Sister cities plan 50th anniversary celebration

December 16, 2000

Sister cities plan 50th anniversary celebration


At 88, Jane Burhans is hard at work preparing for the 50th anniversary celebration in 2002 of the Sister City affiliation between Hagerstown and Wesel, Germany.

In October, she traveled to Wesel with city employees Mike Heyser and Kim Ridenour for a planning session with Wesel city officials, the German chairman of the sister city committee and town citizens.

"We all let our hair down and said what we wanted and such," Burhans said. "It worked out beautifully and we got wonderful cooperation."

The Wesel delegation wants to travel to Hagerstown in October 2002 to enjoy the region's brilliant fall foliage, tour the area and perhaps attend the annual Native American pow-wow at Hagerstown Community College, Burhans said.


The Hagerstown delegation will probably go to Wesel in August or September 2002 for about three days of sightseeing and entertainment, Burhans said.

The October trip was Burhans' fourth visit to Wesel.

The Sister City program's German delegation has dubbed her the "mother of the partnership" because she is the oldest living active program participant on either side of the Atlantic, she said.

Burhans and her late husband, former Washington County Commissioner and Hagerstown Mayor Winslow "Wick" F. Burhans, helped strengthen the "international friendship" that started under Mayor Herman L. Mills in 1952, she said.

"We kept it going because we believed so much," Burhans said. "When you're friends, you're never enemies."

It was during her husband's mayoral tenure that officials and residents of Hagerstown and Wesel began regularly traveling to each other's city and exchanging cultural exhibits.

The success of the Hagerstown exhibit that Jane and Wick Burhans took to Wesel during their first visit there in 1955 spurred the federal People-to-People program, Burhans said.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower vowed to kick-start the diplomatic program if the friendship-based affiliation between Hagerstown and Wesel proved successful. The Hagerstown display was so popular the Germans kept it for a year instead of the planned three weeks, convincing the president the program could work, Burhans said.

She never had any doubts.

"I feel that the People-to-People program is the only way to peace," Burhans said.

While in Wesel in October, she was the only female and the sole American asked to speak at the dedication for the organ at Willibrordi Cathedral, she said.

Burhans said it was a special honor because in 1955 she and her husband toured the church, which had been devastated by Allied bombs in World War II.

"It was a sacrilege I never forgot," she told the more than 1,000 people gathered at the dedication ceremony.

"Therefore, in this setting, my fervent prayer is that we will always have this wonderful relationship. ... As we approach the festive and holy season of Christmas, I further pray that we will be the messengers of peace on earth and goodwill towards men."

The Herald-Mail Articles