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Our Lady of the Rockies timeline

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1979 — Bob O'Bill conceived the idea of a five-foot Virgin Mary statue to thank God for his wife Joyce's recovery from a serious illness. Joe McCarthy and Bill Dorr push O'Bill to have an even-bigger statue built. Later, a collaboration with Joe Roberts gets the ball rolling.

September 1981 — John Mazzola commissioned to build a 90-foot statue of the Virgin Mary atop the East Ridge.

May 9, 1982 — Just in time for Mothers Day, "Our Lady" model, 7-1/2-foot tall, displayed at the Copper King Inn. Our Lady foundation later nixed Mazzola's model for a more traditional statue.

August 28, 1982 — It’s reported that the road to "Our Lady" site was completed. Bulldozers, loaders, and graders were used to pave the way. The work included the removal of large boulders and a number of trees.

July 1983 — An eight-foot hand of Our Lady was finished. Although at first the hands were to be folded, a decision was made early on to have them face outward.

Jan. 2, 1984 — The head of Our Lady statue neared completion. Measuring 16 feet high, it was made with rolled plate steel and constructed by Leroy Lee and Ron Harris.

September 1984 — Leveling work at Saddle Rock was completed.

Sept, 29, 1984 — A rummage and bake sale held at St. Joseph's gymnasium to help cover building costs.

December 1984 — Now more than half way through the project, 54 feet of the 90-foot Our Lady statue now completed.

March 19, 1985 — President Ronald Reagan wrote letter to Joe Roberts calling Our Lady endeavor "a splendid expression of the faith and cooperation among the people of Butte."

March 20, 1985 — A disgruntled person penned a letter to Ann Landers saying that not everyone is for "Our Lady." The person, wrote, in part, "To be forced, day in and day out, to look at something one does not believe in is not freedom." Ann Landers' response included an explanation from Montana Standard editor Bert Gaskill, who said "it was a voluntary effort, paid for by contributions."

June 1985 — Production halted because a family of small black birds had taken up residence on a structure support and workers didn't want to disturb them. After a week, the family of birds moved on.

Aug. 29, 1985 — Butte native Joe Monahan of Washington, D.C., and former secretary of the Senate and retired Air Force colonel, Stan Kimmitt of Great Falls, met with National Guard head, Lt. Emmett "Mickey" Walter Jr., to request military help in getting Our Lady to the East Ridge.

Sept. 11, 1985 — Workers had begun laying the 425-ton concrete base in preparation for Our Lady of the Rockies. To build the base, 1,200 sacks of concrete were needed, along with 8,000 gallons of water.

Sept. 27, 1985 — It was announced that the Pentagon may be asked to assist in flying "Our Lady."

Oct. 29, 1985 — Montana's Sen. John Melcher steps up to the plate for Our Lady. Melcher met with Secretary of the Army John Marsh to request a military helicopter for Our Lady.

Nov. 21, 1985 — U.S. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger approved the use of a military helicopter to lift Our Lady to Saddle Rock.

Nov. 22, 1985 — Christmas to come early for Butte residents as it is announced that Our Lady would grace the East Ridge before Dec. 25.

Dec. 8, 1985 — The Nevada National Guard's helicopter crew headed to the Mining City to examine the statue and the site, the 8,500-foot Saddle Rock on Butte's East Ridge.

Dec. 16, 1985 — The Sikorsky Skycrane helicopter and its crew, led by Capt. Marc Comstock, Chief Warrant Officer Bruce Britton, and Staff Sgt. Tom Bortner, took off near Reno, Nev. - destination Butte.

Dec. 17, 1985 — Airlift had begun as the 88-foot Skycrane helicopter headed to Roberts Rocky Mountain Equipment to begin the two trips to the East Ridge to carry a 2-ton section of skirting and the 14,800-pound section. Chief Executive Don Peoples proclaimed it to be “Our Lady of the Rockies Week.” Peoples called the project “a labor of love.”

