Decades of practice pay off

By Kelly Black, Observer correspondent July 09, 2014 10:50 am

Martin Birnbaum wraps copper foil around a piece of glass in preparation for soldering at his home workshop in La Grande. (KELLY BLACK photo)
Martin Birnbaum wraps copper foil around a piece of glass in preparation for soldering at his home workshop in La Grande. (KELLY BLACK photo)
 

Local men have spent years working on perfecting the craft of building stained glass

Back in the 1970s, Monday nights found a group of men in the basement workshop of a local funeral home watching “Monday Night Football” with announcers Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford and working on stained glass.

Bob Sunderman of La Grande had developed an interest in glasswork in the late ’60s, while visiting the Hoyt Hotel in Portland. The hotel dining room was resplendent with large stained glass lampshades, Sunderman said.

“I loved the colors,” he said.

Sunderman started to cut glass in earnest. A few years later, a friend, Dale Decker, wanted to build a set of stained glass windows for his home. Sunderman traded glass lessons for help with a sheet-rock project.

Local interest in the hobby grew. A group was formed to work on projects. They met at what is now Loveland Chapel. Sunderman won a little TV, so the group watched football and cut glass.

Most of the group dispersed after finishing their glasswork projects, but Decker and Sunderman continued with stained glass projects every fall and winter for the next 20 years.

“We digressed into model airplanes for a while,” Sunderman said.

Meanwhile in the Willamette Valley, Martin Birnbaum had purchased all the equipment for stained glass work but lacked the expertise to get started.

“The grinder stayed in the box unopened,” Birnbaum said.

For the full story, see Wednesday's issue of The Observer