Worthington, Crailsheim celebrate 75-year partnership during Wednesday evening band concert
Oberburgermeister Dr. Christoph Grimmer, Mayor Mike Kuhle and Paul Summers LaRoche were among the speakers.
WORTHINGTON — With the American and German flags posted on either side of the Chautauqua Park Bandshell Wednesday evening, Worthingtonites and Crailsheimers came together in celebration of a sister city partnership that has thrived for 75 years — and is now challenged to thrive for the next 75 years.
Crailsheim’s Oberburgermeister (mayor) Dr. Christoph Grimmer took to the stage in between musical selections performed by the ‘Amazing’ Worthington City Band and the Crailsheim Stadtkapelle to reflect on the storied past of a friendship that has withstood the test of time.
“Seventy-five years. What a number — the longest existing and ongoing relationship between a German and an American city,” Grimmer said to the large crowd gathered in the park.
The sister city partnership began with a young Worthington girl, Martha (Cashel) McCarthy, and her family wanting to help people in war-torn Europe. The idea progressed to the city of Worthington, who then agreed to help a community of similar size in an agricultural region of Germany. The city found that partnership with the people of Crailsheim in 1947.
“At that time, Crailsheim was in ruins,” Grimmer shared. “We were concerned about our future because the second World War had just destroyed cities and ripped apart families.
“We desired a better future, a peaceful future, and with the tremendous help from Worthington — for which we will always be thankful — we were able to start new and build our city again.”
Grimmer said the warm hearts from the Cashel family and Worthington cannot be rated high enough.
“We cannot even describe how lucky we were that the Cashels chose us, helped us and encouraged us to keep going and that everything would, in the end, get better again,” Grimmer said. “The generous donations we got alleviated Crailsheim’s material distress and helped to begin our post-war development to become a thriving community.”
Grimmer spoke of how Crailsheim residents and U.S. soldiers became friends after the war, and through the partnership with Worthington, both communities have found a way to stay connected.
“Partnerships between towns are successful because their citizens are open-minded and willing to understand the point of view of their partners and to reduce prejudices,” Grimmer said. “Open-mindedness and tolerance will become more and more important. We need to carry that passion from generation to generation….”
Grimmer said he is pleased that the student exchange program between Worthington and Crailsheim, halted the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will resume later this summer.
“It is important that young people learn to understand the mindsets of foreign countries and to develop tolerance for these countries and their people,” he added.
It isn’t just the student exchange that Grimmer hopes will continue well into the future, but the regular visits between the two communities.
“We need to focus on our friendship and need to get our youth involved,” he said. “The youth is our future, and so is the youth the future of our friendship. We need to continue visiting each other, making music together, helping each other and laughing together.”
As part of the celebration, Grimmer presented Worthington Mayor Mike Kuhle with a framed print featuring the Crailsheim Horaff (a pastry in the shape of a W), with the German and American flags to signify the 75-year friendship between the two cities.
Kuhle, who spoke briefly during the celebration, said the partnership began on humanitarian principles, but has been nurtured and grown into many friendships.
“The yearly student exchanges are the heart and soul of this relationship and are complemented by the music of our city band exchanges,” Kuhle said. “Both of our communities have been blessed beyond measure.”
Kuhle asked that all people commit to another 75 years of friendship between the sister cities as its contribution to “secure peace in a world in which complex problems challenge us all.”
Christopher Fuchs, Deputy Consul General with the German Consulate in Chicago, Illinois, arrived in Worthington on Wednesday to join in the celebration of sister cities. He said when he first heard that this partnership began in 1947, he didn’t believe it.
“In 1947, Germany was the enemy — it was war-ravaged,” Fuchs said. “But that’s when these things become most important.”
Having grown up in Germany, and experienced a student exchange at the age of 13 in Knoxville, Tennessee, Fuchs recalled the words of a song he learned while attending Children’s International Summer Village. While he said he wouldn’t sing it, he spoke the words: “Here in this village you may see, children living happily. Different race and different land, here we come to understand; One another’s point of view, learning through the things we do; How alike am I to you.”
Those words gave Fuchs a direction for life, and a kindred spirit for the relationship Worthington and Crailsheim have built during the past 75 years, he said.
“The war in Ukraine reminds us all that we cannot take peace for granted and that we must build it actively,” said Fuchs. “This is what you are all doing. Thank you very much for doing that — for your communities and for the world at large.”
Lakota quilt presented to Crailsheim
Included in Wednesday evening’s celebration was the presentation of a Lakota quilt to Grimmer and the city of Crailsheim by Worthington native Paul Summers LaRoche.
“I grew up in Worthington, but I am also a proud member of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe of South Dakota — and that makes me a Lakota,” said LaRoche, who is the cultural ambassador and advocate for the Lower Brule tribe. “My role has been to work on long-lasting relationships and friendships.
“The Lakota Star quilt is one of Lakota’s most valued gifts — representing honor and generosity.
When the star quilt is draped over the shoulders of the recipient, it symbolizes protection over the course of life,” LaRoche said.
The quilt, in the colors of red, white, yellow and black, was held up by Kuhle, with help from Briana Morales James, a Worthington High School ninth grader and member of the Ojibwe nation, and her mother, Amber Morales James. Together, the trio draped the quilt over the shoulders of Grimmer.
“In honor of our 75-year partnership and the reminder that we are all related,” LaRoche said after Grimmer held the quilt around himself. “The star quilt will have a good, new home.”
The 75th anniversary celebration continues through the weekend, with Crailsheim visitors invited to take part in the Worthington Windsurfing Regatta and Music Festival.