Watertown Daily Times - 9/27/2013
Clear view of city
Retired ophthalmologist gives church new ‘glasses’
By Samantha Christian
The tallest building in Watertown now has a clearer view of the city thanks to retired ophthalmologist Dr. Ed Hoy.
Hoy recently fitted St. Bernard’s Catholic Church with a pair of new stained glass windows.
His generous donation stemmed from a desire to give back to the church he has been a member of since he moved to Watertown in 1981 to start his practice.
While the copper roof, clock faces and crosses were the focal points of St. Bernard’s lofty Aspire Campaign in 2011, Hoy felt the exterior renovation would not be visually complete if the church’s two highest windows were forgotten.
These windows, which overlook East Main Street at the front of the church below the bell louver, had previously only been patched up with opaque glass.
“It bothered me that two windows were blank, and I thought, nobody will ever notice them,” said Hoy.
Unlike the translucence of stained glass, light was not able to emanate through the opaque windows which gave them a cloudy appearance — similar to the effect a cataract has on the lens of an eye.
A new prescription was in order.
After retiring from the practice last June, Hoy decided to make it his winter project to replace the windows by replicating the design and colors of the choir loft stained glass windows.
“It was just something I had to do,” said Hoy.
Already accustomed to examining the smallest of details in his former profession, Hoy’s knack for technical precision was put to use once again — this time on a larger scale.
“He painstakingly photographed the stained glass windows to try to match them with new ones,” said Tom Gates, building and grounds supervisor for St. Bernard’s.
Hoy sent the photos to his sister Marita Fenley, who works at their father’s company Ed Hoy’s International. Located near Chicago, it is the largest wholesale art glass distributor in North America.
“They have over a million square feet of glass there,” said Hoy, so he knew he was bound to find the right match.
In fact, when Hoy first sent his sister a cellphone picture of the original stained glass window, she immediately recognized the particular style.
She sent him samples of the two colors represented in the stained glass — red and green — and upon comparison he determined they were a perfect match.
Once ordered, Hoy drove to Naperville to pick up the glass and then set up shop at his home. He organized, measured and cut the glass using a pattern in order to replicate the original design.
“I went off a template to make sure everything was the right size,” he said, estimating he cut about 150 pieces for each window.
Hoy also custom cut the channeling, or lead came, that he then soldered to join the pieces of stained glass. The outside of the glass, however, is made of zinc to act as a frame for the window so it does not bend.
At the time of completion, the windows measured approximately 8 feet tall by 3 feet wide. Although a person could manage to lift one at a time, their size and fragility made the windows difficult to move without the risk of bending and breaking.
Hoy decided to err on the side of caution and built cases for them so the glass would not be disturbed while being transported.
Unfortunately the cases made them twice as heavy, so trying to climb up a series of stairs and ladders with them did not seem like the best route to get inside the steeple.
Instead, the cases were lifted into the belfry, winched and taken straight up the center to be installed and secured from the inside, said Hoy.
He recalled how nerve-wracking it was to see the windows hoisted 50 feet in the air dangling by a chain.
“If they fell, there went my winter,” he joked.
Once the stained glass windows were in place, they just needed to be clamped into the existing wooden frames.
Located on the interior side of the windows are small plaques in honor of Hoy’s parents, Dorothy and the late Ed Hoy, and his wife Jan’s parents, George and the late Dolores Livanec.
While Hoy has completed other glass projects before, such as lamps and a small window arching over his porch door, none have been this involved.
“I started this project the first of the year and did it a week or so at a time, but it was in limbo while I was trying to get the outer protective coating ordered,” he said.
This poylcarbonate sheeting is meant to protect the stained glass from the elements outside.
Although the stained glass windows were installed in May, their beauty could not be appreciated until Wednesday when the outside opaque glass was replaced.
“It’s clear Lexan and won’t yellow (over time), so the (stained glass) will be viewable to everyone,” said Gates.
With the unexpected addition of two new stained glass windows, the exterior of St. Bernard’s and phase one of the Aspire Campaign has essentially been completed.
“He didn’t do it for recognition. He just felt like it needed to be done,” said Gates of Hoy’s donation to the church.
St. Bernard’s has surpassed its goal of $1.7 million in pledges and is beginning to plan for the second phase of the project with a focus on the interior of the church.
Gates explained that a committee has been formed to talk with various vendors about repainting the interior of the whole church according to a five-color scheme. Scaffolding will be erected inside the church in order to paint and repair any damage to the plaster.
Although a time frame has not yet been established for the project, Gates hopes the project can begin next year.
More than just an ambitious fundraising effort, the Aspire Campaign has also been a community building project for St. Bernard’s that exemplifies its slogan “Repair, Restore, Rejoice.”
The church has been a landmark in Watertown since it was first constructed in 1873. The steeple, which is 193 feet in height, can be seen for miles and miles around Watertown and it has been one of the city’s most identifiable structures since that time.