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Project Restore: All Saints Church
Letters to the Editor

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Letter to the Editor - August 31, 1995, Stuart Herald

It was a hard day's night.

Stuart firefighters along with contingents from 25 other communities and dozens of local men and women who served up food and coffee played out their parts in a drama that ended sadly in the destruction of All Saints Church.

Expected words fell from lips of horrified onlookers: "Such a lovely church... What a tragic loss... The artifacts can never be replaced... No other church like it in the state of Iowa." All of these sentiments, even though heartfelt, failed to catch the wrenching pathos gripping the hearts and souls of those who watched the symbol of their spiritual lives consumed by angry flames.

But tears glistening in the fire's glare spoke of those tongueless secrets locked away in so many memories: generations of baptisms, weddings, and funerals; men who had served as altar boys, as well as their sons and grandsons; great- grandfathers who dragged stones into place along the church walls; windows of stained glass put there by dint and determination of devoted men and women. To the parishioners, this was more than a building. All Saints was a place that exuded an aura that elevated the most significant events of their lives, an atmosphere that ran like a benevolent vine binding the dead, living, and those yet to come. Speech is an imperfect instrument to convey such feelings.

Condolences raining in from every quarter demonstrate what we all knew--All Saints was not just a Catholic church, but also a community landmark, a magnet that attracted visitors from every state and foreign nations. The founders of this town, riding the fortunes of the Rock Island Line, envisioned a community of five or six thousand souls, a dream smashed by the railroad's transfer of the division station to Valley Junction. Locked into that same dream, diocesan planners committed to a church of grand design to serve Stuart and the surrounding area. The railroad left us high and dry. The Catholic church left us with an architectural gem, a beacon on the prairie, and a parish of less than 200 families charged with its maintenance and purpose, a mission of personal sacrifice from which they have not wavered for 87 years.

Since 1908 we have seen the scourge of two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, and Desert Storm, Prohibition, women's suffrage, the Great Depression, and man has set foot on the moon. And throughout this long and arduous human saga, All Saints has stood like a rock to soften the blows of personal tragedy for worshippers and as a treasured monument to those of us who just felt good knowing it was still there.

Our sense of loss has caused us to draw on anecdotes in an effort to keep the church as it was. This is mine. In 1952 I talked to another kid in a Korean staging area. He was from Mankato, Minnesota. He asked me where I was from. To give him an idea, I was about ready to explain Stuart's proximity to Des Moines. "Stuart," he said, "I've been there--visited the All Saints Church."

Black smoke belched from windows and doors when I arrived at the fire in the late afternoon. A friend of years looked at me through doleful eyes and asked, "Chuck, can you perform miracles? No," I said. "If I could I would." But perhaps we can perform a miracle, you and I, the people of this community, by insisting on nothing less than total restoration.

Like the phoenix, fabled bird of mythology, which burned and regenerated from its own ashes, we can preserve our history by offering our energy and treasure until this splendid, beautiful building rises again from its blackened walls.

Chuck Newton

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Unaltered text of letter from Mark Becker, Building Committee Chairman, in response to January 9, 1996 letter to the editor. An abbreviated version appeared as letter to the editor in the Stuart Herald, January 17, 1996.

January 16, 1996

To: Friends of All Saints,

A truly senseless crime was committed on August 22...why did God allow it to happen? Was he sending us a message? Will we commit a crime of senseless destruction if we do not restore. My answer is no and I pray to God every morning at Mass for his inspiration as we study this restoration or building new project. I have toured many of the Cathedrals and Basilicas in Europe and many here in the U.S. and we truly had a church that fit in with most of them. I have toured St. Mark's in Venice which this was modeled after. And all of them are indeed amazing works of art. Probably none of them are supported by a parish of 160 families.

The information that we have so far is very vague and neither the insurance company or the construction company will give us concrete answers to our question. Neumann is trying to get a building job and the insurance company is trying to save money. And we are trying to get the best deal that we can for the parish.

I have talked to over 50 people who have been contributing goodly sums of money to the parish over the past 8 years that I have been here and basically they are saying that they have been paying through the nose for this church all their lives and that they do not wish to restore if it is going to cost them money. I have talked to very few who really do not care how much it costs to restore...they want restoration. And I have talked to a few who are interested in restoring if we can afford it.

Maintenance costs...were they exaggerated? $480,000 has been spent since Fr. Ryan came to this parish...and he has been very vocal that we should not restore. My job is to explain all details of restoration and building new to the best of my ability. I specifically said that my figure of $70,000 was a guess...what happens if my guess is accurate. I was trying to be honest and as accurate as possible. My job is to make certain that all possible problems that might come up have been given the proper thought process. The building committee thought that my projections were extremely low in my presentation...and I don't really care if you build new or restore.

Displeasure over negative connotations: Well it is a mess...there are indeed piles of debris, rubble and many, many details.

Why isn't there anything positive said about restoration? Has anything happened that is positive? If it has happened, I haven't heard about it. Restoration is going to cost money and so far I have not seen much of that piling up in the bank account. If the bank account now had $200,000 to $300,000 collecting interest, I think that we would seriously look at restoration but there is barely $20,000 there.

Neumann does not know if the structure is restorable. I specifically asked them that at our last meeting and they said that they did not know if the blocks were stable...if the blocks are not stable then restoration is definitely a closed deal. Yes the insurance company is definitely going to settle for the smallest amount possible. Our lawyer is trying to make sure that we are not cheated.

Churches are places where we pray to God in a community setting. However, God listens to us just as well when we pray at home, in the car, at the neighbors house and when we are out walking. Jesus did most of his preaching from hillsides and pastures. As far as I know a new church would be built to our specifications. I have visited a number of churches in the Diocese and around the State and most of them are unique in their structure. The diocesan bureaucrats will not be in charge of our structure, although it will be necessary to be somewhat up to date to meet the need of the new generations that will pay for it.

The reason that All Saints was voted the most beautiful in the Register Survey was that Father announced from the pulpit that the register was running that contest. Our town, and our restaurants also faired well because of this announcement. However All Saints was truly right up there in its beauty.

The True Catholics of All Saints do not need a beacon to know where their faith comes from, there faith is in their hearts and souls and it is just as strong in that old shack that we are using now as it was 6 months ago in the All Saints Church. There is in fact more community in our old shack because of our closeness to each other.


Mark M. Becker

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Letter to the Editor - January 18, 1996, Stuart Herald

My family has been in the Stuart area since the mid 1940s, and there have been many happy occasions in those 50 some years, as well as many sad ones. One of the most devastating things to happen was not to my family, but to the families of Stuart and the surrounding area last summer in the terrible destruction of the All Saints Catholic Church. I stood in awe and amazement last August, in the parking lot of the bank, and watched as a beautiful church building, and a tremendous landmark, was destroyed by fire. And I, as well as scores of others, could not imagine, and still cannot imagine, what could possess someone to do such a thing.

This happened just six short months ago, and life has gone on. There has been discussion of a new church building, or restoration. I really have no say in what the people of All Saints do. I do not belong to the church. I must, although unwillingly, also admit that I never even stepped inside the church. But, I did admire the beauty of the church building, and have heard about the immaculate interior, and the furnishings and artifacts that were all a part of, not only the building, but the very peoples lives who were members, or who were simply visitors. I have read innumerable letters written since the destruction of the church, and I understand the deep feelings that everyone has for the All Saints Church Building. Father Bergman said, after the horrible fire that destroyed the building, that "The church is not the building, but the church is the people." And the people have gone on. But the building may not.

