It took the generous donation from a late parishioner of a local church in order to give the house of worship some new life.
Amazing Grace Lutheran Church of Grays Harbor has operated just north of downtown Aberdeen since 1924. Recently, it’s been undergoing reconstruction to its windows due to Jim Erickson and his wife Peggy’s donation. The church’s board voted to use the funds the couple bequeathed to fix the stained glass windows for the 99-year-old church, according to Mike Barkstrom, who conducted the search for a company who could do the work.
The cost to restore the windows was about $300,000, according to Eric Penic, president of Cathedral Crafts Stained Glass Company. The cost would have been more than double, if not $1 million, if the windows were replaced.
Penic said the project started when his company pulled out the windows in August.
“In the first two or three weeks of August, we pulled the windows out and we did all the exterior work — all the scraping and painting and the new storm system,” Penic said on Friday, Jan. 13. “And now we’re back in the second week of January. We’ll be done by next week.”
The project is a larger job than some that Penic’s company does. The company is based in the southeast Minnesota town of Winona.
Penic, who’s worked for the company for about 30 years, explained the project’s scale.
“That’s above average,” Penic said about the cost for this project. “We’re usually $100,000 or less on an average church, so this is a bigger church. And then logistics weigh in. A little more money out here than it would be in Illinois or Iowa, or somewhere like that, just because we’ve got six days of traveling.”
Penic pulled out his phone to check the mileage he and his small crew drove and found it’s 1,837 miles of highway driving. He said the driving for this job was the hardest part. This was also the first time his company’s worked on the West Coast. He said they usually don’t travel any farther west than North Dakota.
“We took I-90 out. We got lucky,” Penic said. “The worst weather we saw was in Idaho, between the Montana and Washington borders. And it was late at night. I was driving. My eyes were going sideways, so we stopped. We were in Idaho still. That’s only like a 60-70 mile stretch, but it’s all mountain. And then coming over the mountains from Western Washington to here, there were low clouds and fog and the roads weren’t 100 percent clear, but pretty wet. It was 32 degrees so everything was wet.”
Penic’s just glad there wasn’t any snow during the drive, the wind didn’t make things more challenging and that his company came prepared with how they shipped the materials for the job.
“Everything’s crated up and packed in,” Penic said. “We’ve got 1-inch styrofoam all over the place in there. We crate them up and easel them up in the trailer. We came through the mountains. They got there all right and they got back all right. I’m amazed how they run.”
But doing the “total restoration” job itself hasn’t been much of a challenge, according to Penic.
“We’ve been doing this for so long, this is second nature,” Penic said of restorations like the current one at Amazing Grace Lutheran.
But, that expertise didn’t come without experience, explained Barkstrom, who did the research to find Penic’s company.
“I think the thing to realize here is this is a highly, highly specialized field,” Barkstrom said. “There are very few people and companies in the United States anymore that do this work to the extent and the quality that they do. We couldn’t find any on the West Coast and I looked. The closest competitor I found was in Denver.”
Barkstrom talked about the safety of the windows, which is a concern. Windows in downtown Aberdeen were often a vandalism target throughout 2022.
“Obviously we’re concerned with that,” Barkstrom said. “We’d be fools if we weren’t. But one of the steps we take to prevent that is called storm system (that’s put) on the exterior of the window. In order to break this window, you’ve got to go through another sheet first. That would help protect the window and you just replace the plexiglass.”
Penic further championed the protective material, which he got from Plastics West Incorporated, in Aberdeen.
“It’s not unbreakable but it’s a quarter-inch, and especially from that height you’d have to have Nolan Ryan throwing something to try and break that,” Penic said. “It’s virtually impossible.”
While the strength of that material was one reason for using the local glass company, Penic explained the other reason — convenience.
“It’s easy enough to switch out,” Penic said. “In fact, we bought all the plastic here in town. I didn’t haul it out here with me. It was a local person who had material for us, so we pumped back into the community.”
Another positive about the work Cathedral Crafts has done is the glass is “period-era,” which means the glass is just as old as the original windows. The good news for Penic is he has sources to go to for period-era glass, so it’s not that hard for him to find.
After all of the hard work Penic’s crew has done for the church, it’s left Barkstrom a satisfied customer.
“In my opinion, the cream really rose to the top with this company,” Barkstrom said. “They’re top-notch, they’re doing a great job. They really are. I highly, highly recommend them. They’re good, good people.”
Barkstrom also relayed how the church would honor the Ericksons for their generosity and how happy the expert work would make the couple.
“These windows are dedicated to the memory of Jim Erickson and his wife Peggy,” Barkstrom said. “Neat people. Longtime members of the church. That’s where the fund came from. Well-spent money is something he would really like. I’m sure he and his wife both would.”
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