ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – A few weeks ago, vandalism struck the Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine once more. Now, construction crews are working to get it cleaned up. For many, cleaning up and renovating are necessary steps to preserve the historical statue.
The site of spray-painted cement is now filled with dark gray plaster. Fixing up the vandalism is only part of the construction crew’s plan for the site along the Mississippi.
“You admire Mary in the sunset,” said Paul Dodd, an O’Fallon, Missouri resident.
Dodd said he spent many years admiring Our Lady of the Rivers, from the rides along the river to his drives on River Road.
“The beauty of creation” were the words his family member Dustin Runyon used to describe the monument.
“It’s pretty. I wish I would’ve brought a camera,” Runyon said.
The prominent piece in Portage Des Sioux is what brought Dodd out there. Dodd and Runyon were surprised by what they saw.
“All the graffiti looks like something bad did happen here,” Dodd said.
The condition of the shrine was a lot worse just a few weeks ago. Finally, organizers with the Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine have been working with JTW Restoration Services to clean up the site.
“I don’t know whether or not they can get that cleaned off or not,” Dodd said.
Red smears from the graffiti remained, which the clean-up crews have been working to fix since Monday. However, benches held in place by bricks and old cracked cement plaques will also soon be replaced.
Organizers for the shrine said every 10 years, they try to do a restoration. With how bad the graffiti had gotten, this one was challenging.
Dodd said in addition to ongoing problems with vandalism, rising flood waters also create wear on the historic site. He said even with most of the graffiti gone.
“It’s a sad situation, but it’s bad everywhere,” Dodd said. “Even in a small community, you’d think that wouldn’t happen here.”
The historic site dates back nearly 70 years. The statue was constructed after fears of flooding surrounded the community. It was coined as the protector; the Virgin Mary watches over the flood-prone community.
“You see Illinois on the other side, the River Road, I’ve been up and down that many years, many times,” Dodd said.
According to the restoration crew, it’s expected to be completed in the next two to three weeks.