Since 2014, we've followed the journey of the Julia Belle Swain steamboat.
You may know, a foundation called Save the Julia Belle Swain is working to renovate the paddle wheeler, built in 1971. A man named Dennis Trone commissioned the building of the boat two years earlier. That construction happened at the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works. The Julia Belle was the last boat built there.
Forty-four years later, the Julia Belle returned to Dubuque where experts repaired and restored the hull. That project happened not far from the site of the Boiler Works. And not far from there, at the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, you'll find a modern day building project, involving another Julia Belle Swain, a model of the real boat.
One of the men building the model, Douglas Schlesier, says Milt Avenarius was the driving force behind the project. We've learned that Milt passed away recently. He loved the Julia Belle and this model project and our thoughts are with his family.
As for the model, Douglas says it's not finished. When it is, we plan to be there to see its launch. Douglas says, they'll invite Milt's widow, Jan.