You Know You’re From...Merrill: The Silo Star

You Know You're From...Merrill
Published: Mar. 20, 2023 at 9:32 PM CDT
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - For the last 15 years, driving back and forth from Merrill, I kept noticing a star on top of a silo for about a month out of the year. One day, I finally decided to pull into a driveway off Highway 51 and ask about it.

“I have friends that I work with and they tell me they always like seeing the star,” said Rose Skic.

“It’s 90 feet tall and we thought, well the highway is right over here,” added her brother Stan. “We had it built so we could tip it down and replace the bulbs.”

Merrill's Silo Star sits on the Skic family farm.
Merrill's Silo Star sits on the Skic family farm.(WSAW)

The Silo Star sits on the Skic family farm, just south of Merrill, technically in the Village of Maine, as a tribute to the family patriarch, Tony Skic, Sr. “It always catches my eye because I know it’s there,” said Stan.

He grew up in Chicago, entered the Navy when he was 17 years old, and served 5 years during World War II. Including spending a year-and-a-half on the USS Hughes when they were attacked in December of 1944.

“He said he was lucky to be alive because they got hit by a kamikaze plane. One of the gunning turrets on the other side of the ship got all taken out. I think it was in the Philippines, or somewhere there. They were in some pretty heated battles,” said a reminiscent Stan.

Tony Skic was honorably discharged in late 1946. When his family moved to Antigo and shortly after he met Marie. They were married for 31 years, built a life on the farm with 11 children, and loved to hunt.

“Well, we always called him, ‘Pa,’” said Rose.

“Oh yes, he’s a hunter. A very good shot. Being in the Navy you wouldn’t think so, but he was. We hunted together,” said Marie Skic. “My husband was a good man.”

At just 56 years old, Tony Skic Sr. died of a heart attack in December of 1979, only two-and-a-half weeks before Christmas. “When I left Friday night, I was in a hurry. So, I saw him peek out the window in the house but I didn’t take the time to go in and say goodbye. That was difficult,” Rose said.

“It took me about five years to kind of — I was mad at the world. I was like, ‘How come? Why?’” added Stan.

What came next was a way to remember, ‘Pa.’

Stan said the family came up with the idea of the star, but the one who can actually take credit for the idea is still debated. He built the original star and the family put it in place in the summer of 1980. Over the years, it has taken on additional meanings.

“Just seeing the star, it makes you think of things other than maybe your problems or your trouble. It’s a sign of hope,” added Rose.

It was rebuilt in 2018, bigger and better than ever with new LED lights. One panel of the LED lights went out this season, so later this summer they’ll take it down and give it a refresh, including making it double-sided.

“Basically, we wanted to get it so it’d kind of flicker, kind of grab your attention, you know. We had the setting so it just didn’t stay a single setting or color on that,” said Stan.

Marie added, “Especially when people told me how nice they felt driving to Wausau to work, and seeing the star, they look forward to it. So, that was rewarding.”

Stan said his 95-year-old mother really enjoys seeing it outside her window and adds that it’s a symbol of ‘Pa’ watching over them.

“That’s a reminder of my father because he was taken way too soon,” said Rose.

So, the next time you’re coming or going along Highway 51, right around mile marker 203, say hello or goodbye to Pa Skic, the man behind Merrill’s Silo Star.