The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

 
 

In Sidney's Living Memorial Gardens, a reason for hope

 

Peace is a hard thing to find after the death of a loved one. But the Angel of Hope statue in Legion Park might give those searching for the elusive feeling a place to start.

"You look down at a cemetery," said Rita Schinzel-Anest, who helped bring the statue to Sidney. "You look up at the angel."

The Angel of Hope is meant as a grieving spot for people who have lost children, but the memorial plaques that go up on the granite walls around the sculpture are not limited to young people.

Legion Park's Living Memorial Gardens , where the angel is located, replaced the city's abandoned swimming pool. Jane Beran, a local art teacher decided to turn it into a memorial garden with help from some volunteers about 30 years ago. The first memorial dedication in the park was held July 4, 1983. The gazebo in the middle was installed in 2000.

The Angel of Hope sculpture was erected at the site of the old baby pool. Schinzel-Anest thinks that it was the perfect place for the statue, because she lost an infant and she also used to swim in that pool as a child.

Steve and Rita Schinzel-Anest, along with Lloyd and Carolyn Guggenmos, worked on the Angel of Hope project together. The couples met in the 1980s, when they were all members of Compassionate Friends, a support group for those dealing with the death of a child.

The Guggenmos' daughter Jean was killed by a hit and run driver when she was crossing a Sidney street in 1982. She was 13 years old at the time. Schinzel-Anest had recently experienced the death of their daughter.

Schinzel-Anest found out about other Christmas Box angel statues and decided that bringing one to Sidney would be the perfect way for them to remember their daughters.

Statues like the one in Legion park are located all over the world and serve as a place to mourn lost children. The idea for the statues came from "The Christmas Box," a book by Richard Paul Evans. In the novel, a mother grieves the loss of her child at the base of an angel statue. The word "hope" is hidden in the wings of the sculptures many times. The angel has uplifted arms and the face of a child.

Placing the Angel of Hope in a park, surrounded by a garden, was important to Schinzel-Anest and the Guggenmoses. Some of the angels in other parts of the United States are in hospitals or cemeteries. This group wanted their memorial to be located in an area with a more positive atmosphere.

"It was the ideal place to put it," Carolyn Guggenmos said.

They wanted the angel to be placed in a peaceful, pretty setting, she continued. Many of the trees and plants in the surrounding memorial gardens are dedicated to those who've died as well.

Schinzel-Anest started fundraising for the angel in January of 2008. The statue was unveiled in October of that year and the official dedication was held in September 2009.

Granite tiles engraved with the names of loved ones lost too soon serve as a memorial that surrounds the angel and the flower beds. The Cheyenne County Visitor's Committee paid for the $14,500 bronze angel. The entire memorial contains about $100,000 worth of granite and is monitored by surveillance cameras.

Most of the funding for the granite in the memorial's construction came from those who donated to have special inscriptions engraved on the reflective benches around the angel.

Orville Filsinger, who was legally blind, and his wife Berniece Filsinger donated one of the benches.

"Orville couldn't see our project, but he believed in us," Schinzel-Anest said.

Tom Birner, a former co worker of Lloyd Guggenmos's, donated half of a bench with an inscription honoring the Guggenmos's lost loved ones.

"That was very special," Lloyd Guggenmos said. "It brought tears to my eyes, like it does now."

Lou Ann Herstead, monument designer for Herstead Monument Company out of Scottsbluff decided on the placement of the angel statue and the designed its surroundings.

There are more than 118 angels of this kind all over the world. The one in Sidney was the first in Nebraska and is the only one dedicated to all lost loved ones, instead of children exclusively.

The Angel of Hope serves as a message that remembering a lost loved one doesn't always have to be sad, Carolyn Guggenmos said. Although the angel is meant to be a place for positive reflection, it elicits different reactions in everyone who views it.

"It means a lot of things," Schinzel-Anest said. " When you lose a child, part of your heart goes with it."

 

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