I understand that it could be possible to construct a new church including partial restoration of the old structure, where feasible. I have not asked questions. I do not have the right. I guess that I always thought that the building would be rebuilt as close to the original as possible. After all, this has been a landmark in Stuart since 1908, and so many generations have had the privilege to, if not be a part of the church, to at least admire the architecture and beauty of a building that may never be again. This building was one of the things that put Stuart, Iowa on the map, and to think that it may be no more, and that future generations may not be able to gaze upon the serenity and beauty of this magnificent structure, to me seems utterly a devastation in itself.

I also realize that to replace the structure and interior as it was would take an enormous amount of money over and above what would be realized from an insurance settlement. But, this is small town America. There are resources right here in our community. No, there are not many (if any) "wealthy" people, but there are riches here beyond our own imaginations. There is labor, there is some money, there are those who wish to help, and most of all, there is the dream that, as a community, if we really want to have this building restored, that there is some way it can be done. It won't be quick, and it won't be easy. But I, for one, am willing to help in any way that I can, and I think that there are probably many more besides me. One person, or a dozen, or even 50, more than likely cannot make the difference. But as I have found from personal experience, that a community, with their help, blessings, prayers, and commitment can make a tremendous difference.

I have enclosed a check payable to "Rebuild the Church" for $500.00, and I give this with the knowledge that, no matter how much I or anyone else may want the building restored, that it may be virtually impossible to accomplish. If the restoration cannot be done, then use the money toward a new building, or whatever else you have need for. But please understand. I want to help, and I will help in any way that I can, and I challenge everyone of the community, and surrounding communities, and people everywhere that read this letter, or hear this message, to help in whatever way they can.

In God's Love,
Donald A. Keller, Dexter, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - January 25, 1996, Stuart Herald

One thing I should never have done is retire. I'm busier now than I ever was when I had an office. Somehow I've stated in our (Wagner's) newsletter of 1995 as the Year of Preservation for both Wagner's & Architectural.

The 28th of February 1970 I made a drawing of the interior of All Saints. Shortly after I left on a round-the-world trip and another in 1985. Wherever I have been I've drawn churches -- monuments to faith. The beauty of All Saints was outstanding and is on my favorite list. Around the world these monuments to faith have suffered damage -- war and otherwise. They have rebuilt and usually better after restoration.

In 1958 I walked into a bombed - burnt out hull of one of Wren's churches in London. In 1965 I walked again into this same church restored in gleaming white inside and outside at Fulton, Missouri. I also walked into bombed-out ruins of old Coventry Cathedral - now a memorial chapel - book gift shop and adjoining the greatest piece of contemporary religious architecture in all England.

I could go on with other examples, but the point I want to make is ONE must think positive and big if it is worthy. All Saints will rise again! A lot of people have given money which is in a fund for restoration, which includes Wagner.

I can relate to Father Bergman like no one else. Similar degenerate idiots set and fired our churches, your All Saints and my Church of the Land at Living History Farms, after John Paul II was here. I wanted to design the church which was in the future plans -- I did three plans; the FIRST with roof sheathing on only blew down. The SECOND was burned down the day before Easter (I think 1983) and the THIRD as is today. I cried twice. Two or three changes were made overall -- mostly to simplify floor plan.

With today's technology All Saints older problems can be resolved. You have the top sincere contractor of Iowa on the job. All Saints is not only important to Stuart but also to all Iowa and beyond. Somehow this must be gotten out of Stuart. The back page of the Wagner's newsletter went out to 200 persons around the world.

(Your other treasure is the Masonic Temple.)

Bill Wagner, F.A.I.A.

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Letter to the Editor - February 18, 1996, Stuart Herald

In response to a letter to the editor that appeared on January 25, 1996, I would like to address the following issue. Mr. Becker stated, "I sincerely hope that we will be able to continue to keep the parish informed without the use of the local paper." His sincerity for keeping the parish informed about the facts concerning the restoration of our church are severely questionable.

From the very beginning we were told to be patient and that we would have time for parishioner participation in the decision making process. None of these promises were ever fulfilled. On February 15, the parishioners of All Saints and the Stuart Community were shocked when they heard that a decision was made to demolish the church. The insensitivity of the parish leaders to make this announcement to the media without first informing the parish was consistent with the way they have conducted themselves since this process began. The church leaders have consistently withheld communication and deployed misinformation to the parish in regards to all matters of the restoration process.

On February 15, the same day that the decision was made to demolish the church, the following information was in the hands of Diocesan Officials, Parish Leaders, and the Building Committee. This information was in regards to the first and only meeting open to parishioner participation.

At the weekend Mass of February 17-18, the parish was informed that it would have cost as little as $250,000 above the insurance settlement to renovate the burnt-out structure of our church. Why did we not receive this information prior to the decision to demolish the structure? What an act of senseless destruction is being committed against the church of All Saints and the people of the Stuart community.

The church leaders making the decisions have no heritage in the Stuart community and when they leave all that will remain is a legacy of destruction.

Richard Doherty
Stuart, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - February 27, 1996, Des Moines Register

As a member of the All Saints Church in Stuart for over 50 years, I must voice my displeasure and disappointment over the recent decision to demolish the structure. All Saints has stood as a landmark in the Stuart community since 1908. Many in the parish -- I dare say the majority -- have lived their lives, worshiped, married and buried their loved ones from this church. Perhaps it is difficult for newcomers to understand or appreciate how very deep the people's feeling reach where this church is concerned.

We all grieved after the fire in August. Many of us grieve now at the decision made by a "few" to build a new church without receiving input from those affected. I believe the majority in the parish and the community want to see the church restored to its former magnificence.

The people of the parish have not been presented with any bids for restoration. Surveys were distributed on the Sunday of the coldest week of the year when many of the elderly could not attend. The surveys were vague and biased toward a new church. People need facts, not speculation, before decisions can be made.

Donations came in unsolicited after the fire from the general public all over the state. A decision to restore the church would bring in more donations to help cover costs above insurance. Many in the community as well as those who were born and raised here but have since moved on would provide financial support if needed.

We must save the church and preserve its history and beauty. People should be given the right to voice their opinions and vote on something that affects not only the parish but the entire community.

Lillian E. Welsh,
607 N. Fremont, Stuart, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - February 27, 1996, Des Moines Register

A sad and unnecessary situation is manifesting itself in Stuart, Iowa.

The majority of All Saints parish and the entire community have not been privy to the decisions that are being made on their behalf.

A building of great religious, cultural, historical and artistic value is going to be destroyed. Destroyed without pursuing all the avenues available, ie: challenging the insurance company, seeking expert opinions from all the many sources available and the offer of FREE consultation on the feasibility of restoration.

The opinion of the foremost construction company in the state that the building is restorable was ignored. Also being ignored are the thousands of former residents and parishioners who love this town and the jewel that sits in its midst.

Disheartening doesn't begin to describe the feelings of helplessness and betrayal that many feel.

Mary Jo Ellis
Rt. 2, Box 310, Stuart, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - February 29, 1996, Stuart Herald

The decision has been made. The church will come down. I have struggled to accept its fate; teetering between my emotional desire to have it restored, and trying to accept the realism that while it may be possible to restore it, is it practical?

I believe part of the reason for the long delay in announcing the final outcome, was psychological. The longer the remains of our beloved church stood 'Like a tombstone in the night,' the more people were determined to have resolution. Even if it meant tearing it down. Anything was better than seeing it stand in its present state. Information was delved out bit by bit, all discouraging, 'Neumann's had found soft bricks,' 'money from the insurance company wouldn't begin to pay for the priceless artifacts.' I feel that the information was handed out piece by piece in a manner to make the parish feel that they were the ones making the decision, when in fact, they were being led down the path towards a decision made months ago.

