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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Gallatin parishioners restoring tornado-damaged statues

  • Gallatin County Parishioners Gareth and Andi York, two cousins who both have artistic backgrounds, are working to restore damaged statues recovered from St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Ridgway, which was completely destroyed by the Feb. 29 tornado.
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  • Gallatin County Parishioners Gareth and Andi York, two cousins who both have artistic backgrounds, are working to restore damaged statues recovered from St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Ridgway, which was completely destroyed by the Feb. 29 tornado.
    The pair approached the Rev. Steven Beatty about the possibility of repairing the damaged statues, some of which are original to the more than 100-year-old church, after doing some minor repair and touch-up work to statues in St. Mary's Catholic Church in Shawneetown.
    At first, Beatty was reluctant about the undertaking because he thought the statues were damaged beyond repair. However, the Yorks were confident in their abilities and thought the restoration work was a worthwhile endeavor, even if only a few of them could be fully restored. They are doing the work for free, only requiring minor costs for materials.
    "The way I see it is we're young professionals who can't afford to give financially to the Church, so we give our time and efforts instead," Gareth said. "Plus, it's a way of preserving history."
    They began working on the four statues from St. Joseph's that were in the worst condition about two months ago and are nearly finished with at least two of them. There are a few more statues they plan to repair when they complete work on the first four.
    Gareth explained that they are attempting to make the statues look as much like they did before they were damaged as possible, which is time-consuming, meticulous work. Though both Gareth and Andi have other jobs, they work on the statues together almost every night in a workroom at St. Joseph's Chapel in Equality. Both Andi and Gareth admitted they are perfectionists and sometimes redo their work several times before they are satisfied with the repairs.
    "Trying to match the intricate details of the original work has been the most challenging aspect of the work so far," Gareth said. "It's a time commitment."
    Gareth has been focusing his time on statues of St. Joseph and St. Mary, who each hold symbolic items in their hands. The colors and symbols on the statues are significant in the Catholic Church and require detailed work in order to restore them properly.
    For example, St. Joseph holds a carpenter's square in one hand and baby Jesus in the other. He is always portrayed in various shades of brown clothing. St. Mary is holding lilies in one hand and baby Jesus in the other. She is always depicted in blue robes.
    The statue of St. Mary was heavily damaged and required some resourcefulness on Gareth's part to restore it. The head of baby Jesus had been ripped off the statue entirely during the storm and the gold crown which adorned her head had to be replaced, as well. Using mixed media, he was able to recreate the missing parts. He is currently finishing paint work on her robes.
    Page 2 of 2 - Andi, on the other hand, has spent most of her time so far working on two angel statues that were once seated on either side of the altar at St. Joseph's. One of them is missing its wings and is still being repaired, while the other angel was missing a hand and is undergoing plaster work. Both required plaster and spackle work to patch up missing pieces and repair the many scratches and dents they acquired in the tornado.
    "The things we thought would be hard sometimes we breezed right through," she said.
    Other times, the work can be difficult and frustrating.
    "It's challenging, but it's fun for us," Andi said. "We have very high expectations of ourselves."
    Fortunately for the two perfectionists, they are in no rush to complete the repairs, as it will take some time before a new church is built in Ridgway, which will be the new home for the statues.
    "We know people will be satisfied with the end result, but we want to do it right," Andi said.
    "Because hopefully they will be around in another 100 years," Gareth added.
    The two thank Beatty for allowing them the opportunity to take on the project, as well as St. Joseph's of Equality for giving them a workspace to use.
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