Located on the property at 1402 S. Grove Ave. in Fort Myers, the landmark God Is Love sign has greeted McGregor Boulevard travelers for close to eight decades. But believe it or not, a lot has had to happen to keep the iconic sign glowing, or even keep it around at all.
Below is an account of some of the bigger moments in the God Is Love sign’s 77-year history, according to The News-Press:
George H. Gruesbeck, a Seventh-Day Adventist, built the sign in 1943. The two-story home on the property was built in 1925 and originally served as a dwelling place for caretakers who took care of citrus groves nearby. At one point, the home was also a stopover for mail carriers on their way to Punta Rassa, Fla.
In 1957, Clyde and Margaret Daughtry bought the property. The Daughtry’s chose to remove the sign and store it away in a garage. However, the sign’s absence upset many locals, and after a short period, the sign was quickly returned to its place along McGregor Boulevard.
Wiring issues in 1994 caused the sign to go out. The sign remained off until 1995 when then property owner Robert Ray of Canada established a trust and began accepting donations to pay the bill.
Unfortunately, the sign faced lighting issues again by 1996. Up against financial trouble, Ray deeded the house to his lenders. In November of 1996, Sherry Rydberg purchased the property for $165,000.
In 2002, the sign once again had lighting issues. That’s when a group of anonymous donors stepped forward to refurbish the sign, clean it, rewire the electric and repaint it. The group also replaced the sign’s neon lighting and plastic covering.
The sign managed about 10 years without issues before electric problems caused the sign to go dark again in the early part of 2012. At that time, Rydberg had attempted to find someone who might be willing to donate time and effort to repair the sign, and had even offered to pay someone else herself to fix the issue. However, Rydberg was unable to find help.
The sign was improved in 2013 thanks to a collaborative effort led by then Price Foundation head T. Wainwright Miller Jr., who used money from his nonprofit organization to fund the project. Miller and the Price Foundation stepped in with a $41,000 down payment to buy the sign in 2014.
Miller passed away in January of 2016, and shortly after, the Price Foundation backed out of the deal to purchase the sign. According to the 2016 article from the News-Press, Price Foundation Board Chairman Dennis Small said that a verbal agreement had been made in 2014 to accept their offer, but by 2016 the asking price for the sign had risen too high for the foundation’s interest.
Nonetheless, The Price Foundation continued to pay to light the sign. The Chrisitan Chamber of Southwest Florida reimbursed the Price Foundation for the electric bill from 2013 until the chamber folded around September of 2018. That’s when, according to Southwest Florida Station Manager Tom Sullivan, WayFM stepped in to start paying the electric bill.
And so, your WayFM has been paying for it since. Cool, right?