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Germans Visit New Melle to Celebrate 25 Years of Sister City Partnership

By Dianne Sudbrock

A group of 14 visitors from Melle, Germany arrived in New Melle, Sept. 26, 2013. The group came to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Sister-City Partnership between the two communities. While in New Melle, most of the the visitors stayed in homes of area residents. On Friday, the group took a sight-seeing trip to Pierre-Marquette Park in Illinois, touring the Alton Lock and Dam, and riding ferries back across the Mississippi River.

On Saturday, there was an open house at the Boone Duden Historical Society Museum and Archives in New Melle, followed by lunch at Friedens UCC church. After lunch, the group posed for photos at the Immigrant Statue, and took in a quilt show and music at the historic St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Melle. On Saturday evening, a dinner and reception commemorating the 25-year anniversary was hosted by St. John's UCC-Cappeln in their Family Life Center.

Since the signing of the sister-city partnership in 1988, over 200 people have participated in 19 trips back and forth between the two cities. Germans from the Melle area have visited New Melle 10 times, and Americans from the New Melle area have visited Germany 9 times.
At the reception, JoAnn Hammel, President of the New Melle Friendship Society said in the early 1800s thousands and thousands of people emigrated from Germany and settled along the Mississippi, Missouri and Ohio Rivers. She said, “When we visit Germany and go to the cemeteries, we see the same surnames there we have here.”

Those family connections are what initially prompted the sister city partnership, but Hammel said, “This partnership could not have survived for 25 years without the help and interest of the committees on both sides. Wilhelm Röper worked very hard on that side of the Ocean to keep the relationship going. He and his wife Christiane were our first house guests in 1988, and since then we have formed a close personal friendship. That’s what the partnership is all about. That is where peace in the world survives, through person-to-person relationships. And that is what President Dwight Eisenhower envisioned when he set up the sister-city program – so that we would never see another WWII again.”

Hammel presented a porcelain picture frame to the German group inscribed with “A moment in time is captured forever.”. The frame will be used to display a photo from the 25th anniversary celebration. Hammel said, “It is very reassuring to know that some things in life really do last awhile....In partnership, but more importantly, in friendship, may our partnership continue to flourish and grow to the coming years.”

Simple Picture Slideshow:
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1.  German visitors at the Immigrant Statue (L-R): Peter Schatte, Hartwig Grobe, Uwe Plass, Christiane Röper, Bärbel Thoms, Wilhelm VonBröker, Jürgen Wildt, Helmut Leimkühler, Mechthild Krieger, Wolfgang Dreuse, Ralf Unger, Werner Maass, Wilhelm Röper, Jürgen Krämer.

2.  Germans and their host families at a welcoming reception hosted by Seven Stones Wine Garden.

3.  Bärbel Thoms and Wilhelm Röper look at old German textbooks in the School House at the Boone Duden Historical Society Museum in New Melle.

4.  Fun at the museum - some of the Germans dressed up in old farm clothes on Satuday (L-R) Jürgen Krämer, Mechthild Krieger and Wolfgang Dreuse. (Photo courtesy of Jürgen Krämer.)

5.  Making Connections: Wolfgang Dreuse (left) of Germany,with fourth cousin, twice removed, Alice Freese Molitor and her granddaughter KaBella Bruno, and Uwe Plass, a historian from Germany at the Boone Duden Museum. (Photo courtesy of Jürgen Krämer.)

6.  Some of the visitors visited the Boone Home (L-R): Peter Schatte, Jürgen Wildt, Ruth Neske (New Melle), Uwe Plass, Hartwig Grobe, Rich Neske (New Melle), Wanda Greiwe (Defiance) and Jürgen Krämer. (Photo courtesy of Jürgen Krämer.)

7.  A special Anniversary Board commemorated the history of the partnership and the visitors who attended from Germany.

8.   Emily Brakensiek of Foristell with Hartwig Grobe and Jürgen Krämer. (Photo courtesy of Jürgen Krämer.) 

9.  JoAnn Hammel accepted a beautiful colored metal etching from Wolfgang Dreuse, President of the Melle Friendship Group.

10.  During the Anniversary celebration Saturday evening, Sept. 28, 2013, several gifts and proclamations were exchanged. Pictured (L-R), Wilhelm Röper-former President of the friendship group in Germany, holding the painting presented to the New Melle group, St. Charles County Councilman Steve Ehlmann, Werner Maass-who made a clock that was presented to the New Melle group, New Melle Mayor Don Hendrich, New Melle Friendship Society President JoAnn Hammel, Missouri State Representative Kurt Bahr, Jürgen Wildt-Melle City Board Member, Wolfgang Dreuse-President of the German-American Friendship Society, Bärbel Thoms-Melle City Board Member (front), Jürgen Krämer, Director of Media Relations for Melle, Germany, and Uwe Plass, Melle City Board Member. Also attending but not pictured: Missouri State Senator Scott Rupp and State Rep. Bart Korman.

