Alumni Profile • Ruth Poppen Kamps ex'50
An artist's new calling: restoration of beauty

Ruth Poppen KampsSeveral years ago, Ruth Poppen Kamps ex'50 got burned out on oil paintings. The longtime artist had been a painter for 30 years and was interested in a new hobby.

Always the artist, Kamps had become enthralled with learning about stained glass.

Little did she know that her new "hobby" would later result in years of restoration work and a sense of fulfillment she had never imagined.

After learning the craft, Kamps opened her own shop in the Gallup , N.M. , area, even designing some pattern books of her own.

It was about this time that members of First Navajo Christian Reformed Church in Tohatchi , N.M. , saw the need to restore the stained-glass windows of their church.

The 100-year-old sanctuary is adorned with more than 35 beautiful windows - some as large as 8 feet tall - all in need of repair.

"The windows were made in France and shipped to Gallup ," Kamps said. "They were then taken by horse and cart to Tohatchi. They were obviously done by master craftsmen; the work is beautiful."

Kamps was asked to work on the restoration.

"I knew that the job was for someone way better than I am," she said. "I suggested a professional in Albuquerque ."

But the $35,000 estimate was prohibitive for the small church.

With some convincing from her husband, Roland Kamps '49 , she agreed to start the huge task.

"After I agreed to try it, I sat in the church and cried," she said. "It was such a huge job; I remember looking at the beautiful scenes and thinking, 'If I break Jesus' face, what are we going to do?'"

The work involves removing the windows and driving them to her home in Gallup, about 40 miles away. Each piece of glass must then be removed, cleaned and returned into the original form with new lead came soldered to hold the pieces in place. (In the originals, the lead has deteriorated so that the pieces of glass have begun to sag and crack.)

Roland is involved in transporting and rehanging the windows, as are other members of the church.

The Kamps have been working on the project for more than a year, with at least another year or more to go.

The windows, originally purchased for $6,000 and donated to the church by Grand Rapids businessman Percy Peck, are now worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"In our retirement, this is a marvelous thing to do," Ruth Kamps said. "It is so worthwhile, and it brings us closer to the Indian people who have also become involved in this project. The trust they have put in us is tremendous."