The gift of an angel: Artist surprises students with hand drawn likenesses

Berni Doll set her alarm for 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 20. But long before the alarm went off, she was already awake with excitement.

An "up close" look at one of the angels. This one is Isabella, who is also the artist's great-granddaughter.
An “up close” look at one of the angels. This one is Isabella, who is also the artist’s great-granddaughter.

She got herself ready and drove the few miles from her farm outside of Richmond to nearby Sts. Peter and Paul School, where she and her granddaughter Evalin Becker, 21, had decorated a bulletin board the night before.

What was so special about this bulletin board? Surrounding the word, “Rejoice,” were 79 hand-drawn angels — likenesses of each of the school’s 79 students — which Doll had spent the last few months tenderly crafting.

“I had to see their faces,” she said. “They were just in awe when they would see themselves or their friends on the bulletin board. It was so fun to see their faces. It was really fun to interact with them.”

Just before Thanksgiving, Doll took a road trip to North Carolina and Georgia. Many of the images were drawn along the way. Doll used the class pictures of each grade to create the portraits on a paper template of an angel.

A close-up of one of the angels.
A close-up of one of the angels.

Jaqueline Walz, the school’s principal, said Doll has contributed so much to the school through her artwork and calligraphy, which Doll has refined over the years, working as a sign painter and letterer as well as on more prominent projects like artwork for the Department of Natural Resources and Wildlife Forever. She recently added drawing building projects to her list of abilities, including an addition for the local bank.

“Berni is an angel,” Walz said. “She decorates our entrance bulletin board, she designs our Christmas program cover, she even painted a mural in our gym.

“I only found out later that she was afraid of heights and I had her on scaffolds,” Walz laughed.

Berni Doll and her granddaughter, Evalin Becker, decorated the bulletin board at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Richmond Dec. 19 as a surprise for the students. Doll created likenesses of each of the 79 students as angels.
Berni Doll and her granddaughter, Evalin Becker, decorated the bulletin board at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Richmond Dec. 19 as a surprise for the students. Doll created likenesses of each of the 79 students as angels.

This is the second time Doll has done the angel project. Jim Doll, Berni’s husband, attended the school as a child, as did their six children. When some of their grandchildren also became students, Berni first had the idea for the angel project.

This year, their great-granddaughter, Isabella, entered preschool, making this their family’s fourth generation to attend Sts. Peter and Paul. Berni decided it was once again time to draw the Christmas angels.

“It’s been my mission all these years to keep the school going,” Berni said. “I just want to give back and keep the spirit alive in the school.”

 

Author: Kristi Anderson

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