11. Hammel also accepted a clock made by Werner Maass. There were only five of these clocks made. One hangs on the wall at the Mayor's office in Melle, Germany. (L-R) JoAnn Hammel, President of the New Melle Friendship Society, Werner Maass-clock maker, and Wolfgang Dreuse.

12.  Getting it all Started: It was Alberta Toedebusch of New Melle who had the initial idea to form a sister city partnership between Melle, Germany because several local families descended from that area. Pictured (L-R) Shirley Ostmann, Alberta’s daughter, with JoAnn Hammel, and Wilhelm and Christiane Röper, who are credited with growing and perpetuating the Friendship groups.

13.  German guests, host families, and Friendship Society members at the Immigrant Statue in New Melle, MO. Sept. 28, 2013.

Wolfgang Dreuse, president of the German Freundeskries, thanked New Melle for the invitation to come and celebrate the anniversary. Dreuse thanked the society and the community for the warm welcome they had received, “We’re glad to be here again after five years.” He said, “1988 was an historic date. The friendship was officially sealed and it was the beginning of a long friendship. Every two or three years we visited each other, and each time, it was an unforgettable event. Visitors from Old Melle were overwhelmed by your hospitality, and we Germans love a lot about your wonderful country and about Missouri. When you came to Germany, we were proud and honored to be your hosts. It was fun to show you a bit around our country, the land of your forefathers, and perhaps you learned some of our funny habits! In both towns we now have exceptional landmarks like the wonderful statue in New Melle, and the Friendship Stone. In Melle, we have ‘New Melle Place’ [a designated park] and a stone with a plaque. Everyone in both towns can now see what this friendship is all about. Over the years as we became friends, we realized we have many things in common. This countrysides look very much alike with the rolling hills. Both sides like hearty meals like we have seen today, and good drinks like beer and wine!...Some of us have family ties and it is good to build those relationships. We Germans also learn a lot from you Americans. You are a bit more relaxed than we are. We can learn from you, and we also admire your optimism and hands-on attitude. I think that is one of your strengths, and it is great to have friends like you.”

Dreuse recognized the efforts of Alberta Toedebusch of New Melle (now deceased) who initiated the idea for a friendship society, and praised JoAnn Hammel of New Melle, and Wilhelm Röper of Melle, for their work in building the relationship on both sides of the ocean. Dreuse said, “Let’s keep the thing going!”

Dreuse then presented a colored, metal plate etching by a famous artist who lives near Melle, Germany. The etching features a sailing ship in the center, symbolizing the emigration 170 years ago, connecting a scene from Melle, Germany with a scene from New Melle, Missouri. The painting is #3 in a limited edition production: #1 hangs in the mayor’s office in Melle, Germany, and #2 belongs to the German friendship group.

Dreuse also gave Hammel a book that was just released in Germany called “Momente” [Moments]. It is about what we would consider their county, and describes prominent people and societies in the area. There is an article in the book about the Melle-New Melle Partnership written by Jürgen Krämer (one of the guests with the group.) Krämer is a journalist and current director of media communications for the city of Melle. He has accompanied the group on many of its trips to America. Over the years he has written numerous articles documenting and promoting the sister-city partnership.

Next, Werner Maass presented a clock that he made as a gift to the New Melle group. The clock is one of only five produced in honor of the 825th anniversary of the city of Melle, Germany. Again, #1 is at mayor’s office in Melle, there are 3 others, and now number 5 will hang in a prominent place (to be determined) in New Melle, as will the painting.

Additionally, there were three proclamations presented, one from the City of New Melle to the City of Melle, and two from the state of Missouri (one for New Melle and one for Melle, Germany) commemorating the 25th anniversary of the partnership. Attending the anniversary celebration from the City of New Melle were Mayor Don Hendrich, City Clerk Stacey Decker, Court Clerk Sarah Isgrigg, Police Chief Clete Mathis, and Police Officers Tyler West and Brandon Smithley. Also attending were State Senator Scott Rupp, State Representative Bart Korman, State Representative Kurt Bahr, and St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann.

Dreuse and Hammel both expressed appreciation for the gifts, and thanked everyone involved in the hospitality provided during the visit, including the elected officials who attended, Pastor Devin Jones of St. John’s UCC and the church members who prepared the hall and worked during the evening, Pastor Michael Piper and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Pastor Karen Eck and Frieden’s Peace UCC, the Boone Duden Historical Society, Marc Gottfried and Kraftig Beer, Sugar Creek Winery, Mayor Don Hendrich and the City of New Melle, Seven Stones Wine Garden, the New Melle Chamber of Commerce, New Melle Friendship Society members and others from the community who helped with planning and preparation, the host families, and anyone else who helped in any way.

On Sunday, the Germans visited the St. Louis Arch and the St. Charles Octoberfest, then returned home on Monday Sept. 30, 2013.

Anyone interested in learning more about the New Melle Friendship Society or becoming a member may contact JoAnn Hammel at 636-398-5952.  There is also a German website about the organization: http://www.daf-melle.de/html/home__english_.html.