Monday, January 21st, 2008
By Margie Wuebker
Ohio's first lady helps Bremen celebrate 175th birthday
  WAPAKONETA - Auglaize County residents kicked off a yearlong celebration Sunday afternoon commemorating the 175th anniversary birthdays of Wapakoneta and New Bremen. Ohio's first lady Frances Strickland joined in the festivities.
Several hundred people braved unseasonably cold weather to fill the Auglaize County Courthouse rotunda. Even with additional chairs hurriedly set up, people arriving just prior to the 1:30 p.m. program found standing room only.
Wapakoneta Anniversary Committee Chairman Rachel Barber summoned laughter when she pointed out Wapakoneta's founders were "real eager" when it came to establishing the community in January 1833. "New Bremen's forefathers had enough sense to establish their community in the warm month of June," she added.
New Bremen Mayor Jeff Pape commented on the progress his community has made since Bavarian settlers established Ober Bremen and New Bremen on the banks of the Miami and Erie Canal, noting change is essential and it came about as a result of people with a common goal heading in the same direction.
"The refurbishing of the locks as part of our heritage has brought us full circle," he said. "I can see in the future of New Bremen that we will have many more anniversary dates like this."
Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz agreed, saying "We need to do this more often. It's a wonderful opportunity to celebrate 175 years together."
Strickland, who announced her husband Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland would be sending official proclamations in the coming days, commented on the rich heritage wrought by early settlers who were willing to take risks and face challenges in exchange for a better life.
"I really wish that I could know the stories that are inside everyone that's here today," she added looking across the rotunda filled with people ranging from elementary school students to senior citizens. "That's what makes such communities as these so great."
Strickland, who has visited the area several times in the past year, pointed out Auglaize County holds special significance. Her father's first cousin, John Smith, resides in Wapakoneta and serves as a "cheerleader" for this part of the state.
Keynote speaker James Dicke II, chairman and chief executive officer of Crown Equipment Corporation in New Bremen, assured the audience he would not talk as long as featured speaker Frank Boesel did at the community's centennial observance. His speech "The Spirit and Ideals of Our Pioneers" lasted an hour and 15 minutes.
"Every small community represents the spirit of the people that call it home," Dicke said. "Even if circumstances take some of our people elsewhere to live, the memories of their small town often give them a desire to return."
Dicke, whose grandsons are the eighth generation of one of the original signers, also pointed out the greatest asset in communities like New Bremen and Wapakoneta is that people know and watch out for each other.
A quartet of Auglaize County youths sang patriotic songs, including "The County of Auglaize," written by Wapakoneta native Daniel Mooney, an attorney and state senator who served as ambassador to Paraguay during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. The singers included Lanae Caudill and Lauryn Bertke of New Bremen and Elliot Schuler and Daniel Sprague of Wapakoneta.
The Rev. Leah Matthews, pastor of St. Paul United Church of Christ in New Bremen, gave the invocation while the Rev. R.J. Davis, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Wapakoneta, offered the benediction.
"A 175 years is quite a milestone," said Genevieve Conradi, co-chairmen of the New Bremen Anniversary Committee. "Those are important years in the lives of both communities."
Fellow co-chairman Delores Stienecker headed an effort that resulted in seven women baking 70 dozen cookies for the refreshment table.
The New Bremen celebration continues March 17 with the annual meeting of the New Bremen Historic Association also featuring Dicke as keynote speaker and the annual Bremenfest Aug. 15-17. Wapakoneta also plans events throughout the year.
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