Dead tree now a sculpture at Pottawatomie Golf Course

How a dead tree became a sculpture at St. Charles' Pottawatomie Golf Course

  • A dead white oak tree on Pottawatomie Golf Course in St. Charles has been transformed into a wood carving symbolizing the course.

      A dead white oak tree on Pottawatomie Golf Course in St. Charles has been transformed into a wood carving symbolizing the course. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Posted6/6/2019 10:52 AM

As the dying ash trees at Pottawatomie Golf Course in St. Charles were being removed the past several years, grounds supervisor Denise Gillette-Parchart was often asked if one could be converted to a wood carving symbolizing the course.

"Ash is not the best tree to carve, plus, when was one going to die that would be in the perfect place and the perfect tree to carve?" Gillette-Parchart said.


That tree and spot turned up a year ago when a white oak that had been declining for years finally died near the golf course putting green.

The hunt was then on for a wood carver and a plan to raise the money needed to carve something that would reflect Pottawatomie Golf Course.

Both fell into place when Bill Cox, a retired vice president of sales at Molex Inc. in Lisle and husband of former park district board member Nancy Cox, heard about what the golf course managers were thinking.

At about the time the golf course secured the services of wood carver Michael Bihlmaier of Union, Cox came forward to say he would donate the entire $10,000 needed for the project.

"What attracted me was the tree was dead and this was a chance to do something other than cutting it down," Cox said. "Plus, I thought it was very appropriate since my wife was on the park board for a number of years (2003 to 2015)."

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As much as anything, Cox simply loves Pottawatomie Golf Course, a nine-hole course nestled along the Fox River since a WPA project during the recession made Pottawatomie Park a reality and Robert Trent Jones designed the course in 1939.

"A friend of mine passed away, and we often played the course together, and he used to say what he loved about golfing at Pottawatomie was that it was 'a walk in the park with a friend,'" Cox said.

Bihlmaier spent about a month and a half carving the sculpture, which features a nest of hawks, blue herons, an old set of golf clubs, and a fox nestled in the tree trunk.

It was everything the park district and golf course operators envisioned -- and more -- in seeking what would essentially be a tribute to Pottawatomie as a golf course and an Audubon Society protected site.


"I set up the scaffolding for the project just before we got hit with that six inches of snow, so I had to wait for that, and then we got a second snow and then all of this rain," Bihlmaier said.

Finally, he got the work completed, even after discovering some concrete stone lodged in a branch about 16 feet off the ground. "That raised some havoc, but I just took a day and half picking that stuff out of it."

The sculpture will get some recognition from the park district soon as part of the Sculpture in the Park concept, and Cox will get some recognition for his donation.

"Bill Cox is my best friend now," Gillette-Parchart said, noting his generous donation eliminated any need for a prolonged fundraising effort.

"It's just a beautiful sculpture," she said. "It far exceeded our expectations and it captures everything that Pottawatomie is."

Changing festival habit:

Old habits are hard to break, so I will have to remind myself the week of Swedish Days that the opening night on Tuesday, June 18, is not going to feature a music act on the Third Street Main Stage.

Years ago, the opening night was called "Moonlight Madness" and the retailers in Geneva offered their best bargains of the summer.

The Geneva Chamber is going back to that model, promoting the night as a place to visit shops, restaurants and food booths. Count my wife among those who can't wait for a return to what she always remembered the first night of the festival meant.

The music on the main stage will start on Wednesday with the local talent show and continue Thursday through Saturday with popular area bands.

It's probably a good change that will help merchants during the summer's major festival.

More Riverside pizza:

Batavia is officially now the home of the third Riverside Pizza in the area, as the restaurant is now open in the former Walgreens spot in the Wilson Street shopping strip.

St. Charles and South Elgin have had Riverside locations for several years. And we'll say the same thing now as we did when first hearing that one was going to land in Batavia.

The Batavia restaurant at 142 W. Wilson St. has a slick interior design and doors that open to give it an outdoor dining feel on nice days.

Mostly, this place has excellent pizza and is a welcome addition to the strong offerings we already have in our communities.

Support for shelter:

Those involved with the Lazarus House in St. Charles are extending thanks to those in the Tri-Cities and surrounding area who donated to the shelter's capital campaign.

The $1.7 million campaign aimed to help Lazarus House purchase the Free Methodist Church building it has been leasing part of for years. But the church recently moved to Main Street and gave the shelter a chance to acquire the property at 214 Walnut St.

As of last week, the campaign had netted $1.72 million. If donations kept growing, other projects being considered include a new kitchen, a new, larger bathroom in the main emergency shelter area, and new doors at the main entrance of Lazarus House.

All of those projects fall outside of what Lazarus House can do with its normal budget. So those interested in continuing the momentum for the shelter can donate through the Lazarus House website,

The capital campaign closes on June 30.

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