CLINTON – On Sunday, Aug. 23, St. Stephen’s Church, Clinton, celebrated two significant events — the 65th wedding anniversary of Jim and Nell Gilbank and the dedication of the parish’s newly renovated meeting room in their name.

Jim and Nell were married on Aug. 26, 1950 in St. Jude’s, Beloit. They farmed until founding the Gilbank Construction Company located in Cllnton. They have seven children, 12 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.

Jim was part of a committee that approached the late Bishop O’Donnell and asked that St. Stephen’s become an independent parish. Prior to that, it was meeting in what is now the Copper Falls Restaurant in downtown Clinton, but was part of the Milwaukee Diocese.

When independently established in 1972, it became part of the Madison Diocese. Currently, the Trustee-Emeritus, Jim, and wife, Nell, have been active since.

Gilbank Construction built the church, the 10,000 sq, ft, Family Center and the rectory. Many in their family still remain active members. Daughter, Pat Wendtland, continues to be the parish organist.

Fr. Bill Connell, current pastor in his fifth year, wanted to make the Family Center’s meeting room, more welcoming and inviting.

Through a committee of interested parishioners (Carl Lipetri, Pat Wolf, Mary Peterson, and Kristin Ostrander) plans were made and the fundraising begun.

An unexpected amount of financial donations hurried the process. As well did a surprise donation of chairs and tables given by the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Center, Madison, as they are downsizing their facility. In addition, the Collins family, parishioners and owners of Country Pride Meats in Clinton, donated a flat screen television.

The dedication and blessing took place after the usual Sunday, 9 a.m. Mass, with a social of breakfast treats. Fr. Connell acknowledged that Jim and Nell were embarrassed with this honor and all the attention. Nell thanked everyone and said she knew many who deserved the recognition more than they did.

But Fr. Connell added, “You can be embarrassed by this event, if you want. But you should be proud of the 65 years of faithful witness you have shown in the Sacrament of Matrimony. You have spoken loudly by your marriage to God’s faithfulness and love. This room is only a small way of you making Church come alive through the family. After all, the family is a small Church.“

In addition to a plaque recognizing the Gilbanks, an icon of St. Stephen is prominently displayed as the patron saint of the parish. The inscription on the plaque reads:

Jim & Nell Gilbank


Jim and Nell were instrumental in establishing St. Stephen Catholic Church in 1972.

As Charter Members, as well as the construction of the buildings through Gilbank Construction. Jim has been the Parish Trustee since its founding; Nell has been active in the Catholic Women’s group.

Together they have participated in the many social, religious, educational and fund raising programs of St. Stephen Parish.

Their name on this Meeting Room reflects their love and devotion to our parish and the larger Church.

May the events in this room enrich our parish and help it to grow in the Spirit they have lived.

Fr. Bill Connell, Pastor

St. Stephens

Courtesy photos

On Sunday, Aug. 23, St. Stephen’s Church, Clinton, celebrated the 65th wedding anniversary of longtime parishoners Jim and Nell Gilbank.