Cross replaces vandalized statue at Vanderfeltz memorial

New statue commissioned for Helias grotto

Helias Catholic High School students Laura Vanderfeltz, Kylie Mulholland and Cole Vanderfeltz, grandchildren of Leon and Rita Mae Vanderfeltz, stand near the grotto that once held a statue of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, until vandals toppled it last April.

Helias Catholic High School students Laura Vanderfeltz, Kylie Mulholland and Cole Vanderfeltz, grandchildren of Leon and Rita Mae Vanderfeltz, stand near the grotto that once held a statue of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, until vandals toppled it last April.

Helias Catholic High School supporters have temporarily placed a steel cross in the empty grotto where a statue of Jesus and the Virgin Mary stood until vandals wrecked it last April.

Erected last weekend by Dan Vanderfeltz, the white cross will remain until this spring when a newly commissioned sculpture, similar in design, is expected to take its place.

“We’ve had nothing there since the vandalism incident,” said Stan Oschner, dean of students. “It’s just been an empty grotto.”

The previous metal statue was located west of the school buildings in an area landscaped by longtime Helias supporter Leon Vanderfeltz, prior to his death. After he died, the area was turned into a memorial for him and his wife, Rita Mae.

Vanderfeltz added bushes and flowers, but the highlight of the area was the statue, until vandals pushed it onto a concrete sidewalk, breaking its head.

At the time, Oschner estimated it might take up to $1,000 to repair; on Wednesday, he said a new statue has been commissioned.

“We took the pieces and had people look at them. But there was no way to salvage (the older statue). There were too many to put back together,” Oschner said.

Despite the best efforts of Jefferson City Police Department detectives, the crime was never solved, said Oschner.

“They assigned a detective. They were chasing leads and interviewing people for months,” he said. “It wasn’t for a lack of effort on the part of the police department. They took it seriously.”

Accompanying photo: Helias students at grotto

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