Chapel rises from ashes of wildfire

Lighted cross signaled new hope that 'we were going to make it'
2012-06-23T00:00:00Z Chapel rises from ashes of wildfireAdam Curtis The Sierra Vista Herald Arizona Daily Star
June 23, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Many people have watched Donna Ramaeker work in recent weeks, as she quietly resurrected the mural she painted on the wall inside the chapel at Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine more than a decade ago.

Softening blue and pink clouds with the edge of her hand, Ramaeker said the visitors always remain fairly quiet as they watch. For the visitors, it is a rare pleasure to see Jesus rising, almost literally from ashes, to once again open his arms wide and welcome people back to a beloved local landmark.

It's tough for Ramaeker to imagine that just one year ago today a fire started that would tear through the chapel, descending on Ash Canyon, destroying nearly everything in its path.

But residents would find hope in what the fire spared.

The 75-foot cross, 31-foot statue of the Virgin Mary and the chapel's stone walls could be seen from the highway after the Monument Fire ravaged Ash Canyon. Within a few months the cross was lit again and the recovery began.

"Frankly that was sort of the first beacon of hope," said Gene Mundt, a member of the Our Lady of the Sierras board of directors. He lived a mile from the cross for 11 years and could see it from his back patio.

When the fire jumped the highway, it came within just a few feet of his house, Mundt said. The firefighters managed to save his home, but he still felt sorrow for all the people in Ash Canyon who lost theirs.

"I personally had the feeling, when we saw the cross light up, that we were going to be OK and that we were going to make it," he said.

In the months that followed, a dedicated group of volunteers helped to restore the chapel and now it stands almost exactly as it did one year ago.

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