I'm not disputing these facts, yes, I do believe there are soft bricks. I heard from more than one source, that several parishioners stated that knowing about the soft bricks, they weren't sure they would feel safe entering the church even if it was restored. I had to chuckle at this. There is NO way the building could earn a Certificate of Occupancy if the structure was not reconstructed properly. Neumann would ensure that all soft bricks were replaced.

Those parishioners resigned to the fact that it should be torn down and a new church built are right in their belief that a new church would prove more practical; easier to heat, cool, the maintenance would be much lower. Yes, I agree. I disagree, however, that if it was restored, it would be as energy deficient as it had been in the past. While it would certainly not be as efficient as smaller church, measures could be taken that would greatly reduce its energy consumption. It could be better insulated, ventilation vents could be placed around the dome (if it was reconstructed) that would keep the air circulating.

Now, as for the practicality, is it practical to rebuild the church? Many would say, "no". I admit, it would be expensive, and yes, this money could be spent elsewhere. But then I remember what a landmark it was ... could be again. How many landmarks do we have in Iowa? Few. No, we didn't advertise it as such, and probably few brochures, if any on Iowa mentioned its existence. But it was a landmark. We all know it. And any of you who have traveled to other states, or even other countries would have to admit, you would rarely enter a church that could compare to its majesty. Just last summer, I was in the National Cathedral, which is the largest Catholic church in the United States, and yes, it is beautiful, but it didn't have any single stained glass window that compared to All Saints. It had many chapels, with many different style pews, but none were as ornate as All Saints. I could go on. I'm sure many of you have your own comparative stories.

I live in Des Moines, and any of you familiar with the Sherman Hills area of the city, know that it is filled with turn of the century mansions, many in such bad state of repair, that they literally sell for a mere few thousand dollars. Of course, to restore them to their original glory takes several thousand dollars, but when completed, their value far exceed the cost of restoration. Often, it would be easier to demolish these houses, and build a new one on the lot. But what price is it worth to preserve history? Don't you feel that with the proper campaign, we could generate enough interest in All Saints that could earn the funding necessary for the complete restoration?

As someone said, "We should look at it as a death in the family." Well, I've had family members die, and when they are gone, there is no bringing them back, but All Saints isn't gone. It's still standing. I think it's time for a second opinion. We've had facts and figures from those leaning toward it destruction, please allow the same consideration for those who would like to see it restored. We already have an estimate for the stations of the cross. What parishioner wouldn't be willing to contribute with pride toward the $14,000 needed?

Yes, I cried when my church was destroyed. Yes, I admit I too often relayed to people that perhaps its restoration wasn't practical. But it's a landmark. If our forefathers felt this way about restoration, where would Bill and Hillary Clinton live today? The White House was rebuilt after it was demolished by fire. This is true about many old structures in the past. Modern people take the demolish and rebuild approach instead of restoration, never taking into consideration the historical value of what they are demolishing.

At one time, I felt that no, we would never again have the majestic altar, the beautiful paintings, the ornate pews. It's difficult to say as of yet what the likelihood is that the altar could be replaced or restored, but what budding artist wouldn't take pride in being our Michaelangelo and doing the artwork at a reasonable rate? As the pews, perhaps they wouldn't be as ornate as our original ones, but don't we have enough talented carpenters in the parish or town that would give us a discounted rate ... taking pride in being able to participate in its restoration? Remember the "barn raising" days of yesteryear where neighbors would gather together and build barns, houses, outbuildings for each other help each other plow and reap their crops. Can't this same enthusiasm ... neighbor helping neighbor be applied to All Saints? Isn't our beloved old church a cause worth fighting for? Stuart took pride in it. Catholics and non Catholics alike.

Yes, it will cost more money to restore it than rebuild. The estimates for the structure exceed one million dollars. This is a lot of money. But I feel that it could be earned. I don't know how much support there is in Stuart or in the parish for a least researching the feasibility of restoring the church. Nor do I have any idea how many are willing to take the time necessary to help with fund raising. But I've sat by and waited long enough. It's time to rally together. All I'm asking, is give us time. Dig out the rubble. Let's see what's recoverable under all the debris. Once we know the condition of the altar, the statues, we will have a better idea as to the actual cost of restoration. What exactly would we be getting if we spent the extra million dollars? A shell? A completed structure minus the religious artifacts? If these figures include restoring it as it appeared before, complete with dome, as well as all lights, heating, kitchen, etc., this is probably not a bad deal. Allow us the time to campaign for contributions. Not only state wide, but perhaps nationwide. If every Catholic across the United States pledged $1.00 ...?

Think about it. Let's show all the Doubting Thomas' that working together, we can move mountains, or more to the point, rebuild our beloved church.

Sandy (Waltz) Welch
4024 Willowmere Circle, Des Moines, IA 50321

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Letter to the Editor - February 29, 1996, Stuart Herald

To the Community of Stuart, Iowa.

It's really too bad we might lose our really magnificent land marker. I have looked at a lot of maps that when you would see Stuart that there was a symbol of All Saints. I guess now we will have to change all the maps and maybe put a McDonald's sign instead.

The All Saints Church in my opinion is the last truly great land marker we have left that we still have a chance to save.

The church itself makes a statement of what a great Catholic community this surrounding area has. They built a church, that today for this parish to build such a church, would only be a dream. The church today is only damaged not destroyed, the roof and floor is what was destroyed. That is a very small part of the church compared to the stone work, with what is still there and in good shape from what the engineer knows so far. If All Saints was restored today, with today's technology, it would be maintenance free for 50 years. The roof has been a big worry since the tile roof came off and shingles were applied. The roof on All Saints was never designed for asphalt shingles. There were no soffit vents or roof vents which are essential when asphalt shingles are applied, so air can flow and help keep the shingles cold and prevent the shingles from getting too hot.

Neumann's bid for shingling was $35,000.00. If a metal simulated tile roof was put on instead of asphalt is would cost $60,000.00 and it is guaranteed for 50 years. Within 50 years it would save the church $135,000.00 instead of using shingles.

In 25 years a lot of money was spent on maintenance and preventative maintenance as such as the storm windows tuckpointing etc. It's too bad that the parish in the last 25 years were getting the end of a good deal. By that I mean, All Saints was built to be as maintenance free as possible for 100 years ago. But think about it, All Saints went 60 years without any maintenance. Very few structures built today goes even 20 years. The last church built in this town 20 years ago was shingled this year.

Nobody realizes how much copper was used to protect the roof, fascia boards and over hangs. I don't know of any metal better than copper that could have been used 100 years ago and even today. I cannot blame any parish member that has been helping pay for the church's cost for the last 25 years to have a bad taste in their mouths for the church maintenance. Heating has been another cost that has been high, but that's not the church's fault. Think about how the price of fuel has risen in 25 years. Restored All Saints will be insulated as good as a new church. The furnace will be a lot more energy efficient, the cost for heating the church could go down a third or even more. It would be nice to know what the expected cost to heat a new church before we destroy All Saints.

I feel that a lot of the parish members feel they are alone when it comes to paying off the debt to restore and "update" . I don't blame them for not wanting to be responsible for that debt, I don't either. But we are not alone. There are more people in the Midwest that has ties with the church in one way or another. The town itself is marked on the map by a symbol of the church. All Saints is the last true land marker we have left in this area. If put on the National Register any maintenance that would be needed done in 50 years from now the church would be eligible for grants that would pay up to 50% of the cost. Fifty years from now this church would be on the top priority list for funds from the National Register, believe me.

