Nine people from the Melle, Germany area visited New Melle, Missouri Sept. 14-16, 2018 to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the New Melle-Melle Sister City Partnership.
The sister city partnership came about through the efforts of Alberta Toedebusch (1924-1995) who had traced her ancestry to Melle, Germany. It became her dream to establish a sister-city relationship with Melle, and that dream became a reality in June, 1988 when the documents were officially signed here in New Melle.
Wilhelm Roeper, leader of the 2018 tour group from Melle, Germany, said, “The Burgermeister [mayor] of Melle, Germany, at that time was Clemens Schwertmann. He was a World War II veteran who had been a prisoner of war in England. He believed it was very important to have good relationships with other nations, and sister-city partnerships had already been established with the city of Melle in Belgium and the city of Melle in France.”
Roeper also said, “Our first visit here in New Melle was such an extraordinary event that we decided to come again in 1991. The second tour group was also overwhelmed by the hosts’ hospitality and we founded the Melle-New Melle Freundeskries (friendship group in Germany.) A short time later a similar group was established The New Melle-Melle Friendship Society, under the leadership of JoAnn Hammel.” Over the years the two groups have organized trips and special events on both sides of the ocean.
In 1994, the Friendship Stone at New Melle Sports and Recreation was dedicated. In 2002 a park (New Melle Platz) in honor of New Melle, MO was dedicated in Melle, German. In 2005, the Immigrant monument in New Melle was dedicated.
In 2013, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the partnership, a group of 14 people from Germany came to New Melle. They gave New Melle a 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; #2 belongs to the German friendship group; and #3 currently hangs in the New Melle City Hall.
Also hanging in New Melle City Hall is a clock, handmade by Werner Maass of Germany. The clock is one of only five produced in honor of the 825th anniversary of the Melle, Germany. Again, #1 in the series hangs at the mayor’s office in Melle, Germany.
On this trip, in honor of the 30th Anniversary of the Sister City Partnership, the Germans have given a tree to the City of New Melle. It is a Norwegian Blue Spruce and has been planted on the grounds of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, not far from the Immigrant statue. A dedication ceremony/tree watering was held at the tree on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018.
Since the signing of the sister-city partnership in 1988, over 200 people have participated in 20 trips back and forth between the two cities. Germans from the Melle area have visited New Melle 11 times, and Americans from the New Melle area have visited Germany 9 times.
Roeper said, “In combination with visits in New Melle, we got to know a lot of tourist highlights in the U.S.A. You showed us the area around New Melle, and this America we learned to love.”
Within the group that visited this year, it was the first time that four of the guests had ever been to America, and it was the first time for five of them to visit New Melle. The group arrived in Chicago on Sept. 12th and spent the next day sightseeing in that city. On Friday, Sept. 14th, they arrived in New Melle and were greeted by their host families at The Quarry Wine Garden where they enjoyed dinner on the patio. Upon their arrival, they were given gift bags that included an engraved aluminum travel tumbler engraved in honor of the 30th anniversary, compliments of the New Melle Chamber of Commerce. Also in the gift bags were gifts from area businesses, such as koozie cups, ink pens, and baseball caps to take back to Germany as souvenirs.
On Saturday, the visitors took a sightseeing trip to Grafton, IL. They enjoy seeing the “Wide Missouri” and “Mighty Mississippi” Rivers which they learned about in school. They also enjoy staying with host families in their homes, building friendships, and seeing how we midwestern Americans live.
On Sunday, after the tree dedication, the visitors enjoyed a light brunch at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and then Sunday evening, there was a celebration dinner at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Cappeln that included the presentation of proclamations and musical entertainment.
The Sunday evening event was attended by Paul Oberneufemann, Honorary Consul For Germany in St. Louis, as well as State Representative Bryan Spencer, New Melle Mayor Richard West and his wife, Lori, and New Melle Alderman Don Hendrich and his wife, Betty; as well as members of the New Melle-Melle Friendship Society, the New Melle Chamber of Commerce, and St. John’s UCC.
At the reception, Wilhelm Roeper, speaking on behalf of the Melle-New Melle Freundeskreis, invited people from New Melle to attend the 890th Anniversary of their city and walk in the celebration parade, which will be held in June, 2019. In 1989, the first year an organized group from New Melle visited Melle, Germany, there were 42 people who made the trip.They rode in a farm wagon in the same parade. It is called the Blumen und Trachtenfest....flower and costume celebration. The costumes feature historical clothing from centuries past.
After leaving New Melle on Monday, Sept. 17th, the Germans visited Washington D.C. before returning to their homeland.
Anyone interested in learning more about the New Melle Friendship Society and becoming a member may contact JoAnn Hammel at 636-398-5952.