RUNNELS COUNTY - The tattered and weathered sign, leading visitors to Ballinger's landmark, the Cross, which sits atop a hill about a mile-and-a-half south of the city on Highway 83, has been repainted.
RUNNELS COUNTY - The tattered and weathered sign, leading visitors to Ballinger’s landmark, the Cross, which sits atop a hill about a mile-and-a-half south of the city on Highway 83, has been repainted.
Jim and Doris Studer, who had the Cross built as their gift to the city in 1993, commissioned the Mid-West Texas Artist Guild to repaint the sign which was completely faded.
Artist Tom Orsak took the lead on the project since he has a background in sign painting.
Both sides of the sign are painted one with the Biblical passage John 14:6 and other with the cross.
“I enjoyed doing it,” said Orsak who hails from Harriet. “It is such a benevolent thing they (the Studers) did for this community and I wanted the sign to be equal to the task.”
Rising 100 feet above the rolling landscape, the Cross was installed in 1993. The 10-foot-square arms stretch 70 feet from tip to tip. The base of the structure is an open-air covered pavilion reminiscent of the old brush arbor revival halls. At night, floodlights make the Cross visible for miles.
But sometime it has been hard to see where to turn in at the cross and that is what Studer wanted to fix. The sign that was out there was subject to punishing sun, wind, rain and weather. Studer said he was extremely pleased with the sign which was a cumulative project by the Guild.
“He did a wonderful job,” Studer said. “I am very pleased.”
The Ballinger cross was built by a local construction company and commissioned by Jim and Doris Studer, owners of Buddy's Plant Plus. The company makes water-soluble fertilizer for Miracle-Gro. After 20 years of making fertilizers in Florida, the Studers went looking for a drier climate. In 1988, they moved the company to Ballinger, where it quickly became one of the largest employers in the county.
On the hillside below the giant cross, a small chapel and a grotto to Our Lady of Guadalupe blend into the rocky terrain. Built with native stone and decorated with pieces of colored glass, the two man-made caves have a very communal look and feel.
Studer said he wanted everyone to stop and see the cross and that is much easier now thanks to the new visible sign.
“With this sign, people can know that this is a place where you can come say a prayer or talk to the good Lord, which is exactly what we intended,” Studer said.