Dec. 18, 1985 — Two more sections hauled to the East Ridge. In the morning, the helicopter put a 17,000-pound section in place; by afternoon, another piece, more than 2,000 pounds heavier than the last, was on the East Ridge. “Everything by and large went like clockwork” Capt. Marc Comstock was quoted as saying.

Dec. 19, 1985 — Wind, or lack thereof, proved to be a problem for the National Guard crew as Our Lady's hands, with a weight of 19,000 pounds, caused the helicopter to spin uncontrollably as it tried to set it down atop the other four sections already in place. The sky crane turned back and laid the section down near the Mormon Church at 3000 Four Mile Road. Although one of the statue's fingers was slightly damaged, the crew was successful in its second attempt at 4 p.m.

Dec. 20, 1985 — A hydraulic leak on the Skycrane had put the mission on hold for the morning. By afternoon, the leak was fixed and at 3:30 p.m., thousands of Butte residents cheered as the final statue piece was put in place. Our Lady's head was decorated with an American flag, Montana flag, and a Christmas tree. A celebration was held that night at the Copper King Inn.

Dec. 21, 1985 — Front-page headline in The Montana Standard read, 'Lady' mission accomplished. Volunteer Ed Stepan called Our Lady "an inspiration for our city."

Dec. 25, 1985 — The Montana Standard called Our Lady a "shining example of what can be accomplished when the people of Butte pledge themselves to a difficult task."

Dec. 20, 1986 — Our Lady noted first anniversary with a Butte Unity Day celebration, which included a video, prayers, readings, and a dance.

Feb. 20, 1987 — One of the founders of Our Lady of the Rockies Foundation, Joe Roberts, resigned as executive director. Five other board members, Irene Humber, Betty Kissock, Jeanne Tanner, Laurien Riehl, and Bob Koprivica, also resigned.

February 27, 1987 — An announcement was made that the "Our Lady" gift shop would be moved to the vacant St. Mary's Church on North Main Street.

March 21, 1987 - Grand opening of "Our Lady" gift shop held in old St. Mary's Church.

March 25, 1987 — "Our Lady" gift shop, 440 N. Main St., is forced to close temporarily due to zoning laws and failure to comply with local electrical codes.

April 10, 1987 — Gift shop granted a special-use permit and reopened.

May 8, 1987 — Our Lady of the Rockies Foundation announced the inauguration of memorial tributes that will run daily in The Montana Standard.

Sept. 9, 1987 — Our Lady foundation received a $174,922 bill from National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. The bill was for 17 hours and 24 minutes of aircraft time.

Nov. 12, 1987 — Twenty-eight yards of concrete was poured to provide a foundation for the statue's interior supports.

Dec. 12, 1987 — Second annual "Our Lady" telethon netted $20,000 in pledges.

Dec. 18, 1987 — Our Lady of the Rockies board of directors named Don Peoples as the first recipient of the foundation's community service award.

March 12, 1988 – Our Lady of the Rockies Inc., has filed an application with the Montana Public Service Commission for a certificate to transport passengers from points within Butte-Silver Bow to the statue site on the East Ridge.

Aug. 9, 1988 — The Eternal World Network in Birmingham, Ala., aired the 45-minute Our Lady of the Rockies video.

Nov. 2, 1988 — In order to make room for a chapel and museum, dynamite was used to clear trees and rocks.

Dec. 20, 1990 — To mark the fifth anniversary, 250 balloons were released at 434 N. Main.

Sept. 20, 1992 – Leroy Lee, one of the main designers and builders of Our Lady of the Rockies, tells The Montana Standard that he credits Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, with the “string of miracles that led to the completion and placement of the statue.” Lee had just penned his own account in a book titled “Our Lady Builds a Statue.”

Sept. 18, 1993 – It may have taken eight years, but the Stitching Council shows off, for the first time, a hand-stitched quilt featuring Our Lady in white satin with a baby blue background.

March 3, 1994 — It was announced that a chapel was in the works at the base of Our Lady.

June 16, 1994 — The Montana Standard reports that Missoula industrialist Dennis Washington donated 15 acres to Our Lady of the Rockies Foundation. The land, located on the East Ridge, was to be used to build a chapel.

