Stained Glass Windows for the Rockne Museum
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Stained Glass Windows for the Rockne Museum

Laura Duckworth

Laura Duckworth working on one of the four stained glass windows for the Rockne Museum. Laura is the daughter of Jane Hellinger and the granddaughter of Charlie Goertz.

By Jan and Ted Weiser, Cathedral Stained Glass Studio, Austin, Texas

We checked the date we had signed the contract to begin the Rockne Museum window work . . . August 2003. How time flies! Today we finally installed the four beautiful leaded glass windows in the altar end of the museum, a clear, hot autumn day of November 7th, 2004.

Our studio had received a call from Marian (Hilbig) Nelson, President of the Rockne Historical Association, with her desire - a stained glass window made that would cut back on the intense sunlight that could damage the extensive collection of community papers, books, specialty cloth items and so many more items donated to the museum. The name of the town, Rockne, immediately rang a bell.

I called Laura (Hellinger) Duckworth, who has been trained in our stained glass studio for over 14 years. Her Mom, Jane (Goertz) Hellinger had been born in Rockne! Laura called Marian and told her of this connection. The family ties are so important for this little Texas town. . . this could be a special memory "job" for Laura. Our studio had a large church restoration to complete and we had our hands full. Once we secured the job, the entire responsibility for the countless hours required to complete the windows was handed over to Laura.

The design was drawn after Marian picked the religious symbols and had the basic drawings approved by the RHA Board of Directors. She and her husband Charlie came to the studio to choose the dense opalescent glasses needed for this beautiful "filter". The glasses were cut in the spring of 2004 and Laura’s summer hours were spent hand painting the details of the Lamb of God, The Hand of God, a graceful Descending Dove, and the most beautiful painting of all of Holy Communion. The chalice would hold a faceted gold-pink jewel from Germany. In and out of the kiln each piece went to be fired until it was painted in the old-world method until it looked just like she wanted. More uncounted hours were spent bending the lead channeling around the glass pieces, soldering them together, then puttying and cleaning.

Finally, this afternoon as Laura handed her creations up to Bernard Probst, Rockne’s precision woodworker helping her atop the decks of scaffolding above the altar he had built, we all knew that her new window was going to filter the sunlight in the most beautiful way possible.

Making the day extra special, Laura’s Mom, Jane and her grandfather, Charles Goertz, still spry at 92, came to watch! Then those present including Marian, Minnie Bartsch, (museum curator), Jane, Laura, Bernard, and myself all scrambled up the scaffolding for a fun group photo that would become another museum memento added to the collection in this very special museum in a special little Texas town called Rockne. Go visit! Open every Saturday.