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giese mechanical church now 71

Thursday, December 14, 2017 16:16 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

It has more than 200 parishioners and a choir but this New England-style church is mechanical and a gift to God for making it home safely from World War II.

The miniature Giese Church at the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum is plugged in again for the holidays.

''Parents and grandparents bring kids to see it now like they did when they were little,'' said Susie Richter, the museum curator.

According to local historians, it was during the Battle of the Bulge that Otto Giese made a pact with God to do something special if he made it home to LaPorte safely.

He worked with craftsmen and corporate heads locally to design and build the life-like church with parishioners, including mothers and their babies, in every pew.

The sound of church bells typical for that time period ring out at the push of a button followed by recordings of ''Heaven and Nature Sing,'' ''Joy to the World'' and other songs church choirs normally sing at Christmas.

28 wooden choir members powered by a conveyor and holding lighted candles make

their way down the aisle.

Next, a minister also made of wood and belt driven comes out from behind the altar with a recorded message about the true meaning of the season before kneeling in front of an image of the last supper.

''It's just amazing and their real dolls. Not video,'' said Richter.

Originally, the church during the season was on display outside a funeral home Geise operated in LaPorte at Chicago and Harrison streets.

After retiring in 1978, Giese donated the church to the museum where it's been out for the public to see ever since.

Giese was 90 when he died in 2002.

Richter said it used to be difficult to find replacement parts for the church.

But, since a 1994 restoration, much of the church is powered by computer so there's fewer parts and less maintenance.

''It's not Christmas until you watch the Giese church run a few times. It's just a wonderful LaPorte tradition to have,'' said Richter.

Almost every year, 67-year old Mike Stoler said he made the short walk from his childhood home on Jefferson Ave. to look at the church especially on Christmas Eve.

Usually, there were others already there catching a glimpse.

''It was quite the thing. I think everybody looked forward to it every year, '' said Stoler.
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