A young Don Campbell admires the beautiful, bright colors of a large stained-glass window as he helps his parents rescue the piece of history from the First Congregational Church in Great Bend in the early 1960s, only days before the church was set to be demolished. Little did he know then how significant his actions were, or how closely his path would be tied to the window’s.
It stayed in his family for more than 50 years, and was even displayed in his own home in Illinois for some time. Only recently did long-term preservation of the window become a serious consideration, and it was a series of coincidences that led to the window returning to Great Bend to be displayed in the Shafer Art Gallery at Barton Community College. The beautifully restored window is just down the hall from five of its counterparts, all of which were restored and put on display in the Dorothy Moses Morrison Chapel. It will be available for public viewing for the first time at the Shafer Art Gallery reception set for 1-3 p.m. Sunday. It will be displayed along with the annual National Quilt Museum exhibit.
The connection made between this window and the others in the chapel was in large part thanks to Nancy Selby, curator at the Deines Cultural Art Center in Russell. While touring Barton’s campus, she saw the windows on display and recalled seeing Campbell’s window.
A few phone calls later, Campbell and Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Darnell Holopirek worked out the details to have the window put in the care of the Barton Community College Foundation through the Shafer Art Gallery.
“It’s a love story, in a sense,” Holopirek said excitedly. “All these windows went in different directions. This one ended up in Illinois, but now it has returned to Great Bend where we can preserve it, and it will be here forever for the public to enjoy.”
Holopirek said the college is appreciative of the donation, which is being considered a gift from Campbell and Selby in memory of Campbell’s parents, Donald D. and Edaree Darr Campbell, both formerly of Great Bend.
“I think it’s very kind of him,” she said. “The first time we contacted him, he was instantly willing to do whatever he could. It’s a neat way to honor his parents and he knows it will always be taken care of and protected.”
Campbell said he’s equally appreciative of the college’s hospitality and willingness to work with him on restoring and maintaining the artifact.
“I think this is the absolute nicest way this window could be preserved,” he said. “I couldn’t think of a better place for it to be than among the other windows in the Chapel. Now it’s among its brethren, so to speak, coming out of that church so long ago.”
In Memory of Fredrick Diffenbacher, F. Calvin, Marriett R.
The inscription on the bottom of the window indicates it was originally put in place “In Memory of Fredrick Diffenbacher, F. Calvin, Marriett R.” Justin Engleman, who did much of the research for the other windows in the Chapel during his tenure as the director of the Shafer Art Gallery, provided the following information about the individuals in the inscription:
“Calvin Follmer Diffenbacher was born April 5, 1835, in Pennsylvania and came to Great Bend in 1873, one year after the town was formed. His wife and children followed him one year later. He was a legal partner with G. W. Nimocks and also D. A. Banta until 1896. He was elected mayor of Great Bend in 1876 and to the board of education in 1889 and served two terms. He also held the office of county attorney, was a delegate to the convention that named William Jennings Bryan the first time for the presidency. Mr. Diffenbacher died March 20, 1907. He married Harriet Amelia Smith (Jan. 18, 1841 to May 18, 1909) Sept. 1, 1859, at Arenzville, Ill.; they were the parents of seven children. Their son, Calvin Frederick Diffenbacher was born Feb. 25, 1873, in Illinois and died of malignant typhoid Aug. 11, 1890, in Great Bend. He was laid to rest in the Great Bend Cemetery where his parents were both later buried.”