John Morey and Anne Hildebrand - a Bellingham brother and sister with fond 1940s memories of the old Campus School at Western Washington University - were enchanted when a special stained glass window replication was recently unveiled at a school reunion.
As the window's creator, 35-year-old Niki Hildebrand, said, "It really is quite a remarkable, circular story."
The seven-decade tale began when Morey designed a stained glass window for the Campus School as a fifth-grader in 1940.
They sat down to tell the tale when Niki visited Bellingham before attending a session at Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood.
Niki, who grew up in London and sells stained glass to international customers out of her studio in North Carolina, earned a bachelor's of fine arts from Rhode Island School of Design.
Anne is the widow of James Hildebrand II, whom many locals will remember as a longtime math teacher at Western. He was the father of James Hildebrand III, a Bellingham High School graduate who became a banker in London and reared daughter Niki there.
Question: John and Anne, what do you think of Niki's colorful replication of John's design?
John: Niki was very faithful to my original design, but she improved on it. It was a bit of a miracle to see it after such a lengthy interval. (His design became part of a Campus School reading room, which is still part of what later became Miller Hall.).
Anne: We were all thrilled to see it at the unveiling (May 17). We had 50 to 60 people attend. Former Campus School students are a very close group.
Q: John, how did you come to design a stained-glass window?
John: It was an assignment for our fifth-grade class. I was happy to be one of four students to have a design selected. (Alumni are raising money to re-create the other three windows.)
Niki and I talked about the design for the re-creation on one of her visits to Bellingham. She worked from a black-and-white photo, which was all we had.
Niki: John showed the talent that led him to a career as a mechanical engineer at Boeing. I talked with him about the meaning of his design. The telescope, planet Saturn and book on the window represent knowledge, and the birds and leaves represent nature.
Q: What happened to the original stained glass windows?
Anne: Nobody knows who created them or where they were taken. (The school closed in 1967.)
Niki: It really is an amazing story. I always loved art as a girl, winning contests, but I didn't become fascinated by stained glass until I attended an exhibition of furniture that used stain glass. I had thought I was interested in furniture design, but I realized it was stained glass I loved.
Q: Anne, why was Campus School special?
Anne: The school (which went through ninth grade in their day) was created so student-teachers would have a chance to learn on campus. But we had experienced, talented veteran teachers to oversee several student-teachers in each classroom. It was a wonderful school.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.