The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

August 2, 2013

Secret of 'Lighthouse Island' revealed

OTTUMWA — One of Ottumwa's secrets, held by one man for 10 years, is now coming to light.

Gerald Brees, who just celebrated his 71st birthday this week, has a storyteller's voice, low and soothing. He reflected on his life Friday afternoon and revealed a secret he's kept for the last decade: He put the lighthouse in the middle of Ottumwa Park's pond.

"Well, I went over to South Hy-Vee to pick up some bread and milk and as I was coming back through the lot they had their garden center ... set up and I seen this tall lighthouse," he said. "It struck me, so I stopped and I talked to the gals, and I bought it."

The "two young gals" delivered the lighthouse, weighing 200 to 300 pounds, to Brees' home.

"I'm sure when I brought home a quart of milk, two loaves of bread and a Hy-Vee truck, unloading a $200 statue, that she did kind of question my sanity," he said of his wife, Kay.

He sanded down the lighthouse in the garage and took a solid month to paint it; his grandchildren gathered around to watch every stroke. Everyone asked him, "What are you going to do with it?" He didn't answer. People said, "There's no place in your yard for it."

"Well, I didn't buy it for the yard," he said. "I bought it for the loaf of bread and gallon of milk she sent me after. I said, 'That's going on the island over in the park, and nobody's going to know where it came from.'"

But the next problem was how to lug the huge structure to the pond. That's where their three sons-in-law came into play: Brad (Kim) Timberlake, Kurt (Shellie) Stevens and Matt (Tara) Bresch. Breese's grandchildren, Wyatt and Sydney Timberlake and Jaden and Sage Stevens, went along for the ride.

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