After five years of meticulous planning and aggressive fund-raising, spearheaded by the Berne Community Development Corporation, the Muensterberg Plaza clock tower in Berne became a reality in 2010, making it the No. 8 story of the year as chosen by employees of the Decatur Daily Democrat.
Ground was ceremoniously broken in mid-March and work on the 160-foot clock tower, funded exclusively by private donations, began almost immediately.
On June 18, hundreds of interested onlookers gathered at the clock tower site to watch the placement of roof panels and the steeple atop the $3 million project. The excitement in the air was palpable.
A mere six weeks later, on July 31, the tower was formally dedicated as the highlight of this year’s Swiss Days festival. Hundreds of visitors and guests were on hand for the celebration, which included speeches from dignitaries and local organizers, and was culminated with a laser-light show cast against the clock tower’s walls.
Featured speaker Keith Reinhard, a Berne native who has gained worldwide acclaim in the advertising industry, was introduced to a standing ovation as “Berne’s most famous son.”
Reinhard, chairman emeritus of DDB Worldwide, and his wife Rose-Lee, are the single biggest donors to the clock tower project. He spoke about the eight words etched into the sides of the clock tower — Faith, Courage, Commitment, Integrity, Hard Work, Heritage, Hope and Vision — and called them “lasting values for changing times; it’s what you learn in Berne.”
Reinhard said the tower “is a bold new structure which honors the past and enhances the future. The eight values are as important today as they were to the settlers who founded Berne. But the clock itself is, our course, a symbol of constant change.”
“Today is truly an historic day in Berne. I salute the courage of those who had this bold idea ... and brought it to life,” he said.
Jim Beitler, who with Roger Muselman served as co-chairmen of the project fund-raising committee, welcomed “all of those here who love this unique and distinctive town. We are all so glad you’re here to celebrate this significant event.”
In addition to being merely a clock, Beitler said, the new structure is a compass.
“The value panels show us the path and direction to find our way today. These are timeless, shared values for us all,” he said. “To the people of Berne: we need to seize the calling and live our lives with this compass.”
On Oct. 17, another piece of the plaza was unveiled. A Settlers Monument — a six-foot-tall limestone carving perched on a 12-foot base which depicts a man with his hands outstretched and a woman holding a baby.
“May the Settlers Monument always remind visitors to this site of our Mennonite ancestors and the sacrifices and hardships they endured for us,” said Jerome Lehman of Terre Haute, who personally financed the statue. “It is will deep gratitude and reverence to all my ancestors who suffered hardship to settle in the Berne area that my wife and I underwrote the Settlers Monument.”
David Baumgarter, president of the Berne Community Development Corp. which has served as the driving force behind the Muensterberg Plaza project, said it is his hope that “this and future generations can take inspiration from this monument for years to come.”