News: Neillsville - Project to
Honor Opelt Legacy (2021)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Schutte, Opelt, Clough
----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 2/17/2021
News: Community Project to Honor Opelt Legacy (2021)
Community Project to Honor Opelt Legacy
Through an upcoming project, Neillsville business owner Irv Schutte has found a way to honor his grandparents’ legacy as well as provide a play space for the children of the community.
“I’m really excited … I feel honored to do something for my grandma and grandpa,” said Schutte.
Schutte is working with the Neillsville Improvement Corporation [NIC] to have a playground structure built that is dedicated to his grandparents, Carl and Millie Opelt. Schutte owns and operates Buck’s Creekside Bar in what used to be the American Legion building, located next to O’Neill Creek on the north side of Neillsville.
“Schutte was inspired by his granddaughter, Lily, to develop a play area on his establishment lawn between the bar’s parking lot and the city-owned Fountain Park. There were several significant hurdles involved, but through the sale of this land, plus a partnership with NIC, Schutte’s dream is on its way to becoming a reality, a press release from NIC stated.
“Schutte, as well as other community members and city representatives, will serve on the project development committee. NIC will served as the fiscal agent and coordinator of the project and is working with MSA Professional Services of Marshfield to engineer the plan. The preliminary site plan includes a large paly structure dedicated to Carl and Millie, as well as the entrance to a recreational biking/walking trail.”
The project will honor two people who have had a great influence on the Neillsville area. Carl and Millie Opelt moved to Neillsville from Waupaca after their marriage in 1921. They had 12 children. At the time of Millie’s passing in 2003, there were 75 grandchildren, 230-plus great-grandchildren and 50-plus great-great-grandchildren. The family has grown even more since then.
In 1947, Carl started his own business, today known as Opelt Sand and Gravel. G&S Trucking was added in 1984 as the family-owned business expanded. The Opelts have contributed to the development and support of the Neillsville area for the past century.
Schutte is the son of Donald and Evelyn (Opelt) Schutte. He said his grandparents were “very loving people.” He said that besides raising their 12 children, they also took in kids who needed a place to stay. He said they treated all their grandkids as special, no matter if they were adopted, biological, step-grandchildren or kids who were just visiting for a time.
“They were very well-liked, well-known and always there for anybody that needed it,” he said.
Carl Opelt passed away at the age of 90 in 1989, and Millie, at the age of 101 in 2003, but continued to leave a lasting legacy through their descendants.
Now that he is a grandfather himself, Schutte has developed a close relationship with his granddaughter, Lily, 6. He helped her learn how to ride a trike and bike and set up fun activities for kids in the basement of his bar like a bouncy house.
“I’m the doting grandfather … Lily and I go on a lot of adventures together,” said Schutte.
Irv Schutte’s granddaughter Lily Carolfi, 6, has served as inspiration for him wanting to put up a new play structure in Neillsville. Submitted photo
Two summers ago, he put up a rope swing in the yard by his bar. Lily enjoyed it and other kids would come by and use it, too. One lady came and read her book in it. Schutte said he was glad to see people enjoying the swing and he would thank them for using it. That got him thinking about if it there was way he could do more and put in some play equipment. He knew how much his granddaughter enjoyed going to playgrounds, so he thought it would be neat to put in a playground there for kids to enjoy. He also had the idea of putting in outdoor fitness equipment too, so the parents could be active.
“It would be nice to have something downtown, since Neillsville’s parks are on edges of town,” he said.
About a year ago, Schutte started having what has been an ongoing conversation with NIC members. His ideas fit in well with NIC’s ideas, and he liked the idea of having the playground be on the biking/walking trail.
“With the trail being there, it will help people be active,” said Schutte.
With the support of the Listeman Foundation, NIC recently finalized the purchase of the property from Schutte, as well as four parcels from Northern States Power Company. These parcels will form the first portion of the recreational trail, as outlined in both the city’s and county’s long-range plans. City and county representatives are working with NIC to develop ideas for expanded public use.
Dan Clough of NIC said he was looking forward to seeing this part of the project take shape and the benefit it would bring to the community.
“This is a community project that NIC has been working on for several years. We’ve said all along it’s a long-term project, and we have to bite off chunks at a time. So right now, we’re working on the trailhead portion… It’s a community project – it’s all for the community,” he said.
The tentative timeline is to start work on the playground site this summer, although that will depend on the site plan and fundraising.
Schutte is excited to see how the plans materialize and continue to move forward with the project.
“It seems like it was meant to be. It’s a dream come true,” he said.
He credits his granddaughter with inspiring him to do this. There will be some sort of plaque thanking her in the new park.
“I like the idea of Lily being able to come out there with her kids someday and tell them, ‘I was the inspiration for this,’” said Schutte.
Donations toward both projects, the Carl and Millie Opelt play structure or the recreational trail, can be directed to NIC at 508 Hewett street, Neillsville. People should designate the project they wish to support.
For further information, contact NIC at 715-743-3440 or visit www.neillsvilleimprovement,jimdo.com.
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