All Saints is truly the last monument, our forefathers have left, that progress or neglect has not taken. It's too bad, the fate of All Saints is left to such a small few when it has touched so many. Why was the survey not sent out to all parish members?

I do believe there are more people in the parish, in town, and in the state, that have been just waiting to hear that we were going to rebuild before they would donate. It is hard to understand how anybody could settle for 3.9 million for a 20-30 million dollar structure.

Our land mark should not be for sale.

John Slayton
Stuart, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - February 29, 1996, Stuart Herald

A sad and unnecessary situation is manifesting itself in Stuart, Iowa.

The majority of the parish and the entire community have not been privy to the decisions that are being made on their behalf.

A building of great religious, cultural, historical and artistic value is going to be destroyed. Destroyed without pursuing all the avenues available ie: challenging the insurance company -- seeking expert opinions from the many sources available -- ignoring the offer of FREE consultation on the feasibility of restoration -- specifically, ignoring the opinion of the foremost construction company in the state, that the building is restorable.

Money is an issue -- Go back to "challenging the insurance company."

Also being ignored are the thousands of former residents and parishioners who love this town, and the jewel that sits in its midst.

There are so may resources that are not being considered.

Disheartening doesn't begin to describe the feelings of helplessness and betrayal that many feel.

The person who stated that his goal was to "take the heart out of a small Iowa town," may have succeeded beyond his wildest expectations.

Mary Jo Ellis
R.R.2, Box 310, Stuart, IA 50250

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Letter to the Editor - March 7, 1996, Stuart Herald

I have read thousands of words urging restoration of All Saints Church in Stuart. I have also written and rewritten thousands of words expressing my personal concern for the preservation of the Church. Summing up these thousands and thousands of words, there is a need for something other than words. The State Historical Society recently presented me with the Harland-Peterson Award and the Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture presented me their medal of honor last year. These and others given to me for my preservation efforts for the last 40 years serve as my pedigree. Now I feel I can call a "spade" by no other than a "spade," not a "heart." This will be an illustrated letter to the editor to express my point. Many people today can't read or don't have time to. Just this morning on the news, educators expressed concern about the inability of people to read. I have heard that the average number of hours spent watching TV are 42 per week.

For the thousands of people who have not seen the interior of All Saints Church, my original drawing was made in 1970 and was presented to Father Bergman the Saturday after the fire. I said the restoration of All Saints is bigger than Stuart. It's a statewide project and somehow this NOW historic original drawing might be of help. I feel the Diocesan officials (the hierarchy) and a few church members have the right to make decisions affecting a state historic monument. Webster's Dictionary says of "hierarch" and "hierarchy" that "priests are the keepers of sacred things." All Saints is a most "sacred thing." Give the thousand of us who feel All Saints should be restored TIME. Following are three case histories to illustrate some of our options.

I designed the Church of the Land which was constructed on the spot where Pope John Paul II spoke on his journey to rural America in 1979. This church has had a fiery history as well. The day before Easter, 1983, some "WILLARD" set fire to it too. The drawing here shows the blackened, burned-out hulk. It has since been rebuilt. I gave Father Bergman a copy of this sketch and said, "We can relate to each other."

In 1958, I stood inside a bombed and burned-out hulk, Saint Mary Aldermanbury of London, England, a Catholic church for 350 years. In 1942, a Nazi bomb destroyed the church. In 1962, preservation-restoration wheels were put into motion which resulted in the taking apart of the structure stone-by-stone and the reconstructing of it on The Campus of West Minster College in Fulton, Missouri. In 1965, I again stood in the interior of the now gleaming white church.

If restoration is possible, think seriously of case history number THREE. You could have a historic ruins joined by a new and beautiful edifice, such as Coventry Cathedral, another bombed and burned-out hulk. Old Coventry, is used as an Outdoor Chapel and Book/Gift Shop. It is the greatest modern Cathedral in England. I have mixed emotions now. Much of All Saints is gone like Saint Mary's--much can be restored and some maybe not ever.

My files are crowded with monuments to faith that have "WILLARDS" involved. There have been "JOHNS" who stand up and do what they believe is right. Brother Gus, a monk at New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa, over the years, filled a notebook with "sacred quotes." His friends got a hold of this notebook and produced gems (semi-precious) which "reflect his spirit of love and humility." I've read and reread these and I have so many favorites. But one gem stands out in regard to All Saints Church for those who want to save it. "The Greatest Calamity is not to have failed but to have failed to try!"

To sum up, please, hierarchy: put together a committee of those in favor of either side of the issue to hear and evaluate all options and alternatives.

The above case histories have been tested by fire and have come out stronger than EVER.

Bill Wagner, F.A.I.A., Preservation Architect
2272 240th Street, Dallas Center, IA 50063

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Letter to the Editor - March 7, 1996, Stuart Herald

This is an appeal to stop the plans for demolition of the All Saints Church. It is not a building, it's a "beacon in the sky," a challenge we have met for 87 years, an obligation passed on to each generation by the people who built it. People with courage, foresight and vision. People who met their OWN challenge -- financing, planning, construction, and creating a work of art at a time when horses, ropes, and pulleys were the only tools of construction. Who set their limits? Who determined that it was possible to import all the beautiful stained glass and marble? Who crafted the copper dome? And how did they get it up there? These are the kind of people we need to be!

How many of our grandfathers worked on the church, as masons, painters and plasterers? How many brought their teams of horses to town to work? The physical construction that we are expected to do, will be very limited; our task, instead, is to finance it. Our financial resources in this parish are small, the only resource we possess are ourselves -- the PEOPLE. You may think you cannot contribute, but you are wrong. If you are not an attorney, salesman, public- relation representative or advertising executive, you may know one. If you or your sons and daughters are employed by a large company, it may be one of the thousands of companies in this country that have established grants and endowments annually. If you can write letters and stuff envelopes, you are needed. If you can make a pledge, no matter how small, you are needed. If you can pray every day to St. Jude and St. Rita, patron saints of the impossible, you are needed.

This is our opportunity to better ourselves. Was Charles Willard's senseless act the beginning of the end for stately refuge? Or will it be an wakening? -- Don't let the size of the commitment overwhelm you, "Every journey begins with a single step!" If the statement in the press release "the damaged structure will be razed as soon as is practical" sickens you, or if the last six months you have restoration TELL someone, or shout it from the roof tops, or be "the mouse that roared!" Charles Willard did not destroy the structure of our church, he damaged it. Ultimately, we will be responsible for destroying it, if we remain SILENT.

The torch has been passed on to us, the challenge is greater than we had anticipated, will we fail in our appointment as caretakers, or will we ignite an even greater fire within us and restore our "beacon in the sky?"

Have Faith and Pray for God's Will.
Joan Gayle Glenn, Project Restoration

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Letter to the Editor - March 7, 1996, Stuart Herald

To the Concerned Citizens of Stuart and Surrounding Areas:

The summer of 1995 will long be remembered as a "sad and eerie" night when the beautiful, majestic All Saints Catholic Church was nearly destroyed by fire at the hands of an unthinking man. For many hours the flames loomed in the sunset and the cross stood gallantly atop the structure as if to say, "I will not give up or be destroyed." Maybe all in the area should accept this as a challenge and help restore and preserve the historical marker Stuart was and still is partially blessed with.

