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Retired woodworker Bill Kennebeck has enjoyed making several coats of arms for local bishops

It’s ‘an honor and pleasure’ to do work for the Church, said Kennebeck

Bill Kennebeck, a retired woodworker, made the wood and metal of Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski's coat of arms that hangs over the cathedra at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston
After a long career with several woodworking companies, Bill Kennebeck earned his retirement about nine years ago. But when asked to make the coat of arms for Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, Kennebeck couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

Kennebeck most recently had worked for Classic Woodworking Inc., which for more than 40 years has designed woodworking projects for commercial and residential clients — everything from the United States Federal Reserve Bank to private homes. But among the highlights of Kennebeck’s portfolio have been works for the Catholic Church.

Kennebeck, a member of St. James the Greater Parish in Dogtown, served as the project manager for the coats of arms of several St. Louis bishops — Bishop Edward Braxton (who was an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis and later the bishop of Belleville, Ill.), Cardinal Raymond Burke, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and now Archbishop Rozanski.

“When the announcement was made, I thought, ‘OK, am I going to get a call for another one of these?’” Kennebeck said in jest. “Of course, I’m not going to say no. It’s always an honor to do this.”

Classic Woodworking made two copies of Archbishop Rozanski’s coat of arms. One measures 24 by 36 inches and is installed above the bishop’s chair, or cathedra, in the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. The other measures 20-and-a-half by 24 inches and is in the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral) Downtown.

The most labor-intensive part of the job is creating approximately 60 individual metal pieces that make up the actual coat of arms. Cutting the metal took about six weeks, with two techniques used depending on the type of metal. Many pieces were laser cut by a metal fabricator; brass and bronze pieces were created with a water jet cutter. Local artist Loretta Steimann was commissioned to paint the individual pieces, which were secured to a wooden plaque with more than 90 brass tacks.

Steimann needed something that would adhere well to metal, so with some guidance she selected an oil-based enamel, drying the pieces in her oven. “There was a little bit of lettering and outlining to do, but it wasn’t like there was a lot of artistic license” since the design of Archbishop Rozanski’s coat of arms already had been designed. “It all came together really well, and it was an honor and a pleasure to do it.”

A retired artist and dollmaker, Steimann, 86, said that while she is not Catholic, some of her relatives who are Catholic were excited that she got to work on the project. She’s done other work for the Church, including refreshing the Stations of the Cross at St. James the Greater Church in Dogtown. She also made a dress and cloak for a statue of the Infant of Prague at the church.

Classic Woodworking has done other projects in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, including the front reception desk at the Cardinal Rigali Center in Shrewsbury, and parishes including St. Richard in Creve Coeur, which underwent a renovation in 2008.

One of Classic Woodworking’s biggest claims to fame was working on several liturgical furnishings for Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis in January 1999. Those pieces includes the altar, ambo, candleholders and offertory table. The U.S. Secret Service was involved in the creation of the altar, and several other pieces, which were embedded with bulletproof steel for the pontiff’s protection.

From the Archive Module

Retired woodworker Bill Kennebeck has enjoyed making several coats of arms for local bishops 5648

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