An architect’s rendition of the exterior of the new St. Barbara’s Catholic Church, done by Technicon Design Group, Ottawa, was on display during the parish’s festival on Sunday. The parish hopes to break ground for the new church sometime next month.
An architect’s rendition of the exterior of the new St. Barbara’s Catholic Church, done by Technicon Design Group, Ottawa, was on display during the parish’s festival on Sunday. The parish hopes to break ground for the new church sometime next month.

CLOVERDALE — The village of Cloverdale celebrated being one step closer to recovery on Sunday.

The annual St. Barbara Catholic Church festival brought parishioners, friends, and family from near and far to recognize how far the small village has come since November 17, 2013, when an EF-2 tornado destroyed much of the tiny berg.

The festival featured games, dinners, burgers, music, raffles, and other activities. One new event was a silent auction of items that were recovered from the church and rectory, including furniture and pieces of marble from the altar.

Crucifixes that were fashioned from the pews were being offered for sale.

As the festivities went on around them, people took time to reminisce as well as to share their visions of Cloverdale’s future.

“We want to keep in people’s minds that we are still here, we are still rebuilding,” said Mayor Judd Spencer. “We’re still plugging away every day.”

“We’ve come a long way; new homes are being built, and homes are being remodeled,” he described. “We’ve been working hard,” Spencer continued. “Remember, we couldn’t do anything because of the harsh winter. That really was a blessing, because it gave us an opportunity to plan.”

Of all the families who lost their homes, only two did not rebuild or remodel. The Cloverdale Recovery Task Force, based through the United Way, has given over $60,000 to aide in the village’s restoration. The task force has worked hand in hand with each resident’s individual needs; approximately 60% of the work has been completed.

The last dumpster of construction debris was recently hauled away.

“That felt pretty good,” Spencer reported.

The buzz of the day was the new St. Barbara’s Church. The parish plans to break ground sometime next month. An architect’s rendition of the church’s exterior was prominently displayed in one of the tents. Father Jerry Schetter, the church’s priest, is excited about the new church.

He commented, “The parish church is the poster child of the town. Everyone associates the church with the town. Our parishioners are positive; their faith is strong.”

The parish council visited other similar churches to get ideas for their new building. The church will seat the same number of worshippers, and will have much resemblance to the former structure, but with modern technology. Rita Wannemacher, age 96, hopes to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony. The oldest member of the parish, who was born and raised in Cloverdale and still lives on her family’s farm, said the new church would be the third in the village that she has attended during her lifetime.

“Mom wants to live long enough to scoop a shovelful of dirt at the groundbreaking,” related Wannemacher’s daughter, Carol Schortgen. “I don’t know if I’ll make it,” Wannemacher grinned, her eyes twinkling.

Fr. Jerry said he had teased Wannemacher about her part in the groundbreaking.

“I told her if she’s not going to be around, we’re not going to build it,” he declared.

Mrs. Wannemacher is especially looking forward to the bells from the old bell tower being utilized in the new church’s design.

“The top bell (of the current tower) was purchased by my grandfather, William Stretker, and two other gentlemen,” she explained.

The support for the community and the new church was amazing. Many faces were unfamiliar to the townsfolk, which meant they were from afar.

Ann Burgei, who with her friends Wilma Schnipke, Kathy Hasselschwart, and Mary Jo Radebaugh, ran the raffle booth at the festival. People were scurrying to deposit their tickets in buckets for the drawings.

“People opened their arms and donated a little bit of everything, from roasters to Ohio State items,” Burgei described. “We are proud of what we accomplished for the church.”

“If you don’t have a church, you don’t have a town,” Burgei related.

Another parishioner added, “St. Barbara’s took the brunt of the storm to save the rest of the village. A lot of us feel that way.”

Through it all, the village residents haven’t lost their sense of humor.

Spencer is in his third year of his term as Cloverdale’s mayor. During his first year in office, the derecho hit. The second year brought the tornado.

“If anything happens during my third year, I’m buying a ticket to Tahiti,” he chuckled.

This morning, when Fr. Jerry was preparing for the church’s 8:00 a.m. mass at the parish hall, he discovered there was no power.

“We had mass anyway,” he recounted. “I said, ‘Lord, let there be light!’ and there was no light. I couldn’t overstep my bounds.”