"If there is a will, there is a way." Religion today has no boundaries and crosses all lines. All the churches regardless of denomination share in World Day of Prayer, Good Friday Services, plus several other special days and activities.

In my opinion it would be great if the whole community could "Rally around the Cross." It may be time to set goals to contact all previous Stuart residents who have grown up and left town, contact many large businesses who the citizens of Stuart have and still do support in many ways, and come up with a committee who would be in charge of a "brain storming" session that would seek out ways to "raise the amount of money needed for Restoration." Basically this is a decision for the Catholic Church. I only suggest the community would like to help.

I realize from selling insurance for many years if you have "Replacement Cost Insurance" and you are insured for 80% of value, the company is obligated to replace a like structure. I also realize a "Marine Policy" was needed to cover the statues, stained glass windows, altar and other extra value items. These items which apparently weren't covered could be replaced over time with "Memorial Money," family gifts, etc.

When the Jefferson Center Church south and west of Stuart burned many years ago, it was replaced with a lovely brick structure (previous one was wood) and the different families and individuals donated stain glass windows for the complete sanctuary of the church, plus other needed items.

Let's let the whole world know, "anything is possible with God's Help." The only true and genuine hope in all the universe rests not in our own efforts, resources, or circumstances, but in God alone.

Dorothy Varley

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Letter to the Editor - March 13, 1996, Des Moines Register

Let me add my voice of support to the many residents of Stuart who are protesting the decision not to restore their beautiful and historic All Saints Catholic Church, torched by a hate-filled fanatic.

If the church is not restored, the only one who will win is the convicted but unrepentant arsonist. We must not let that happen.

We, the entire community of central Iowa, easily have the means to finance the added cost of restoration over building a new church if we have the will. Our community rallied when the Jewish Temple was desecrated, and would do so again if called upon.

The All Saints parishioners may be a few miles down the road from downtown Des Moines, but they're still our neighbors.

I propose that the All Saints parish postpone a final decision and allow its many friends in the Des Moines metro area the time to raise the money to restore the church and strike a victory for toleration and good will.

We need a Des Moines-based volunteer organization assembled with the cooperation of the Des Moines Area Religious Council and the business leadership of Des Moines with the know-how to get things done.

Every four years the national media invade Iowa to report on the Iowa caucuses and invariably describe Iowans as decent, hardworking exemplars for the rest of America. Let's live up to our image and really give them something to write about.

Catholic, Protestant, Jewish or however we describe ourselves, in a paradoxical way one mad act has afforded us an opportunity to re-animate our sense of community and truly say that we are all saints of this church.

Jim Zeller
2822 28th St., Des Moines

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Letter to the Editor - March 14, 1996, Stuart Herald

I am writing in response to Joan Gayle Glenn's Letter to The Stuart Herald last week.

Recently I watched a television program on renovations in Charleston, South Carolina. There were dozens of buildings 100 years old and older that were only partial shells of their original selves. The majority of these buildings appeared to be in worse shape than All Saints is now. It would have been many times easier and cheaper just to tear these structures down, but alas!, the community banded together and used their own blood, sweat and tears to re-build. The before and after pictures were incredible! And it was all because the heart of the community, the people, chose to restore the old neighborhood to its original beauty. They refused to give in and refused to give up, through tremendous opposition.

I am not a member of the Catholic Church, but I definitely would, as Joan Gayle suggested, stuff envelopes, give a small donation, write letters, help with any fund raising in any way I could. I think the diocese might be pleasantly surprised as to how many Stuart residents would be willing to add OUR labor of love to restore a beautiful landmark and holy place of worship! The sorrow I feel every morning when I get up and look out my bedroom window at the church fills me with strength and determination to help in any way I can to restore its beauty.

Why should any of us in the community settle for destruction when there are so many folks willing to help? Am I wrong here? It seems to me that there a whole lot of non-Catholics eager to assist you in your cause. Has everyone really thought deeply about what our community is giving UP if we give IN? We ALL need to let our voices be heard.

I have read all the letters to the editor and have looked at it from all the angles I am aware of. I know it will be costly, and I know that it would seem practical to some to raze it and build a more modern structure. I'll bet 90 years ago there were cynics opposing the building of All Saints, too, but look what the people of this community did then!!! As Dorothy Varley pointed out in her letter, religion crosses all lines and knows no boundaries!

Sign Me A Protestant in Support of Restoration,
Patti Sloss

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Letter to the Editor - April 4, 1996, Stuart Herald

As a Roman Catholic priest and archivist, I am writing to support Richard Doherty and the Project Restore group in their efforts to restore the All Saints Church.

If the old church is destroyed and a new one built in its place, the result will be just another Pizza Hut style church. The uniqueness and beauty of the restored church would be a monument to the religious traditions of those who first built it. Future generations will bless them.

Too often I have observed cases in which a pastor "remodeled" an older church or built a new and then moved on, leaving the parishioners with a bland meeting hall in which to worship.

Sincerely in Our Lord,
Rev. Loras C. Otting, Archivist,
Dubuque, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - April 4, 1996, Stuart Herald

Dear Fellow Friends of All Saints Church:

It was with great sadness that I learned of the torching of All Saints Church. It is hard to believe that one misguided soul could cause all the grief and sorrow engendered by this one deplorable act.

I am not Catholic but I had a deep and abiding love for that structure so maliciously burned. I grew up in Stuart and went with my good friend Anna Mae Muldoon to attend services there on occasion. I suspect the Muldoons are all gone now but I remember them as good devout people, devoted to their church.

I graduated from Stuart in 1936. Left there and returned for a brief time during and following World War II. My husband, John Dietrich, was employed at First State Bank after the war and was born and reared in Menlo.

There were two things that characterized Stuart for me. One was the handsome old town clock and the other, the magnificent All Saints Church.

Please accept this $100 donation to help restore the church to its former glory.

Margorie Tassell Dietrich
John C. Dietrich
Desert Hot Springs, California

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Letter to the Editor - April 8, 1996, Des Moines Register

As a Catholic priest and archivist, I am writing to support Richard Doherty and the Project Restore group in their efforts to restore the All Saints Church in Stuart.

If the old church is destroyed and a new one built in its place, the result will be just another Pizza Hut-style church. The uniqueness and beauty of the restored church would be a monument to the religious traditions of those who first built it. Future generations will bless them.

Too often I have observed pastors "remodel" an older church or build anew and then move on, leaving the parishioners with a bland meeting hall in which to worship.

The Rev. Loras C. Otting,
1229 Mt. Loretta, Dubuque, Iowa.

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Letter to the Editor - April 11, 1996, Stuart Herald

Dear Clint Eastwood:

The scene is Stuart, Iowa in the summer of 1995, less than 10 miles from Madison County.

The buildings in downtown Stuart are from another time. They were constructed just after the turn of the century to support a booming railroad town of 3,000 people. The railroad has long since left. Many of the buildings appear to be abandoned. There are now 1,520 residents in the community.

The school house is run down, the product of a 30-year taxpayers' rebellion. There is no industry. Many of the streets are not paved. There are few high paying jobs. There is poverty and ignorance and little hope for change.

On many important issues, the town is managed by people who live outside the city limits. They use fear, intimidation, political connections and money to maintain their power. What's good for them is good for the town.

People who try to make improvements have slim support and are shouted down like dogs from a garbage dump. Good people, who could lend assistance and support shimmer behind closed doors, afraid of repercussions. Is this not the model for great western drama?

There is a jewel in this community. A shining green orb which beacons travelers from Interstate 80, located only a mile away. It is a weather stained, copper domed Catholic Church, built in 1908.

