Note: This story is from my book Highway History And Back Road Mystery.
Poised high on a hill overlooking the Ohio River in the tiny Indiana town of Troy stands a beautiful testament to love that was conceived during a terrible period of ugliness and hate.
The Christ of the Ohio monument towers nineteen feet tall, its arms outstretched in an eternal blessing to all who view it. The statue, visible to river traffic day and night thanks to floodlights that illuminate it after dark, was designed to be an inspiration to river travelers on their journey upriver. The story of the monument’s creation is an often overlooked bit of history.
During World War II, a young German prisoner of war named Herbert Jogerst was in a prison camp in Kentucky, where he labored in a coal mine under harsh conditions. Years later Jogerst recalled the meager food available for the prisoners, the filthy clothing they lived in, and sleeping in a cold, damp cell. Every night prisoners were carried away to a hospital after succumbing to pneumonia. Many of the guards were as cruel as the living conditions the prisoners endured. Abuse at the hands of the guards or fellow prisoners was not uncommon.
Jogerst was an artist, a sculptor, and he had a strong faith in God. As he lay his head on the damp rag that served as his pillow every night, stretching his weary body on his cell’s cold concrete floor, Jogerst prayed for deliverance. He promised God that if he managed to get out of the hell he was living in, he would someday find a way to show his appreciation. Jogerst remembered a priest, Father Paul, who occasionally visited the prison, and telling the priest of his promise to God.
Maybe all of those prayers paid off, because eventually Jogerst was transferred to a prison camp in Indiana. After the war he was sent to England for eventual return to his home in Germany. One day, totally unexpectedly, Jogerst got a message from his old friend Father Paul from his POW days. Father Paul told the artist of a wealthy doctor and his mother who lived high on a hill in Indiana, overlooking the Ohio River. The doctor and his mother wanted a work of art that would offer inspiration to travelers on the river. This was just the opportunity Herbert Jogerst needed to honor his promise to God during his days as a prisoner!
Returning to Indiana, Jogerst struggled for several years to come up with just the right material to endure the area’s sometimes harsh climate, and something that would stand the test of time. Eventually he found just the right combination of terrazzatine dust and concrete and set to work creating his monument.
When finished, the statue was erected on a hill that once was owned by the Fulton family, one of whose sons, Robert, would go on to invent the steamboat. Since 1956 the Christ of the Ohio has been an Ohio River landmark. Herbert Jogerst’s days as a prisoner of war may be long gone, but his testimonial to hope and salvation stands today, a reminder to all of us that even the worst of times will eventually pass and better days will surely follow.
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Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Going Home With A Cat And A Ghost by RVing author Judy Howard. It’s the story of a woman liberated enough to travel the country in her RV, yet still imprisoned by tragic events from her past. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost. – H. Jackson Brown