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for people who care about the West

Arizonan gets crosswise with neighbors

  A call from the Lord to erect a 70-foot Celtic cross and 30-foot statue of the Madonna has not gone over well with some people in the southern Arizona town of Sierra Vista. Jerry and Pat Chouinard plan a $500,000 project that includes a chapel and a 10-car parking lot - as well as the cross and Madonna - on their hillside property. Chouinard, a semi-retired printer from Illinois, described his cross as "subtle" compared to others around the country. "Oh, this is a small fry," he told the Los Angeles Times. "But we wanted it to be seen in the morning sun by people driving into Sierra Vista from Bisbee." He originally designed the cross to light up at night but dropped that idea to pacify critics, some of whom have pounded nails into the couple's driveway. Judging from the vandalism and a lawsuit filed by 40 neighbors, homeowners are not mollified. "What really burns them up is that he builds a million-dollar house on the top of a hill, has more money than God, and spends part of his time in Illinois," says local resident Joseph Reiser. "So he won't be here to deal with what happens when this goes in." Chouinard, who says he looks forward to seeing his opponents pray at the foot of his cross, has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to conviction of the vandals.