Who could believe that a structure so magnificent would be built in this town? People who are well informed say the edifice, while not on the scale of the great churches in Europe, is as artfully assembled. A Byzantine gem in the midst of a cultural desert.

In truth, except for some paintings by a local artist displayed in two restaurants, the church houses the only public art in town. Not to leave out the local students' annual art shows, of course.

Inside the church are beautiful marble altars trimmed in gold, breathtaking works of religious art painstakingly maintained by a devoted congregation. People familiar with the inner workings of churches are amazed that the elderly priests who have managed this parish are able to convince the parishioners to keep tithing.

Most people are just astounded by the beauty, unaware of the sacrifices made by the givers.

There is the art, the beauty, the building and there is the religion. The religion has guided many generations of families who have raised their children in the Catholic faith, devoted to their God and their way of life.

These people have been forced to choose between the beauty of the building and the practical reality of running a parish.

On August 22, 1995 a twisted little man started a fire in the church and the building was nearly destroyed. "The building" (was destroyed), said the local priest, "not the church."

The fire, according to the twisted little man, was meant to draw attention to his patchwork philosophy of life and a celebration of his own coming out as a homosexual. Christ was a homosexual, he said, and just a man. He claimed the church, with its sterile art and aversion to homosexuals, is a thing of the past. He burned the church on his own birthday to mark the beginning of the end of Christianity.

There was a trial. The little man received more than his 15 minutes of fame. He was found guilty of two counts of arson and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Meanwhile the parish is left with a decision. There are four million dollars in insurance money. There are two things about the money.

1. It is more money than most of these people have ever seen and it is causing the kinds of problems that a large sum of money usually causes. There are squabbles over how the money should be spent.

2. It is not enough to restore the church. No one knows how much it will take to build a church like the old one. Maybe eight million dollars.

There is enough money to build a nice new church. The leaders of the parish have already made that decision. They have made the right decision, the practical decision, the decision that emphasizes the religion, not the building, the art over the day to day reality of running a church in a rural, low income area. Their decision not to restore the old church will stand the test of time, given the present circumstances.

From where would the millions of dollars to restore the old church come? There are a lot of people who say they will help. They do not have the ability to raise anything like four million dollars. How would the newly restored church be maintained? Is it fair to saddle future generations with an artful dinosaur?

There is a group of Don Quixotes in this community who are trying to turn the decision around. They need a miracle.

Maybe you could be that miracle. A movie, some money, a legend is born.

A modern day miracle-maker defeats the anti-Christ, creates a legend and further contributes to tourism in the area, thereby providing future maintenance costs for the new church.

This town looks as run down as any in your spaghetti westerns. We have some stray dogs to turn loose while you are filming. The characters could be made to be interesting. We already have plenty of characters in our community. If you want to play the villain in the movie, we will understand. You could be the hero in real life.

Alan Taylor, publisher

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Letter to the Editor - April 18, 1996, Stuart Herald

I have been a member of All Saints all of my life. All Saints was and still can be a beautiful gem in the town of Stuart, Iowa.

Please don't sit back thinking you don't matter and you can't make a difference. I know that one person can make a difference and one person can make an impact. Your opinion matters. You should do what your heart tells you to do; the right thing. I'm sure you, one person in a flock, can make the right decision. Everyone has the right to their own opinion. I made the decision about what I thought without the help of my parents. Don't be afraid to voice it. SPEAK OUT!

Project Restore appreciates donations of money, pledges of money, and pledges of working hours. People of any age can donate to Project Restore. I donated a small amount of money to Project Restore, and I'm only eleven years old. I donated it because I believe it's a worthy cause.

Please come to the Project Restore town meeting at the Legion Hall (skating rink) in Stuart on Thursday night at 7:00, and get informed.

Project Restore will remember you in their hearts.

Jessica Wells, Stuart

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Letter to the Editor - April 18, 1996, Stuart Herald

To the people of Stuart and parishioners of All Saints in particular:

I read Alan Taylor's April 11 editorial twice and couldn't decide if I should be insulted or not, but it did make me laugh. I hope Clint Eastwood rides to the rescue, but just in case he doesn't, I would like to encourage you to attend Project Restore's town meeting Thursday evening, April 18 at the Stuart Rec Center, 7:00 p.m.

I will be there along with most of my family. I have unanswered questions and want to see the restoration issue pursued, investigated and presented.

It will be a well organized program and you will hear from an architect, structural engineer, someone involved with restoring Clarinda's court house and more.

The term "restoration" has not been fully explained to me. A total restoration may not be possible. I personally want to see the remaining structure saved and restored. An alternative that addresses both issues in a compromise would be using the existing shell and building a new interior. A structural engineer says just that could be accomplished and at a cost close to our insurance settlement.

The bishop has stated it is up to the parish to decide; if this is true then no one should be intimidated about attending this meeting and displeasing the Diocese. Freedom of assembly is an American privilege I intend to exercise.

The are fundamental changes at core of modernization that many parishioners are not aware of. Become informed.

As a parishioner with family I appreciate the council members who felt they could not vote to place debt upon our young people. Thank you but I feel it is time for a commitment on my part. A sacrifice wouldn't hurt me, it might even be good for me. It would have to do with responsibility. Those unable to give monetarily can contribute in other ways; you are valuable and your opinions matter greatly.

My hope for this meeting is to build a bridge. Please do not let the question, "Could we have restored our church?" go unanswered.

God loves a miracle and miracles are lots of hard work.

Decidedly in favor of restoration,
Theresa (Doud) Powell

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Letter to the Editor - April 25, 1996, Stuart Herald

April 25, 1996

We would like very much to express our sincere thanks to the parishioners of All Saints and the residents of Stuart and the surrounding area, for attending our informational meeting last Thursday evening.

We are extremely grateful to the Parish Council members and the Parish Corporation members, who were able to attend. And most especially we wish to thank the panel of experts who voluntarily offered their expertise, free of charge, as well as their time.

Jim Zeller: Des Moines photographer, historian, and author of "Calling All Saints..." Des Moines Register, March, 1996.

Bill Wagner: Iowa's most renowned architect, responsible for such projects as - Terrace Hill (Governor's mansion), Church of the Land (Living History Farms), and our own local 'Town clock' - Masonic Temple Building (Wilbur and Elaine Bump).

Don Staley: Engineer with Reigstad and Associates, Inc. Staley was with the Des Moines Water Works during the flood of '93', where he was responsible for supervision of construction inspection personnel and design of facility projects. He participated in recovery planning and led the facility recovery program. The Water Works recovery efforts have been applauded nationally by experts.

Marty Rief: Former grantwriter for Prairie Fire (A rural American advocacy group.)

Judy Clark: The Page County auditor, and contact person for the insurance companies, architects, and contractors during the restoration of the Page County Courthouse, which was nearly destroyed by fire in 1991.

Miya Korbelik: Grantwriter and development officer for Iowa Wesleyan College in Mt. Pleasant. Miya unfortunately was unable to attend the meeting, but has offered her talents and experience with confidence for success.

It is wonderful to know we have such caring and giving people supporting the parish of All Saints as we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and work to regain what might be lost without the unity and cooperation of all who love her, our cherished All Saints Roman Catholic Church.

Joan Gayle Glenn, Stuart
Project Restore

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Letter to the Editor - April 25, 1996, Stuart Herald

April 25, 1996

It has become evident the EGO is a far greater threat to the All Saints Church in Stuart than money needed for restoration. It is a sad day when church leaders, according to news coverage of a town meeting on April 18, "turn a deaf ear to arguments that it should be rebuilt rather than replaced." Great leaders are open to ideas, facts, recommendations and are big enough to consider alternatives and even change their minds when situations warrant.

