Wednesday, June 3, 2015

In Memory of My Brother, Paul John Ringelstetter, 1960 - 2014

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Several years ago, my brother Paul and I began having conversations at family gatherings about going out in his boat to allow me some photographic opportunities that are only possible by boat. A few years went by before I finally got around to asking him to take me on a boat trip.

In early September, 2012, we decided to spend a day cruising the waters in the Wisconsin Dells area. We met at dawn at the boat launch on Lake Delton, a man-made freshwater lake that was formed in 1927 to attract tourists to the Wisconsin Dells area. This lake has been the site of the Tommy Bartlett Show, a fast-paced, dare-devil water skiing show, since 1952.

There is an old stone building on the banks of Lake Delton, which used to be the Sarrington Mill. This mill was known for the carloads of pancake flour it shipped out to grocery companies. Years ago, Ruth and I captured a couple of photos of this mill from the banks, but this boat trip allowed me to capture it from the middle of the lake.

After an hour or so on Lake Delton, we launched the boat for a trip through the Lower Dells of the Wisconsin River. It was still early and a bit foggy on the river. As we moved slowly down the river, we spotted a Great Blue Heron looking for breakfast. Paul carefully maneuvered the boat closer so I could get a better shot of this wonderful bird.

The Lower Dells has some great, wind-swept rock formations and it was wonderful to see them with my own personal “boat captain,” rather than on a commercial boat tour.

One of my favorites was Sugar Bowl Rock and Grotto Rock.

Another favorite was Pulpit Rock, with the Baby Grand Piano on its side.

And here is the Hawk’s Bill, with some early morning fishing going on below.

Around mid-morning, we returned to our starting point and Paul took the boat out of the water to go to our third location, the Upper Dells of the Wisconsin River. The skies were still overcast as we launched the boat for the third time and headed toward the Jaws of the Dells.

Soon we passed a rock that resembles the profile of Black Hawk, the famous leader of a group of Fox and Sauk Indians.

The skies were beginning to brighten up as Paul took me to my most favorite location of the entire trip. It was a little cove off the main part of the river. As he steered the boat into the channel, there were some young boys up on the cliff, who jumped into the water as soon as we passed.

As Paul turned the boat around to head back out of the cove, I was really struck by the beauty of the scene ahead of us. I asked Paul if he knew the name of this enchanted cove, but he didn’t. After doing a little research, I believe it is called Cold Water Canyon. If anyone knows the name of this beautiful part of the Upper Dells, please leave a comment.

As we again entered the main part of the Wisconsin River, we were delighted to see a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds greeting us.

We traveled down the river until we were past most of the rock formations and then decided to head back. As we passed, once again, through the Jaws of the Dells, I turned around to capture High Rock, which is on one side of the “Jaws.”

And then I captured Romance Cliff, which is on the other side of the “Jaws.”

We ended the day by passing under the old railroad bridge and then circling back to our launch point. Oh, and then we went to Culver’s for a bite to eat.

I had such a nice time that day taking a peaceful, relaxing boat trip with my brother and getting to know him on a deeper level. After that, we talked about doing it again sometime. Unfortunately, Paul became seriously ill in February of last year and we lost him in the early morning hours of June 4, 2014. He was only 53 years old. So I will cherish the memories of this boat trip even more.

We miss you, Paul. Here’s hoping you are relaxing in your fishing boat somewhere in the Great Beyond.

Happy Shunpiking!

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  1. It's hard to believe that it has been a year since Paul left us. I'm so glad you had the chance to spend that wonderful day with him - thanks for sharing a bit of it here. This is a good reminder to stop and take the time to make great memories with those we love.

  2. Yes, I agree. Thank you for telling this story with words and images. You are so gifted as a storyteller. So glad to know about your boat trip with Paul. Bless him.

  3. My Sympathies go out to you, Joann and Ruth on the loss of your brother Paul. Joann, I am glad you had that special day with him.

  4. Thanks, Phyllis, Diana, and Stephanie. I appreciate your thoughts and kind words.