On this episode of Under Rocks, we don't turn over any stones, but we take you face-to-face with a massive chunk of concrete along an Ogle County roadside.
Like many northern Illinois residents, Dan Libman was worried that when a certain DeKalb bookstore closed, he might never again be able to use the word “Grotto.” But that was before he made a discovery on a bike ride. On an ordinary corner in Stillman Valley stands something quite extraordinary: A concrete shrine, complete with arches and a cupola, with inlays of stone and marbles, and a bench for contemplation and prayer. The LaFleur Grotto.
Although that was many years ago, Dan never stopped thinking about it. Recently, he became curious about the shrine’s origin, so he tracked down Betty LaFleur, the daughter of the man who built it.
Joseph LaFleur built the shrine to keep up his end of a bargain with The Virgin Mary. Five of his ten children served in the military, starting in World War Two. The devout Catholic promised Mary he would build a shrine in her honor if his boys returned home safely from the service. They did.
So he kept his promise, and started building the massive concrete grotto near the road by his house, at the corner of Kishwaukee and Crestview Roads in Stillman Valley.
That's where you will find it today.