About The River

Friday, January 17, 2020

On the Road Friday ~ Blessed Virgin Mary on Highway 13

 During our travels to Lake Superior in September,  we stopped at the Holy Mother Mary's Wayside Peace Park on Highway 13 on the route to Bayfield, Wisconsin.

Curiosity got the best of me, I decided to dig a little more into the story behind the wayside.

 Below is a bit  of the story above from the Superior Catholic Herald
Fritz’s orchard used to be called Fritz Brothers, and he and his two brothers competed to see who could pick a trailer load of apples the fastest, and who could sell the most at market.
Both of his brothers are dead, and only Fritz manages the operation. It’s not as much fun as it used to be, he admitted: “Now it’s just me against the orchard.”
Fritz renamed the business a couple of years after they died. Fritz Brothers seemed silly with only one brother, he thought. He dedicated the apple business to Mary, and he calls the shrine Blessed Mother Mary’s Wayside Peace Park.
At night, the shrine is lit up – Fritz waited 13 years before hooking up electricity – and during the day, a choir of nuns sing from a hidden compact disc player.
There’s a boardwalk for the Stations of the Cross, and signs and statuary scattered about. On Aug. 17, Mary had fresh flowers for the commemoration of her Assumption on Aug. 15.
The idea to build a shrine came to Fritz in 1990, and for years, he’s devoted any spare money to the effort.
His decision wasn’t compelled by anything supernatural.
“I didn’t hear any voices or anything,” he said.
Mostly, he liked the site, the parity between Hwy. 13 and Mary’s Fatima appearances on the 13th of the month.
He was also influenced by the people he encountered as a janitor at St. Thomas University, the saints he read about in “Butler’s Lives of the Saints” while working overnights in the Archbishop Ireland Memorial Library.
He’s also helped out at several other shrines – Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, others in Texas and Montana – and noticed the dearth of devotional sites in the Diocese of Superior.
“There’s quite a few nice shrines in Wisconsin, but in this area, not much,” he said.
Fritz didn’t want to take donations for his project. The church has enough needs, he said, and he’d rather seeing the money go toward Catholic schools, the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the many other services in the diocese.
The only problem is finishing the shrine by himself is slow going, and Fritzes don’t generally have a long lifespan. While he’s outlived his brothers, Fritz is afraid if he doesn’t keep at it, he won’t get it done.
“We tend to die young,” he said.
He aims to have the visitor’s center, built from a 1970s geodesic dome kit, open by May 2017. The month marks the 100th anniversary of Mary’s first appearance in Fatima; he’s also built a replica of the arch constructed at the site.
When he’s not working at the shrine or picking and selling apples, Fritz might be en route to Mexico, where he helps at an orphanage a couple of hundred miles south of Mexico City.
A few of the orphans get adopted, Fritz said, but most of the children he sees grow up a little more every year.
The clay crosses ornamenting the dome were fired and painted by the orphans.

He also buys most of his religious articles – statuary, Stations of the Cross and more – across the border. Fritz is planning improvements – and he wants to expand the shrine, move it farther back into the 20-acre lot and build a chapel.
He’s also diversified his fruit-growing operation with pear and plum trees. Squash vines are blooming across a freshly landscaped garden; he’s hoping he’ll have enough to give apple customers a free squash with every purchase.
If Fritz is around when a potential customer pulls up, he’s evangelizing among the apples, discussing the importance of thanking God for one’s blessings.
If he’s away at a farmers’ market, a prominently placed sign offers the same reminder:
“Thank God for all the mountains and the seas, for all the apples on the trees, for giving life to you and me, wherever you may be, thank God.”
Promoting devotion to the Blessed Mother is his ultimate goal, and Fritz hopes drivers passing the shrine will be inspired, if only for a moment.
He said he always feels the wealth of God’s gifts.

We stopped in and we did not see anyone, we were not greeted by anyone. We took a few photos and walked along the flowers, apple trees and pear trees.

During my research of wanting to find out more about the wayside. 
I learned that David F. Fritz passed in May of 2019. 

David. F. Fritz, age 65, of Superior, WI passed away suddenly on May 9th. Dave was known for selling apples in front of his shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary on Highway 13. He is survived by Char and Jim Sutter, Barb and Ernie Keller, Marg Vick, Jia and Liu Fritz, Don Harens, Bob Gremore and many nieces and nephews, and cousins. Visitation is on Monday, June 3rd at 9:30-10:30 followed by mass at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church- 920 Holley, St. Paul Park, MN.

Many boxes of statues, flyers and more where all scattered about.
 I wonder what will become of the Wayside?
We will be traveling that way again this summer of 2020. I will take a peek and see if anyone takes over David's vision of making a special Wayside along Highway 13.

 Thank you for coming along with me On the Road Friday to a unique Wayside.


  1. What an interesting trip and story. It's sad that David has passed away but he's left quite a legacy.

  2. David's had a great heart and he had a special place in his heart for the mother of Jesus. It looks like it could be a beautiful place for a bigger shrine. Too bad he could not complete his project. Thanks for the interesting story Carla.
    Hugs, Julia

  3. This was seriously interesting, Carla. Thanks for taking us along.

  4. Oh so sad David passed before he could see his vision come to life. I hope someone in the family will continue on to make this what David had in mind. Too bad he did not find a donor that he could have left the property to that would have finished the project. Maybe the church will take over and make this nice. Hope it has a good ending. Have a good Friday Carla and wonderful weekend.

  5. That is a nice story. It is so sweet how much he loved his little project/shrine. It's sad that he has passed away.

  6. This was such an interesting post. One can only wonder now what he envisioned in his mind's eye for this Wayside Shrine.

  7. WOW. I HAVE TO REREAD THIS ONE SLOWLY. MY MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER HAVE PASSED THEIR DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED MOTHER ON TO ME. I have a tiny glow in the dark blessed mother in my bedroom window. She's a good one

  8. What an interesting place and story to stumble upon! I wonder what will happen next?

  9. How very interesting! I will look up where in Wisconsin this is (and tell my WI friend).

  10. I'm so glad you were able to find the history of this special Wayside. I hope when you go by this summer you find that someone has taken over.

  11. What a wonderful man with a passion for sharing his love of God and of Mary with every one he met. I was sorry to read he had died, but he found joy in what he did.

  12. I did enjoy your photographs.
    I was sorry to read that David died, I do hope someone in the family will continue …

    All the best Jan


High Fives from Wisconsin!