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A View of the Grotto

June 28, 2012
by Jane Whitmore , Emmetsburg News

People from around the world visit and marvel at The Grotto of the Redemption. Last weekend, people were in West Bend to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the work of Father Paul Dobberstein.

One of the highlights of Saturday was meeting and visiting with Father Dobberstein's great nieces and nephew:?Kathleen (Berning) Fleming and her husband Mike of Des Moines; Rita (Berning) Wolf and her husband Grant of Ottumwa; Darlene (Berning)?Davidson and her husband Rich of Prior Lake, MN; and Paul L. Dobberstein, Jr. and his wife Judi of St. Louis, MO.

This wasn't the first trip to the Grotto for the Dobberstein relatives. They were in West Bend in 1954 for Father Paul Dobberstein's funeral and they were also there in 1998 for the 100 year anniversary of Sts. Peter &?Paul Catholic Church.

Kathleen said Father Paul's nephew looked a lot like him. Paul Dobberstein from St. Louis said his grandfather, Bernard, painted inside Sts. Peter &?Paul Church. He also painted the mural in the restaurant.

Father Paul was a great preacher, they said. His sermons would last two to three hours. Family stories relate that male parishioners would "pinch" their children to make them restless so they could take the child outdoors for a break from the sermon. They could also have a smoke.

While his sermons were long, his heart was kind, especially when it came to the students. The story goes that students who were "acting up" in class were sent to Father Dobberstein for discipline. He would keep the student with him for a while, then give them a coin to buy an ice cream after school.

Paul from St. Louis also remembered that people would throw coins in the water around the rock sculpture at the front of the church. He would get in the water with a bucket and a scoop shovel to retrieve the coins. The buckets of coins would be so heavy, he had to get help lifting them from Matt Szerence.

Coins in the water of the rock structures was Father Dobberstein's way of raising funds to complete his work. To this day, there is no charge to walk through the Grotto and view this masterpiece of stone.

Father Dobberstein worked diligently. When he wasn't preaching or teaching, he was working with the stones, often at work 20 hours a day. In the winter months, he would set stones in concrete, ready to put in place when the weather warmed. The blueprint was etched in his head.

Here is a joke that relatives remember Father Paul saying many times:?If all of the valleys were mush and the mountains were butter and the sun came out, wouldn't that be a hell of a mess.

Paul from St. Louis told about a trip to the Dobberstein family reunion in 1998. When they arrived, they found out that they were not related to the other 190-plus Dobbersteins. They stayed and enjoyed the reunion and even joined in the family group photo. It was a great time.

Thanks, Paul and Judi, Kathleen and Mike, Rita and Grant, Darlene and Rich, for sharing these memories.

Our family had Mikes Meat Market in West Bend. I assume it was our grandfather, Adolph Mikes, that developed the recipe for Dobbersteins -- much like a Polish sausage.

We lived on a street in West Bend that would have gone on the back side of the Grotto had the street gone straight through. People would often stop and ask directions to the Grotto when they saw that the road curved around the block. Once, we thought it would be funny to send them to the cemetery -- there are stones there, too. That funny idea didn't last long once Mother caught wind of our joke.

Growing up in West Bend, we didn't realize how spectacular the Grotto really is. Today we view it through adult eyes and see the grandeur and beauty and hours and hours of hard work.

The Grotto of the Redemption will be there for many generations to view and enjoy.



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