The Project Restore effort to save the church is receiving donations. A survey conducted by an independent accounting firm in Des Moines showed that almost 60% of the parish were in favor of restoring the church. I commend these people for their faith, love and belief that this magnificent historical landmark can survive and overcome the Charles Willards of this world. Great things and often seemingly impossible feats are accomplished if people believe, care, and remain open-minded.

The Stuart community believes the church can be restored. A civil engineer with Reigstad and Associates Inc. confirmed that the $3.9 million insurance would be adequate to restore the church. This should be investigated further - not shrugged off by closed-minded, small people with more ego than reason.

Imagine the hardships undertaken by the people who built this church in the early 1900s. They had vision, faith and love - not the modern technology available to us today. They left a legacy for those to follow. Are we going to allow the destruction of this legacy by those who have no vision of commitment to such an important part of the parish and community?

The argument that even if the church could be restored, they could not afford upkeep is ludicrous. The parish has maintained that church for 90 years. A restored church would be more energy efficient with better insulation, furnance, air conditioning and ventilation. It would be many, many years before any major upkeep would be required.

I ask, "where is the voice of reason?" How can church leaders "turn a deaf ear" and remain set on a course that will be as great a tragedy as the fire itself. Please be reasonable, be loving, find the vision and be big enough to admit that, maybe, you were premature in making the decision to demolish All Saints. To reiterate what was so aptly stated in a prior letter to the editor by Rev. Loras C. Otting of Dubuque, destroying the church and building new will result in another Pizza Hut style church leaving parishioners with a bland meeting hall in which to worship long after the pastor has moved on.

Project Restore is the effort to save the church. Donations are being solicited with the stipulation that moneys will be returned to the donor if the effort fails. Although I am not a member of the Project Restore group, I hope that people with faith, love and vision will consider a donation. The stone walls of the church still stand after the fire. Will we allow the sin of pride to ultimately bring them down?

Mary E. (Welsh Lonsdale), Ankeny, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - April 25, 1996, Stuart Herald

I attended the Project Restore group's informational meeting April 18, and I would like to respond to a question I overheard during a break. Someone wondered to a friend why people who elected the members of the All Saints parish council were now not willing to accept their decision to raze the church and put up a new building. That's a good question! After all, these people have volunteered their time and efforts to do a job that few others wanted until the fire. If any members of the parish council or building committee feel unappreciated, they should not.

But the issue is not that anyone questions the conscientiousness of the council members. At issue is the fear that these people were put in the position of being expected to make an informed decision without benefit of adequate information: that time constraints and an apparent breakdown of communication may have restricted their ability to research some options that might otherwise have been considered.

The good news is that it appears some of the problems originally anticipated may not be problems after all. As it turns out, part of 'what can be salvaged' from the old building might just be the structure itself. The crack, upon closer inspection, may not be fire related or significant, and the possibility exists that the money from the insurance settlement might be adequate to rebuild the inside of the church using materials and equipment that would mean a very noticeable reduction in the cost of maintaining the building. More good news: several experts volunteered early-on to address the council and answer questions - a golden opportunity that needn't have been missed. Now that council members are aware of this resource, they might find the offer sill open.

I served for three years on the Diocesan Board of Education, and I learned that when an emotional issue is raised, the volume of mail and number of complaints can be staggering. It is part of the job and I can sympathize with anyone in that position. Another thing I learned is that if a decision is made that later seems inappropriate due to a change in circumstances or because new information has come to light, that decision can be reviewed, re-evaluated, and, if necessary, reversed. That too, is part of the job.

While no one is suggesting that our problem is of the same caliber as that of disease or world hunger, it is important too. It is important for several reason, the main one being that parishioners, the council and committee members, and our friends in the community all deserve to feel that all avenues were explored before action was taken in this matter. Please, council members, discuss further, and if your decision is still that this parish would be best served by scrapping the old building, then everyone could focus their energy and enthusiasm on plans for the new building. If the decision is changed, we can all look forward to a return to the church that has been loved and admired in Stuart for longer than we have lived. In any case, your efforts and consideration would be much appreciated and, I think, put many concerns to rest.

Dana Dawson, Stuart, Iowa

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Letter to the Editor - April 25, 1996, Stuart Herald

Woe's me. Reading The Stuart Herald's editorial page is a weekly adventure in emotional highs and lows. I've followed the editorials, received two phone calls and read a plea in The 5 x 80 Bulletin. I've stayed outside the fray because Stuart is 11 miles from my home and I haven't been a member of All Saints for many years. During one of the phone calls I received I asked about the caller's daughter. I did so because the person's daughter was supportive of me and my 'churchly efforts' in a neighboring parish. A support I truly appreciated. In the sense of giving back what I've received, I feel an incompleteness and an absence of faith and love in not being able to support this person in the quest to restore.

Unfortunately, as I look at the pros and cons espoused by both sides - and I believe both sides have pros and cons, I cannot support one side of this issue against the other. I cannot divide this community any more than it is.

I am angered, however, by the method of decision making. And by the idea that the decision is irrevocable. If anyone, priest or parish council member, were to be a true hero in this parish and in this community, she/he would publicly acknowledge the divisiveness of the decision made last January/February, open the discussion within the entire parish, encourage the council to vacate the previous decision and begin anew. Insurance decision not withstanding, there is time for more discussion and for consensus building within the entire parish community and not just within the parish council and not just within a part of the parish family. The building of a new church does not have to begin this summer of this year and restoration of the old can happen any time. I am saddened that the church hides behind a parish council, allows those individuals to take the 'heat' and refuses to step forward and assume a Catholic posture by inviting the discussion to renew the face of the earth.

I'm not familiar with the Doud family; so, I'm assuming that Theresa (Doud) Powell and John P. Doud are brother and sister. Theresa Powell and John Doud submitted editorials to The Stuart Herald, which were published in last week's paper. Reading that they are on somewhat opposite sides of the fence, I'm pleased to note John Doud's summation when he indicates that when all is said and done," (As a family,) thankfully we realize that no matter what happens, some things are more important than a mere building." Although I can quarrel with the word "mere", the sentiment is one we all embrace.

Let's hope that this can be said of the All Saint's family. Unfortunately, it won't be something we can say unless steps are taken now to bridge the differences and to bring people together.

Cathy Pardekooper

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Letter to the Editor - May 6, 1996, Stuart Herald

Dear Clint Eastwood,

I am writing this letter to inform you, that your presence will probably not be needed here in Good Eggville. As we all know, our ever talented editor of the local Stuart Herald, invited you to come and perform miracles and movies.

Let me refresh your covered bridge memory.

As you know, Clint, on August 22, 1995 Charles Willard performed an act of terrorism by torching All Saints Church. This was an act of insanity, that he had planned since 1989. He publicly admitted that his action was a special gift to himself, as a way to remember his 60th birthday. Willard also thought he needed to destroy the entire catholic religion by burning one church.

Stuart is not only know for the beauty of All Saints Church, but for possessing 1600 good eggs and a few stinkers (citizens). Charles Willard burned the church, and succeeded in splitting our town, cracking our shell of security. Now we are known as a town of Good Eggs, Stinkers, Saints and Outsiders. I wonder where you would fit in with this molting group of flying angels.

The stench of smoke still permeates the air as frustrations and tempers flare concerning the monumental decision; should the church building be restored, razed or replaced with a metal building at a different location?

