By Linda Scherer
A large crowd gathered at St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Winsted, April 27, to be part of the dedication of a handicapped entry, an elevator, and a new addition improvements made to the church originally built in 1960.
Guest speaker for the dedication, Pastor Gerald Bode of Peace Lutheran Church of Hutchinson, commended St. John’s members for their sacrifice and commitment in furthering the mission of their church by making it accessible to all.
The project was in the planning stage for almost two years and the construction took another six months. The total cost was $344,832.
A six-man building committee, made up of Pastor Boldt, Bruce Gatz, Paul Gatz, Rodney Gutzmann, Bill Pierson, and Chairman Eldron Hecksel, worked through many ideas and designs for the addition which resulted in a new look for St. John’s Church.
Hecksel, who spoke following the dedication ceremony, thanked everyone who had come out for the event, including Mayor Steve Stotko and city council members who were present.
He said the funding for the building project has come from members of St. John’s, a total of 217 communicant members, as well as nonmembers and area businesses which has reduced the debt to approximately $124,875.
After the dedication, there was brunch served downstairs where the building committee members commented on the construction changes made to the church.
Gutzman said that originally the committee was looking at making the addition larger, but realized it would be too expensive.
He said one of the stipulations the committee had was that the addition was not to look like an addition, it was to look like one building. He was pleased with how the church now looks.
“I am very proud of the addition that was done,” Bruce Gatz, chairman of St. John’s congregation and building committee member said. “It doesn’t look like an addition that was put on the building. The brick matches, and the roof lines all tie in beautifully with the architecture. It was very tastefully done.”
“The handicap entrance is really important. As our congregation ages, it was a natural fit,” Bruce Gatz said.
Lifelong member Duane Weibel agreed. He said he thought the elevator was a very good thing. “I can really use that. I run out of breath going up the stairs.”
Pastor Boldt, resident pastor of St. John’s since 1999, said, “The congregation members can be very proud of the way the addition turned out.”
Boldt added he was honored when St. John’s Church received the Don C. Guggemos award for 2007 given for volunteering and for making the church handicap accessible.
“Hopefully it will be an example that other public institutions in the community will follow as well,” Boldt said.
The architect for the project was Phil Johnson of Minneapolis. The general contractor was Gary Wessling of Wessling Construction of Winsted.
Wessling said construction began in September 2006 and most of it was completed by March of 2007.
One very noticeable change was to the old bell tower. Originally, it had a flat roof which Wessling replaced with a new peaked-roof which he built at his home.
Once the roof was ready, Wessling hired a crane to set the roof on the top of the tower. Then Wessling, who admits to not liking heights, climbed up there to attach it to the tower when it was in place.
A lighted gold cross was set on the top. The cross was constructed by Rick Menden, given in memory of Derald Menden by the Menden family.
A history of St. John’s Church in Winsted
In attendance at the dedication was the oldest living member of St. John’s Church, Gordy Kubasch.
Kubasch recalled, as a very young man in 1936, attending services in St. John’s first wooden church which was built in 1882.
As Kubasch recalled, the girls sat on one side and the boys sat on the other. “That was just the way we did things back then,” Kubasch said.
He remembered that the woodburning stove, used to heat the church, sat in the center of the building. During the winter, if you sat too far away from the stove you would freeze, and if you sat too close to it, you would get burned.
The first of St. John’s nine resident pastors, the Rev. Amandus F. Vomhof from St. Peter’s Bergen Township, was installed in February 1946. He served St. John’s Church until 1955.
That was considered the “modern era” of St. John’s some 62 years ago. During Vomhof’s tenure, the parsonage was built with funds donated entirely by Len Hermann and with Paul Weibel as the chief contractor. When the excavation began for the basement of the current church, the wooden church was moved to the west to make room for the new one.
The excavation for the church basement began July 1951. It was completed for a total cost of $35,000, and it was dedicated July 20, 1952.
The building committee for the basement church was Charles Gutzmann, Herb Kubasch, Glen Gatz, Wayne Gutzmann, Len Hermann and Gordon Newman.
The upper portion of the current church began construction in 1960 at a total cost of $60,000. Dedication was on Dec. 4, 1960.
The building committee included Wayne Gutzmann, chairman, Walter Hesse, Herbert Kubasch, Woodrow Hecksel, Gordon Newman, and Stanley Meeker.