Harriet Barwin was 4 years old in 1927 when she nearly toppled the baptismal font during unveiling ceremonies at Cormorant Lutheran Church, Lake Park, Minn. As the only niece of the World War I soldier to whom the font was a memorial, Barwin was selected to pull off the sheet that covered its plaster statue of an angel holding a seashell.
Barwin yanked the sheet and sent the angel falling off its base — fortunately into the arms of a relative with nimble reflexes.
The angel had no such savior last summer when another child sent it crashing — head first — to the floor.
The angel's face was smashed. "It looked pretty hopeless," Barwin says.
Paul Brunsberg, pastor of Cormorant, started making phone calls. One of them was to Leila Jacobson of Moorhead, Minn. — a resourceful dollmaker who restored the angel's head with her brother-in-law's help.
From her 20 years as a dollmaker, Jacobson detected similarity between the angel's face and that of "Lady Grace," a classic French design. She called a dollmaker friend in Wisconsin who had the Lady Grace face mold and persuaded her to make a ceramic cast for Cormorant's font.
To help her affix the face to the rest of the angel's body, Jacobson called on her brother-in-law, Leland Jenison of Belmond, Iowa, who built up the head using auto-body filler. Working almost three days in Jacobson's garage, they finished the statue.
"It's like looking at twins," Brunsberg says of the before-and-after angel, which now has been fixed to a more-stable base.
Last fall, Cormorant held a special service to dedicate the font. Unveiling it — for the second time — was Harriet Barwin. "It's remarkable what's been done with it," she says. "I'm so very happy it's back in use again."
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