Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2012, 12:30 pm

German cemetery remembrance coming to church near Geneseo

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By Claudia Loucks,

Photo: Claudia Loucks / correspondent
Bob Taube, left, Geneseo, representing the Maple City Band; Jens Rehder, Andover, representing the American Schleswig Holstein Heritage Society; Noreen Steenbock, Davenport, planning committee member; and Clark Magerkurth, Cambridge, a member of St. Johnís Church, Geneseo; prepare for this yearís Founders Day Celebration of the German-American organizations of the Quad City area to be held Saturday, Oct. 6, at St. Johnís Lutheran Church and cemetery in rural Geneseo.
GENESEO — A Davenport woman's German roots run so deep, they compel her to continue organizing annual celebrations to honor those connections.

Noreen Steenbock has planned all seven Founders Day Celebrations sponsored by German-American organizations of the Quad-Cities area.

"We move our Founders Day celebration around every year so we can honor the German people buried in different cemeteries in Illinois and Iowa, and this year the cemetery is by a church," Mrs. Steenbock said.

The first such celebration seven years ago was at City Cemetery on Rockingham Road in Davenport.

This year's celebration will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, at St. John's Lutheran Church and cemetery, 7 ½ miles west of Geneseo.

Janet Brown-Lowe, of Bettendorf, will serve as emcee and introduce different speakers, who will share German history, poetry and storytelling. The program will include a poem written by poet laureate Dick Stahl, of Davenport, and Jens Rehder, of Andover, discussing what being a German-American means to them.

The event also will feature music played by members of Geneseo's Maple City Band and a tour of the church and cemetery, which date back to 1869.

A time for fellowship with light refreshments will follow the service.

Participating German-American organizations sponsoring this year's celebration are the American Schleswig Holstein Heritage Society, German American Family Club, German American Heritage Center, Schuetzenpark Gilde and the German American National Congress, all of which Mrs. Steenbock serves as a member.

"My heart really lies with the Schuetzenpark Gilde," she said, though.

The Gilde is a privately owned park in the west end of Davenport, she said.

"It was a German shooting club from 1870 until 1922 when it went broke," Mrs. Steenbock said. "Prohibition came in 1922, so the park went broke because the Germans were not able to sell the beer they brewed there.

"In 1996, the Gilde was formed, and we have purchased almost 25 acres of the original park ground back," Mrs. Steenbock said. "The park is open to the public, and, in the summer, we rent it out to people for special occasions."

This year's event is being held in conjunction with the German-American Friendship Day, which first was proclaimed by former President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

For information about the celebration or for directions to St. John's, call Mrs. Steenbock at (563) 322-5489.


"The Pulpit on the Prairie"

By Dick Stahl

The Prince of Peace Himself finds peace here

on a grassy hill in rural Geneseo

where tall grass prairie roots dug deep

and strong, where today's there a profusion

of autumn blooms at these graves.

These German-Americans celebrated

the fertile land, the family, friendship

and faith. Close to the stones,

in a small valley behind the church lives

a green setting for outdoor services.

Names spoken

and names spirited to life again.


Ten straight rows of headstones climb

the hill like a company of Christian soldiers marching

onward to the summit. In all directions, corn

and beans reign. This is the Middle West.

This is where the moon is full, where stars sparkle,

Where the sky brightens crisp and clear.

One stone pictures a barn, windmill, and a rising sun;

others shape a heart; still others, a carved dove, a finger pointing up.

These stones are like pulpits

Where the urge to speak, to whisper

or to remember

reveals who they were, who we are today.

Be so moved as you read the names

of these pioneers who settled this place

with their German-American vigor,

who raised families, and who made this land

and this country prosper.

This cemetery is their story. This ceremony

is about them. Their courage

is easy to see. Just look around

this hilltop,

and then let the prairie speak

of things temporal,

things eternal.