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Seeing the light | Kerr-azy | The bad boy is back | And with the save...

Seeing the light

Cynthia Timm Ward '80 has a colorful career. Indeed, this stained glass window repair artist has learned to let the light shine.

By Nancy Bartosek

Husband Richard '80 just calls her a pane in the glass.

Truth is, this upbeat mother of three liked his assessment so much she attached the loving insult to her now-thriving stained glass window business, an artistic venture the business major claims she initially had no interest getting into.

"My mother, sister and brother are all fine arts people, and I used to make fun of them," said a chuckling Ward at her North Richland Hills home, where all 58 windows illuminate treasured stained glass pieces. "In school I was all serious, pin-striped suit, Fortune 500, money, money, money."

Her successful post-TCU debut in sales was shattered by a complicated pregnancy. The summer of 1983 found her at the kitchen table mindlessly reading the newspaper cover to cover, her boredom halting at a tiny classified announcing the razing of an old Fort Worth church. She hustled to the sale only to sit for hours to buy two damaged antique windows, cheap.

Once Ward found someone willing to replace a few broken panes, she discovered the repair work cost more than the whole window. So she took lessons from the artist and launched her business.

Stained glass restoration is complicated and delicate work, and Ward -- who works from her home and a Burleson workshop -- is one of the few in the country willing to take on severely damaged pieces. Most arrive in terrible condition. On this day, an old church window lies like a dying patient in her workshop, the leading warped and broken, sections of glass shattered or missing. Ward figures it's in pretty good shape, comparatively.

Since early window artists usually painted intricate pictures on panes of clear glass, restoring that splendor includes finding similar glass shards and replicating century-old painting, firing and glazing techniques. Ward calls the process a scavenger hunt, saving every broken piece she comes across.

Ward estimates she has repaired more than 1,000 windows and designed and created some 300 of her own. She admits that she's never fully compensated financially for her efforts.

"Restoring the windows truly is a labor of love," she said. "I just can't stand to let some other artist's work go to waste."