For the first time in five years, the sailor who keeps watch at the Calvary Temple Lighthouse at Morse Road and I-71 got a new suit.

For the first time in five years, the sailor who keeps watch at the Calvary Temple Lighthouse at Morse Road and I-71 got a new suit.

The 84-year-old church founder and builder, Rev. Lee Loretz, climbed the five-story tower and, with the help of OSU grad and missionary Paige Bailey, gave the mannequin a new dark-blue sailor suit embroidered with white stars on Sunday.

"The weather had ripped his pants right off," Loretz said Tuesday. "He had been standing half naked up there."

Now all that's missing is the all-important sailor's hat, which the Reverend hopes to attach as soon as possible.

When Lorentz built his church 28 years ago, he opted for the now-venerable "prayer tower"-which looks an awful lot like a lighthouse-in lieu of the traditional church steeple. Why?

"A steeple was a feature of ancient paganism," said Lorentz, who has been a pastor and a missionary for 55 years. It was used by the Romans as a means of worshipping sun and fertility gods. The obelisk feature, now common on many houses of worship, was purposefully phallic in ancient times, he said.

"Someone told me that just as I was building my church and I could hardly believe it," he said. "I couldn't build a steeple on my church after knowing that."

Later, while eating in a southern lighthouse-themed restaurant, it dawned on Lorentz that he could incorporate the theme into his building.

"We don't have any water around us, but we have a sea of life," he said.

Lorentz doesn't quite remember how the sailor-actually, a mannequin-came to take his perch overlooking the freeway. He thinks it was part of a Sunday school lesson at some point. But he does remember that his congregation balked when he spoke of taking it down.

"It became a tradition," he said.

For years, the ancient mariner has stood watch with nary an incident-save one strong windstorm that blew the Styrofoam head off the original lighthouse keeper in the late 80s, Lorentz said.

The headless sailor caused one I-71 traveler to turn around on the highway and ring the doorbell at the church, Lorentz recalls.

"He was in the Navy and had abandoned the idea of getting into ministry when he joined. He told me 'I lost my head in the Navy, too,' " said Lorentz. The two men prayed together in the tower for a few hours.

Soon after, the current watcher, "Sam the Sailor," as he is called, was donated by a Navy recruiter.

The tower is purposefully open 24 hours to the community for prayer-by reservation only, he said, although a sign respectfully reminds visitors that it costs $3.85 per hour to heat and cool the tower, and that donations are accepted.

A sign that hangs below the sailor urges prayer specifically for the president and for victory in the war in Iraq. It was placed there shortly after the war began, Lorentz said, but may soon need an edit.

"We'll see what happens in 2009," he said.

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