The Catholic Diocese, which could be considered saints or stinkers, made a decision to abandon the current structure and rebuild a new facility on a location away from the center of the community. This stinky thinking raised a lot of fumes, as it was presented to a few good eggs on the coldest day of winter. The carton of eggs was misrepresented and plans to spend the insurance money began to dominate the minds of a dozen people.

Not to be over-done, a few other good eggs enlisted help of outsiders. The outsiders, are those which are not Catholic, Christian, or part of the community, these people began pouring money into the nest egg, thus adding fuel to the egg whites who refuse to move from the center of town. Restoration of the church is the center for some local yokels.

Nourishing thoughts continue to scramble as architects, engineers and artists, have been invited into the hen house. Each person assaying the possibility for a new church inside the old facade. Unlike Humpty-Dumpty, the crack can be fixed and All Saints can be restored.

What joy shall fill the hearts and minds of the community, when All Saints is restored, rebuilt, old and new together on the some little green acre in the center of town. Then we shall have all of our eggs (good eggs and stinkers) as well as outsiders in one basket.

Sincerely Yours till the cows come home to roost,
Susan J. Smith, Stuart

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Letter to the Editor - June 13, 1996, Stuart Herald

I have thought about writing this for a long time, but put it off because I was apprehensive about writing a letter to the editor. The article in the April 9, 1996 Des Moines Register was the impetus I needed. The article was entitled "Church Arsonist Willard Sent to Prison for 50 Years."

The part of the article that upset me was the comments made by Herb Dols, President of All Saints Parish Council. His comments were made in reference to the people who are in favor of restoring All Saints and opposed to the present plan of building a new church. The comments were "the vast majority will come around." What about the minority? How will you Mr. Dols help them to heal. Also, "basically they are good people." What does this mean? Does it mean there is a chance my mother who is in favor of restoration is a "bad" person. With all this in mind here goes the original written and rewritten letter.

I grew up on a farm 3.5 miles north of Stuart. I attended St. Mary's Catholic School and spent many mornings during kindergarten through eighth grade attending daily mass at All Saints Church. My parents were married at All Saints almost 56 years ago. I along with my four brothers and two sisters were baptized and confirmed there and four of us celebrated marriage there.

On Tuesday, August 22, I called my mother. She said she couldn't talk because my brother had just come over and said the church was on fire. Right! A big stone church like All Saints burn? Not possible! Even if there was a fire, it would be small, contained and easily put out.

But that was not the case. I still remember going to Stuart that evening and standing south of the church watching it burn. I can feel the pain when I saw the flames destroy the beautiful dome.

Part of me died that night. The building was gone but the spirit remained, that was my saving grace. The spirit would never die. I can close my eyes and still feel the smoothness of the varnished wood of the pews and see the marble pelicans perched on top of the main altar.

Then came the discussion on whether it was possible or feasible to restore the church or build a new one. Then suddenly the decision was made. The parish council had made the decision based on a survey of church members. I was devastated when I heard it. I'm not a member of All Saints, but that church is more a part of me than I can say. I had hoped they would restore it. I prayed that they would.

The decision caused a rift in the parish. It is so sad what destruction, physical and mental, one man (Charles Willard) can wreak.

Almost everyone in the parish has had their say on the issue, but there's one person who hasn't had the opportunity to voice his opinion.

My father, Marvin Pieper, is currently in the Stuart nursing home. He suffers from Alzheimer's disease. He hasn't known any of us except maybe my mother for a long time. He just celebrated his 80th birthday and I want his gift from me to be to tell everyone how he would feel about the issue.

It may sound presumptuous to feel I can speak for my dad, but I act a lot like him. The majority of my life my mother has most affectionately referred to me as "Miss Marvin." With that in mind, here it goes.

If my dad were of sound mind and body he would never ever allow a new church to be built. Perhaps I should preface this by saying he would never allow a new church to be built unless every avenue for and or against restoration had been exhausted. I know this as I know myself. My dad loved All Saints church; he loved the community of Stuart and I didn't want him to be left out. I am not writing this to change anything. I just needed to say "Happy Birthday, Dad."

Thank you!
Annette Pieper-Edgington

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IOWA ICONS - "Fixtures of Iowa's past worth saving"
August 25, 1996, Des Moines Register

Recently, we asked readers to submit suggestions for Iowa fixtures that should be preserved as artifacts for future Iowans to get a feel for Iowa life in the past. "Iowa Icons" we called them, and we suggested, for starters, such things as Albert the Bull in Audubon, a Harvestore silo and an Iowa Interstate rest area.

Besides the letter excerpted below, we received suggestions for saving: a family farm; a Lustron (all-steel) home; a milk truck; an underground coal mine; an A&W Drive-In; a drive-in movie theater; a piece of the original Lincoln Highway; the Sutliff Bridge (a one-lane steel structure with wooden-plank deck crossing the Cedar River built in 1897); and the Tastee Freeze in DeWitt.

Here are other readers' thoughts on Iowa Icons:

(NOTE: There were other letters submitted but the following was the only one concerning All Saints.)

Pink flamingos, Albert the Bull, McDonald's? Come on, let's get real.

In response to the editorial of Aug. 4, "Fixtures of Everyday Life," All Saints Church of Stuart is more than worthy as a fixture of everyday life for blessings and spiritual security so vital for future generations.

This icon was the victim of a pyromaniac on Aug. 22, 1995.

The limestone walls still stand as a reminder that God's church can endure the test of time.

All Saints Church needs to be restored and preserved for spiritual and historical values.

Susan J. Smith,
123 N. Harrison St., Stuart

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Letter to the Editor - July 3, 1997, Stuart Herald

So, the community of Stuart has saved a building. Writing in reference of the Legion/Rec. Center, having raised the $25,000.00 plus to accomplish this benefit; and many have donated to the Family Youth Center. My family and I have contributed financially to both worthy causes for the future of the city and its inhabitants.

Why should we care what happens concerning the good of Stuart, since we were neither born or raised here but choose to reside in this area; Why, because we will have grandchildren that will be living here, and possibly be influenced hopefully in a positive way by many of the fine people of this community.

Now, let me get to the real point of this letter. If we all or most of us in Stuart and surrounding areas are in full support of the projects as stated above, then how much more interest and financial support can we give to Project Restore? Let's not forget the object of real beauty and cultural interest as well as spiritual heritage that Stuart is known for.

The Diocese says that no decisions for the building will be made for two years, but unless we as a community fail to support the on-going project of restoring the burned out building for historical purposes, then we will be neglecting our responsibility. We will become infidels.

The Diocese and the committee want a new building for Stuart; that's fine, but get a new bell and leave the old one with the burned out shell.

The Diocese and committee want to take out the corner stone and build upon the rock as a memorial foundation in remembrance of the old church.

The Diocese and the committee want to make gravel pathways out of the limestone walls. Let them pay for their own gravel and leave the walls of the original All Saints Church standing.

What has the community of Stuart done to the Diocese that has allowed so much confusion and heartache to come between us. The burned out building belongs to non-Catholic community as much as it does to any organized religion.

Call the Project Restore hot line at 830-1830 and keep informed. It will be your money that restores the memories and preserves the future of Stuart for our families.

Why is the community of Stuart different than the tiny Shelby County community of Westphalia, whose people stand behind the historical church building of St. Boniface and keep it alive and living for the generations to come.

Like the legendary Phoenix that resurrects itself, All Saints can be restored and reborn.


Susan J. Smith,
Stuart, Iowa

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