The old neon cross

The Alton (Ill.) Telegraph published a story about the St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel, Ill., which has featured a blue neon cross atop it that Route 66 and Interstate 55 travelers have gazed upon since the 1940s.

A story about the neon cross that you may not have known:

The cross was dedicated in 1946 as a memorial by the parents of Oscar Brunnworth, a local brave soldier who was killed on a battlefield of World War II.

The church receives letters from people who see the cross in the middle of the night as they drive along I-55 across the country.

“The lighted cross of Christ is a blessing to people who are driving far away from home on Christmas,” Weedon said.

Drivers along the highway stop to see historic Saint Paul Church and travelers with personal problems seek spiritual advice from the pastor.

The Ace Jackalope blog also reports that Brunnworth died in Italy. Ace says:

What impresses me most about the St. Paul cross is that it looks like it belongs there – like the original architect would have approved. Kudos to the church powers-that-be who decided over 60 years ago to allow something different, and what an enduring way to remember the sacrifice of Oscar Brunnworth.

Military records indicate that Brunnworth died in the line of duty, in a non-combat situation.

The fact the neon cross is a memorial explains why it’s been well-maintained over the years. Decades ago, Many churches routinely used neon crosses and other such lighting, but they fell out of favor during the 1970s and were often thrown away when maintenance costs became too troublesome.

The church’s original name was New Gehlenbeck, and it’s more than 150 years old. It was founded by German immigrants, and the first church was in a log cabin. The current church building is about 80 years old.

A photo of the church with its cross can be found on the church’s website here.

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