Meeker’s lighted cross has a long history

The history of the cross above Meeker nearly mirrors the history of electric lighting. White River Electric Association provides the maintenance and covers the cost of keeping the cross lit year-round. Patti Hoke photo

MEEKER | The lighted cross on Lobo Mountain above Meeker has a long history. So long, in fact, it almost provides a timeline of the history of electric lighting techniques.
“The first year I helped was 1960,” said former White River Electric Association (WREA) employee Leon Stout. “Roger Purdy was the (WREA) manager at the time.” Stout worked at WREA for 44 years. He’s not sure who had the original idea to install the original wood-framed cross on a radio antenna pole and light it during the month of December and on Easter weekend.
“It had incandescent lights with glass covers to protect the bulbs from the weather,” Stout said, “On maybe a 50 foot pole.”
WREA employees would make the trip up the mountain for maintenance as needed. Later, WREA acquired the 100 foot microwave radio towers for communications.
Stout said they took 200-300 feet of light strings to the new tower with the intention of creating a lighted star.
“We didn’t have enough lights, so we made a cross instead.”
As the years progressed and technology changed, so did the cross’s lighting. Over time the cross has been illuminated using neon tubes, fluorescent tubes, and most recently, LED strings.
“It’s an aggressive environment,” said former WREA General Manager and current WREA board member Richard Welle, noting steps had to be taken to protect the lighting system from harsh weather and cold temperature.
“I have to give a shout-out to the linemen who climb that 100-foot tower to replace lights,” Welle said.
WREA has paid for the maintenance and cost of lighting since the beginning.
“If part of it goes out, people let us (WREA) know instantly. A lot of people look at it.”
Sometime in the early 2000s, during Welle’s tenure, members of the local ministerial alliance surveyed the community to determine support for keeping the cross lit year-round. The results were positive, and the cross continues to shine.

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