Sept. 11, 1994 — At the insistence of a group called Freedom From Religion Foundation, federal officials put a halt to the Anaconda Job Corps assistance in building Our Lady chapel.

Sept. 15, 1994 — Our Lady of the Rockies Foundation accepted ruling by federal officials.

Dec. 15, 1994 — Lithographs of an Our Lady painting by Helena artist, Mike McFadden, were made available to the public.

Dec. 3, 1995 — Residents, volunteers reflected on 10 years of Our Lady.

Dec. 20, 1995 — A large crowd at the Mother Lode Theater again heard Mark Staples sing a hymn, "Our Lady of the Rockies."

April 1997 — Joe Roberts' "Memories of Our Lady of the Rockies," was headed for the book stores.

Dec. 25. 1997 — Joe and Joann Roberts received a papal blessing from Pope John Paul II. The Catholic leader had received Roberts' book the previous summer. .

July 1, 1998 — Federal and state highway officials met with Our Lady representatives to discuss the proposed tram.

Dec. 9, 1998 — Butte-Silver Bow pledged $2.6 million collateral for Our Lady tram.

April 3, 1999 — Bruce's Quick Lube donated 100% of money made for oil changes to tram project.

Sept. 1, 1999 — Gloria Clark's "Irish Madonna" to soon adorn chapel observatory.

Nov. 9, 1999 — In a Montana Standard article, Leroy Lee said "the Lord and the Blessed Lady guided him" during the "Our Lady" project.

April 17, 2000 — In a Montana Standard newspaper article, Connie Kenney, executive director of the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce, credited the "Our Lady of the Rockies project with helping Butte recover its spirit and community pride."

April 25, 2001 — One of the driving forces behind the Our Lady project, Joe Roberts, dead at the age of 80.

December 2001 — A gift of 40 acres on the East Ridge to serve as base for the proposed tram to the 90-foot statue of Mary was donated in memory of Richard and Esther Simon, longtime Butte residents who operated Rocky Mountain Dairy for more than 50 years.

March 29, 2002 — In a Montana Standard profile, Our Lady chairman Bob Leipheimer said the proposed tram "would take the people to the statue atop the East Ridge in about seven minutes."

Nov. 6, 2002 — Butte-Silver Bow's examining land surveyor, Bob Everly, noted at a Butte-Silver Bow Council meeting that the "road into Reese Canyon on the East Ridge dates back to at least the early 1890s."

April 1, 2003 — Former Our Lady executive director, Bill Bermingham, dies at the age of 79.

Jan. 18, 2004 — Following years of research, John Mihelich, a sociologist at the University of Idaho, noted that "in the case of Butte, the (Our Lady) statue was a response to both the decline of the mining industry that fueled the economy, and the spectacularly denuded landscape that mining left behind." Mihelich reportedly spent a number of years studying the relationship between the community and the statue. Mihelich presented his theories to Harvard University's Center for the Study of World Religions.

Jan. 20, 2005 — Judge Thomas McKittrick ruled that a portion of a road requested by Our Lady of the Rockies Foundation is public. Four families living in the area disagreed and appealed the ruling.

March 1, 2005 — Montana Standard article noted partnership between Our Lady foundation and Silver State Helicopters to offer chopper tours.

Oct. 19, 2005 — Neighbors, Our Lady foundation continued battle for east end of State Street.

Dec. 1, 2005 — Montana Supreme Court will decide case regarding State Street, whether it is a public road or not.

Dec. 18, 2005 — Residents of Butte note the 20th anniversary.

Sept. 9, 2012 — The Montana Standard interviews Jim Lynch of the Our Lady of the Rockies Foundation. Lynch reports that tram plans are moving forward.

Nov. 18, 2015 — An estimated 800 people attend the Our Lady of the Rockies 30th anniversary fundraising dinner at the Butte Civic Center.

Dec. 13, 2015 — Tram backers tell The Montana Standard that tram plans are about to take off.


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