APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – When the bells ring at Zion Lutheran Church in Appleton you can thank retired electrical engineer Gary Neumann.

He’s 80 years young and for years now has quietly been going about fixing anything that needs it.

“They needed help,” he tells Local 5. “I like rebuilding old things.”

If it meant driving halfway across the country for pipes to replace in their treasured organ, Neumann did it.

Or climbing up all the way up bell tower day after day to get the clock and bells working again. He was there.

He estimates he’s spent hundreds of hours working away. But he doesn’t want any credit. And had to be coaxed into talking with Local 5.

By volunteering, Gary has saved the church tens of thousands of dollars in parts and labor. And preserving this historic landmark is something that will serve the entire community.

“Since many of the original church members were of German heritage, they wanted to replicate the cathedral feeling of Europe with the architecture and stained glass,” explained church council president Sue Bunkert. “The cornerstone was laid in 1902 and we’ve had the pleasure of worshipping here ever since that time.”

The building became a historic landmark in the 1980s.

One of Gary’s monumental achievements was getting the four-faced clock and bells in the tower ringing again. The church was considering replacing them with an automated, computerized system when they stopped working. Gary who is a mechanical and electrical whiz would have none of it.

“They’re beautiful old pieces of machinery,” says Gary who says he got some help from his son to find a part and the whole repair job came in at a little under $200 and took just under a year.

“It’s fun,” Gary said of his time working in cramped spaces and cold conditions. “It sounds beautiful when the bells are ringing.”

Church supporter Tom Reinke can’t sing Gary’s praises enough. But wonders how long his boyhood church can hold up. At his mother’s funeral, he noticed pieces of the ceiling dropping down. Turns out there’s a big leak at the center of the church. That repair job will take professionals.

“Faith is our business,” Bunkert says. “That’s why we’re here. We believe with a lot of prayer and a lot of willing hands we can get it done.”

And Gary has offered to fix everything else so all the money the church is currently raising can go towards fixing the leak.

That includes the refurbishment of the bowling alley in the church basement.

“It’s just a gift to the congregation and people I love,” explains Gary. “And the love of old buildings. Ya know, old guys love old cars. It’s that type of thing.”

Some might say only in Wisconsin. We say positively Wisconsin.