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Questers raise thousands to preserve Monroe's heritage
Audrey Hein, right, poses with officers installed in the Swiss Attic Fanciers Quester Club on June 4. From left is Judie Heitz, president; Jana Paradowski, vice president; and Anita Duray, secretary. The installation took place at the Green County Historical Museum in Monroe. (Photo supplied)

Questers is a group that has done an outstanding job protecting Monroe's heritage through the restoration and preservation of historical sites and artifacts. In the 1980s there were two Quester groups - Trials and Treasures and the Swiss Attic Fanciers. Eventually the two merged and now the current Quester Club is the Swiss Attic Fanciers.

But in the 1980s when the two Quester clubs worked on projects together neither wanted to dodge a challenge and in 1981 they took on a big one. They decided to raise $50,000 that would be used to restore the steeple on the clock tower on the historic Green County Courthouse. The steeple was damaged in a wind storm and pieces of metal were falling to the ground and threatening to injure passersby below. As a result, the damaged tower was taken down in 1955.

Banding together in 1981, the two Quester clubs decided to hold a gigantic rummage sale over two days in April at the telephone company garage. It was to be called Bargains Unlimited.

"We made an announcement to people of Monroe asking them to donate items for the two-day sale," said Marian Kundert, project chairwoman.

And the people responded. There was so much donated it took 40 women to conduct the two-day rummage sale. And then Monroe residents turned around and bought items at the sale. It was a big success.

For the next four years when April arrived the Steeple People, as Questers were then called, announced it would hold another Bargains Unlimited and again the people of Monroe responded with donations and then turned around and were customers at the rummage sale. The sale was expanded to include lunches, baked goods and a quilt raffle.

"Questers also had containers with the courthouse picture on it. They took turns going to the downtown Square with these containers and received donations from passersby," Kundert recalled.

Meanwhile the construction of the steeple was in full swing. It was designed by architect John Bruni and built by the low bidder, Tom Farmer. When Farmer worked on building the wood frame that would be covered with steel, Rick Maliszewski shot a videotape capturing the 20 days it took to construct it.

By 1985, $50,000 had been raised by the Questers. The five rummage sales raised $26,750. The remainder of the money came from grants and donations ranging from $1 to $5,000. The project really tugged on the heart strings of the people of Monroe and they gave their support grandly.

Oct. 24, 1985 was a momentous day. The steeple was placed on the top of the clock tower on the Green County Courthouse by using a crane.

On Nov. 17, 1985, the Green County Courthouse Steeple dedication was held in the courtroom of the courthouse. International Quester President, Gloria Douglas, came all the way from Florida. People from church, county board members and singers all participated in the historic event. The guest speaker was Sally Eagers, president of the State Historical Society. Monroe residents filled the gallery in the courtroom. There was a chill in the air that November Sunday but warmth was in the hearts of the people. Their courthouse was whole again. Celebration of the steeple was held once more during Cheese Days the next year.

In 1986, so all the people could see the steeple, the two Quester clubs received $1,500 from the International Quester organization for the purpose of illuminating the courthouse steeple. It was like a beacon for all to see.

What would the next project be for Questers? MAC of course. The fledging art center needed some help and Questers came to the rescue. They wrote a grant and raised $2,273 for the new exterior doors on the southwest corner of the building. They followed with a $5,000 grant from International Questers to help with the cost of a new roof. They gave $1,000 for the parking lot surface and gave $1,628.71 for the preservation of the rose window with a roof over it. They applied to the International Questers for grant money to be used to tuck-point brick on the east side of the building. "Monroe Questers support Monroe in a time when donations to the arts were dead last nationally," MAC director Vickie Spidahl said.

During the 1980s, the Swiss Attic Fanciers was a traveling group. Eager to seek out historical sites and all its facets the group traveled out of Monroe almost every meeting except the Christmas meeting which they shared with Trails and Treasures.

That continued into the 1990s. But members changed and with that the meeting programs changed. Members began having interesting programs right in Monroe. Many times meetings were held in members' homes.

When the new century entered, Questers began seeking large projects to restore. One such site was the Green County Historical Museum. Once beautiful stained windows now were bulging from the heat of a blistering summer and were in need of restoration. Members of the Swiss Attic Fanciers smiled. Here is where we can help is what they thought. Trails and Treasures members thought the same.

Swiss Attic Fanciers wrote state and international grant applications. They received $6,800 for restoration of two interior stained glass windows in the museum. Trails and Treasurers wrote grants to state and international Questers to restore exterior windows and the round window. They received $6,131.

Another need popped up. Turner Hall had some roof problems that needed repair. Swiss Attic Fanciers gave Turner Hall $1,000 toward the project. These monies were received from bequests of former members.

Four years ago, Trails and Treasurers had diminishing numbers in its club and so it merged with the Swiss Attic Fanciers. Now there is one Quester club in Monroe and that is the Swiss Attic Fanciers. It is doing what it has always done - looking for big or small restoration or preservation projects.

The club also is looking for more members. The group meets on the first Thursday of the month at 9:30 a.m. Contact President Judie Heitz at 608-325-3314 if you are interested in joining.

Monroe has been fortunate to have a club like the Questers. Over the years, it has raised many thousands of dollars thus preserving Monroe's heritage for now and for future generations.