UW-Green Bay, CL 815
2420 Nicolet Drive
Green Bay, WI 54311-7001
February 27, 2008
At UW-Green Bay, chapel in the woods recalls faith,
A few steps off a lightly traveled arboretum path,
a handsome stone building blends nicely into a
backdrop of woods and rocky ridge.
The hiker or skier focusing
on his or her stride will glide past without noticing,
and miss a scenic stop at historic LeMieux Chapel.
The tidy 1920s-era chapel
owes its survival and recent revival to a partnership
that allows community supporters to maintain it
as a living relic, a reminder of a Northeastern
Wisconsin where devout Belgian settlers built roadside
chapels and backyard shrines.
UW-Green Bay acquired the
site in 1984. Part of an old homestead along Bay
Settlement Road, the acreage was a high-value addition
to Cofrin Arboretum holdings along the ecologically
sensitive Niagara Escarpment.
Under terms of the LeMieux
sale, the University agreed to routine chapel upkeep.
It could not, however, pledge scarce resources
to structural work in keeping with the Arboretum’s
Enter Joan and Norbert Jadin
of Green Bay (pictured at left in front of chapel).
It was Joan’s grandmother, Odile LeMieux, for whom
the chapel had been built in 1925.
The Jadins enlisted family
and neighbors who remembered when road maps gave
the area identity as “Chapel Ridge Heights.” They
watched over the little building and pitched in
on cleaning, painting and refurbishing with a new
floor and tuck pointing. In 2005 their work won
a preservation award from the Brown County Historical
Today, the door to the oldest
building on campus remains unlocked. A grotto and
statue are nearby. Rough benches made from fallen
trees frame the scene. Mostly, people respect the
site, and guest book entries confirm that visitors
still find quiet there.
Remembering Odile LeMieux
With a son studying for the priesthood, and her
health making trips to Holy Cross Church more difficult,
Odile LeMieux wanted a place for prayer behind
her family’s home on Bay Settlement Road.
At the time, small wayside chapels dotted the region,
a convenience for daily devotion by travelers and
rural families. The LeMieux Chapel would be different,
though. Odile’s husband, Joseph, was a retired
stonemason who had helped build grand Great Lakes
lighthouses, and her brother Fabian LaPlant was
a skilled carpenter. The two men took limestone
from the ridge to construct a building approximately
12 by 18 feet in size, with eight exterior windows,
a vaulted ceiling with exposed wooden beams, and
room inside for a simple altar, the stations of
the cross and seating for about ten. Completed
in 1925, the chapel was said to be Odile’s
“pride and joy.”
Private donors protect the past
Joan and Norbert Jadin have set up a rainy-day fund
to cover maintenance expenses. The Jadins, joined
by friends and family including the Van Lanens, LeMieuxes,
Baumgarts, Eckbergs, Nolans, Charliers and others,
have contributed labor and dollars to preserving
the chapel. Anyone interested in contributing to
the LeMieux Chapel Fund may call Lisa DeLeeuw in
the University Advancement Office at (920) 465-2074.