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A community driven journalism project where listeners get to ask the big questions: who, what, when, where and why. Under Rocks host(s) will attempt to get to the bottom of these unexplored oddities, neglected anomalies, and little-known place-makers of our region.

Moses, Paul, And Mary: A Promise Cast In Concrete | Under Rocks Podcast

Spencer Tritt
The LaFleur Grotto

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.

Credit Spencer Tritt / WNIJ

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. 

Credit Spencer Tritt / WNIJ
Betty LaFleur and Dan Libman at the LaFleur Grotto

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. 

Credit Spencer Tritt / WNIJ

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. 

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