News of the opening of the new Missouri River bridge prompted a congratulatory letter from 4,679 miles away.

Jan Trost, mayor of Marbach am Neckar, Washington’s sister city, compared the Highway 47 bridge to the relationship between the two communities.

“Our partnership bridges two continents and two different languages, creating the foundation that makes mutual visits and encounters possible,” Trost wrote.

Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy read excerpts of the letter Saturday at the ceremony and ribbon cutting for the new bridge. The event featured speakers and a bridge blessing. The bridge opened to traffic Monday.

“Although a day like this inspires us to look to the future I believe it’s also important to remember our past,” Lucy stated.

“When we talk about our past we can’t help but think about our German heritage and those 12 families who arrived here in 1833,” she added.

“I think we’ll all agree that Washington and the surrounding area has been influenced by our German ancestors.”

Marbach Letter

“Bridge construction is one of the oldest civil engineering services of humanity,” Trost wrote.

“Bridges spanning wide valleys, wide rivers and even straits “have not only written technological history but also cultural history.

“Bridges shape the face of our places and landscapes which belong to our civilization,” he added.

Trost was in Washington last year celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Sister City program.

“And, of course, I am already looking forward to the moment when I can visit your new bridge on my next trip to Washington,” he wrote.

“Now I wish all future users of the bridge a good and safe journey. Warm regards on the inauguration of this important construction project from your Sister City Marbach am Neckar.”

Sister City History

The idea to establish a Sister City program came out of plans Washington was making in the late 1980s to mark the city’s sesquicentennial in 1989.

Walt Hatcher, who had just moved to Washington in 1987 after spending 30 years in the U.S. Army with his last post in Germany, served on a subcommittee of the sesquicentennial group to research cities in Germany that would make good Sister City candidates.

In early 1988, the Washington Sister City Committee, led by Hatcher, was formed.

Marbach am Neckar was suggested to the committee by Professor Peter Etzkor, St. Louis, who was the regional vice president of Sister Cities International, said Hatcher.

In spring 1989, Bernie Hillermann, Bill Miller Sr. and Jerry and LouAnn Michels made a goodwill visit to Marbach, and that fall, Washington Mayor Steve Reust and his wife Jo-Ann also made a trip to Marbach.

A group of Marbachers came to Washington in 1989 to help the city celebrate its 150th anniversary. They stayed with host families, as would become a custom of the Sister City program. A student exchange also is part of the program.

The Sister City partnership became official in 1990 when documents were signed by leaders of both cities on Nov. 11 in Marbach. A second set of documents were signed by both leaders the following spring in May 1991 in Washington.

The official celebration to mark the 25th anniversary in Marbach took place May 2016. Original plans to celebrate in 2015 were rescheduled so more Washingtonians could make the trip.

Subsequently the official celebration of the Sister City’s 25th anniversary in Washington was postponed until spring 2017.