NORFOLK, Neb. — "The Woman at the Well" is back at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Norfolk.
The 18-foot stained-glass depiction of the story in John 4 had been absent since shortly after Christmas. That's when it was removed by Kenny and Kristi Kruse, a rural Hartington couple who exchanged their lives as dairy farmers to become stained-glass specialists.
The couple own Kruse Stained Glass, a business they began 19 years ago when a specialist hired to complete a restoration project for the stained-glass windows at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Bow Valley was unable to complete the job.
Kristi Kruse said her husband — who had done small stained-glass projects for some cabinetry work — expressed his belief that they could handle it, so they began further honing their skills. Kruse even found a china painter who taught her how to paint on glass.
Other projects began coming their way. The couple enjoyed the work so much and the demand for their work kept them so busy that they eventually decided to give up their dairy.
"We used to be dairy farmers," Kruse told the Norfolk Daily News. "We milked and did stained glass, but something had to go."
Kruse estimates that about 80 percent of their work is restoration of old stained glass like the project at St. Paul's. Although they have done some transom windows for residences, the majority of the Kruses' work is done for churches.
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They've gone as far south as Lincoln and as far north as the South Dakota/North Dakota border with their skills. The Kruses were also responsible for making the stained-glass windows for the reconstructed St. John's Lutheran Church in Pilger after the original structure was destroyed by a tornado in 2014.
"It's a full-time business for all of us," Kruse said, adding that her son, Jason, and daughter, Candace Burbach, are also involved in the endeavor.
The project at St. Paul's in Norfolk has been underway since last July, shortly after the church's 150th anniversary celebration wrapped up.
"We took this one out right after Christmas," Kruse said in reference to the large window.
The window is split up into several sections; the four main sections are each about 7 feet tall. Each section is divided with smaller frames. When the window was removed, each piece was labeled so it would be returned to its original spot.
Kruse said they hope to have the project wrapped up by Easter, but there are never any guarantees because each job has the potential for complications to arise.
"You never know what you're going to run into," Kruse said.
Still, the Kruses find reward in the work they're doing, especially when a someone sees their loved one's name memorialized in a church window.
"With the new windows, you're putting something in that you know will be there for another hundred years hopefully," she said. "With the restorations, we like taking the old and making it look new again."