Honouring Luther Heights Founders and Supporters
We note with sadness the recent deaths of Wilton Sippel, who helped establish Luther Heights by giving his own time and mobilising others from West Moreton Zone, as well as Keith Radke, a strong supporter and neighbour at Coolum in more recent times.
Around this time last year, Luther Heights hosted a Friends of Lutheran Archives Queensland (FOLAQ) presentation and story-sharing session about the establishment and development of Luther Heights. The following report of that event, which was prepared by Robin Kleinschmidt, offers a snapshot of God’s provision and the contributions by many people towards developing the beautiful facilities that we enjoy today. We share the report at this time to honour Wilton, Keith and all who have built and supported Luther Heights since the mid-1950s.
Luther Heights Revisited
Luther Heights Youth camp at Coolum Beach is the venue for an outstanding camps program operated by Lutheran Youth Queensland on a beautiful hillside site with sweeping ocean and mountain views. On Saturday 29th October it was also the venue for a meeting of Friends of Lutheran Archives Queensland, when about 45 people made the journey to reminisce or to learn about the fascinating history of the camp from its humble volunteer beginnings to its current modern facilities and professionally staffed and operated programs in ministry to groups ranging from school camps to women’s retreats.
A series of speakers traced the history from the beginnings in the mid-1950s, when the growing desire for a youth camp among Lutheran Young People’s Societies was reinforced by the American experience of their president, Pastor Gary Prove. John Stollznow told how his father Alwyn, supported by Nambour pastor, Pastor Vince Jarick, looked for land and identified a site available for cheap sale because of arrears in rates by its Melbourne owner, and paid the deposit from his own pocket. Initially remote and inaccessible, it included land far more prominent and valuable than originally thought. God’s hand could be perceived in the series of apparent coincidences which followed, enabling a group of Lutheran young people with no joint assets to acquire more than 30 acres in one of the highest positions in what was to become the Sunshine Coast.
Young men from the Lockyer Valley, Dalby and the Darling Downs, Mt Cotton and the Logan/Albert demolished former army and air force buildings at Darra, Rocklea and Amberley. Albert Benfer was one of them. Assisted by the memories of others, and reinforced by the many photographs brought for the occasion, he described how the second-hand building materials were loaded onto trucks commandeered from family farms and businesses and transported in defiance of safety regulations, barely making the last perilous haul up the rough track to the top of the camp site.
Several years of volunteer building under the supervision of Alwyn Stollznow enabled the first camp in January 1958, with only one building complete. The girls slept in the boys’ dormitory, the boys out of doors. Twelve months later the camp was dedicated, with three buildings- two dormitories and a dining hall/kitchen. Pam Flesser spoke of the early camps for members of the Young People’s Societies. The afternoon was spent learning of later development, leading up to the modern facilities of today, with two separate camp sites able to cater for up to 300 people at the same time. Joe Gamblin, chairman of the Luther Heights Camp Committee during a crucial period of physical development, sent his memories for presentation. Phil Mibus, also an LYQ veteran of forty years, described the process of change in administration and management over more than 60 years. We enjoyed an unsolicited video interview with Mrs Gladys Bruggemann, who with her husband Erwin comprised the first caretaker team.
Finally, the camp manager David Lees, also a 27-year veteran of Luther Heights, spoke about the powerful Christian ministry of the camp programs to the schoolchildren and young people who now comprise the main clients of Luther Heights in school and LYQ camps. David and his daughter then gave us a conducted tour of the facilities, giving us both an insight into the programs and the exciting plans for future development. The current facilities far exceed the most ambitious dreams of the founders, several of whom were present.
The meeting was generously hosted by LYQ and Luther Heights, with a delightful lunch as well as morning and afternoon tea. LYQ Director Aaron Glover, only three weeks before he left the position, spoke to the gathering, and accepted a donation of $650 from those present to provide camping experiences for needy young people.
Some braved the congested Bruce Highway in a two-hour drive back to Brisbane and further, while a small group stayed overnight and worshipped together the next morning.
Published in FoLA NEWS December 2022.