‘Sisterly’ love

By on October 22, 2014


Jill Hilt, president of the Friends of Eberbach  with James Elliott, general partner of Keystone Villa of Ephrata, at the new stone obelisk built in honor of Ephrata's Sister City relationship with Eberbach, Germany.

Jill Hilt, president of the Friends of Eberbach with James Elliott, general partner of Keystone Villa of Ephrata, at the new stone obelisk built in honor of Ephrata’s Sister City relationship with Eberbach, Germany.

The bond between Eberbach, Germany, and Ephrata has a new, permanent memorial.
This international relationship began nearly 300 years ago when Eberbach-born Conrad Beissel immigrated to this area and founded the Ephrata Cloister. And now, a stately stone obelisk has been erected by the Friends of Eberbach to honor Ephrata’s sister city.
Located at the corner of North State and Duke streets, the memorial stands as a testament to the benevolent relationship between the two cities. A site of honor dedicated to Ephrata had already been erected in Eberbach a number of years ago.
Friends of Eberbach was established during the celebration of America’s Bicentennial in 1976. Its members share a love of both Ephrata and Eberbach and its purpose is to maintain and expand the “Sister City” Relationship.
“The relationship energizes our historic connection with the birthplace of Conrad Beissel,” says Jill Hilt, president of Friends of Eberbach, “and fosters an international understanding and friendship through various exchange experiences.”
A desire to create a place to honor Eberbach began almost immediately after the Friends was established. Certain people started bringing back sandstones from Eberbach to be used in a memorial.
Money was raised and the organization gathered support from Ephrata Borough, but unfortunately, the original vision for the site was never realized. Instead, a fountain was hastily built between Ephrata Performing Arts Center and the Eicher Arts Center in Grater Park using these sandstones, plus lanterns and plaques gifted by Eberbach. Almost immediately, however, the fountain overflowed with problems, and eventually had to be completely dismantled.
“One of my top priorities was to have a new honor site established for the Sister City Relationship and to use the items that the city of Eberbach had given us in this new site.”,” said Hilt, talking about when she became president of Friends of Eberbach in 2012.
Using money remaining from the original fundraising efforts, members of the Friends approached the new business, Keystone Villa, whose property the site of the memorial was to be placed.
Bill Donecker, vice president of the Friends of Eberbach, was already in discussion with Keystone Villa about purchasing the former Doneckers’ Artworks and thought they would be very interested in helping with the Friends’ efforts.
Keystone Villa, a retirement community offering Independent and Personal Care and Memory Care services, is known for its priority to community.
“During the 18-month approval process…we learned about the Sister City committee and their desire to erect a monument on the Artworks site,” said James Elliott, general partner, Keystone Villa in Ephrata. “We liked the concept and wanted to be involved.”
The final design for the obelisk came from Hilt’s husband, Bob Hilt. A retired art teacher, Hilt sketched drawings to scale, and with Keystone Villa’s contacts and support of the Friends of Eberbach, the concrete was poured and the obelisk rose stone by stone.
The lanterns on the obelisk are old gas lanterns given by Eberbach and converted to electric. The Sister City also gave Ephrata two boar plaques to symbolize their town. “Eber” is the German word for boar; or in other words, “Village with Boars.” Another plaque at the site came from the borough and a final, new plaque was constructed recently to explain the purpose of the commemoration scene.
“The obelisk truly represents both towns,” says Hilt.
The memorial also marks the entrance to the new part of the extended rail trail.
“This site adds to the serene beauty of the rail trail and can be enjoyed by the walkers of the trail,” explains Hilt.
Keystone Villa will supply the electricity for the area and maintain the landscaping, walkways and benches. They shared in the cost of the project to show their desire to serve the community.
“Being and getting involved with our local communities, whether in Ephrata or elsewhere, is an integral component of what we do,” states Elliott.
Hilt was asked what she hopes the community will gain from this commemorative site.
“Most people in Ephrata do not really know its history or the Sister City Relationship. It is my hope that more people will become aware of Ephrata’s history and how it is still active and alive today.”
A formal dedication of the Eberbach Memorial is slated for April 2015, during which time some guests from Eberbach will attend and participate.
Friends of Eberbach are sponsoring a trip to the Sister City next year. For those interested, visit events.SignUp4.com/eberbachgermany2015
Joy Ashley is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.


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