, Bruce Moser and Lee Wachenheim, all members of the Rotary Club. The star is located at the top of the Buechel Hill hiking trail. At one time, an adjacent sign spelled out "Merry Christmas."

A postscript to that story was published in the same issue, telling of a $10 reward for information leading to the identity of vandals who damaged the star. The story reads: "No sooner had the beautiful star been placed on the hill above town by members of the Rotary Club than vandals began their work. Members of the group, which put up the star, actually saw a boy with a stick breaking lights from the star, but he had run away before they could climb the hill." The star was apparently repaired in short order and has since continued to shine over the community. (If you know who you are, there is still time to confess.)

The Guttenberg Rotary has continued its support of the community Christmas icon. The original frame, which was made of wood, has needed upkeep throughout the years as well as repairs to the wiring and replacement of burned-out bulbs each season. 

In 2005 the Rotary Club undertook renovation work on the star. The group spent approximately $2,500 on a newly-built aluminum frame, wiring and lights. The frame was made by Kann Manufacturing, the city crew installed the star and Al Troester, city electrician, did the wiring. 

City workers recall when the new star was erected, it was hit by lighting, which blew out all the bulbs. Later an ice storm broke several more bulbs. The decision was made to switch to special rubberized coated bulbs, which can withstand harsh winter weather conditions. 

Today the star shines as a symbol of hope as well as a reflection of the community spirit of the Rotarians who made it possible.

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