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A lasting impression


Mason donates entryway art



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July 14, 2010 | 09:05 AM
Joe Lisenby pulled his tape measure from his pocket and stretched it along the top of the nearly finished stone sign.

He measured it again and then grabbed a piece of rounded concrete. With some help, he carefully placed it on top of nearly four tons of stones, brick and mortar already laid. Lisenby tapped his side down with his fist until it was perfect and then he repeated the process until the upper portion of Lake Geneva's new entry sign was complete.

Lisenby is a stone artist master who enjoys the natural, historical and traditional ways of laying stones. Along with his employees from Moonlight Masonry, Lisenby has created another work of art on the west end of Library Park.

"I think it turned out great," Lisenby said. "Every day I see it, I have a smile."

Lisenby, who donated materials and his time for the project and planned it with the Committee for the Beaufification of Lake Geneva, isn't the only person impressed with the final result.

"The message it conveys is that Lake Geneva is truly an upscale, classic town of the bygone era," Beautification Committee member Grace Eckland said. "The work of art is clean, crisp, classic and unique."

Fellow Beautification Committee member Clara Jacobs didn't see the progress, but likes the final product.

"I had been out of town during the construction part of the entry sign," she said. "We stopped to see it coming back and I think it truly is a wonderful, classy addition to our town. I appreciate all the work involved and just cannot believe his donation."

From start to finish, the project took about a week. Lisenby and his workers dug the hole, built the shell and configured the stone in five working days. It was completed just in time for people to see it over the Fourth of July weekend.

Lisenby, who is from Wilmot, but bases his company in Lake Geneva, said there was one main reason why he wanted to donate his time and efforts.

"Basically, the reason I did it was that I was upset with all the workmanship around here," he said. "It is so historical, but a lot of the masons around here don't think outside the box. I am trying to bring back the historical way, old traditional way with all the old chisels and drilling."

He said the old stone work is partly what makes Lake Geneva the way it is.

"I have such a passion for stone and masonry," he said. "That is one reason I love this town so much, because there is so much of it."

Although it's the Midwest, Lisenby said he's bringing his stonework from the East Coast region.

"It's a more natural look," he said. "You have to know how to stack stone and there is mortar behind the stone."

He also tried to match the entryway sign stonework to what already exists around the lake inside the mansions and on the properties.

"A lot of this has to do with what's around the lake," he said. "I tried to put everything together for this one configuration."

The large boulder in the front shows people the shape of Geneva Lake and the other municipalities on the lake. It also allows people to sit on the stone and take photos with Lake Geneva in the background. There also is an area where annual events are listed.

Lisenby said the 4-ton sign should last 100 years.

But, Lisenby and his Moonlight Masonry crew are not done.

They will donate one sign each year for the next three years.

Eckland said the Beautification Committee had planned for four new entry signs into the city, which were budgeted for $50,000 each.

"Joe has offered to do all four signs, including modifying or replacing the one already paid for by the Beautification Committee near the Utility Commission," Eckland said. "This means that $200,000 to $225,000 of our donated funds can now be directed toward other beautification projects. The city of Lake Geneva and the citizens of Lake Geneva, should be and I'm sure will be, most grateful to Joe once they are aware of his magnanimous gift."

Eckland said the committee has not decided on the location for next year's sign, but they have a pretty good idea.

"We're not certain, but it will probably be the enhancement of our most visible sign, the one near the Utility Commission," she said.

The Beautification Committee will light and landscape the signs.

According to Eckland, there will be a dedication ceremony to honor the "gift to Lake Geneva."

"With such political concerns, it is so great to see someone who does a good thing," Jacobs said.

"I look at it as a legacy," Lisenby said. "It is something I can come back and it will be here. Stone stands the test of time."

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