People MagazineHeaven Sent

— Joyce Berg’s angels salvage a doomed Wisconsin church Joyce Berg didn’t mind when the occasional tourist dropped by her Beloit, Wis., home to see her angel collection. But when a bus-tour company phoned four years ago, she know she had a problem. “

That pushed us over the edge,” says the 67-year-old grandmother. Clearly her cherubs (figurines, music boxes, even an angel smoke alarm), which number more then 12,000 and inhabited every corner of her four-bedroom ranch style house, needed a larger, more public place to spread their wing.

Miraculously, only months later, Berg heard about a movement to save the local St. Paul’s Catholic Church from the wrecker’s ball. Convinced her obsession “was all part of a larger plan,” Berg offered to lend her collection to the church to establish a tourist attraction. Now, with 6,000 of her flock – plus 570 donated by Oprah Winfrey, who received hundreds last year after wondering on air if there were angel dolls of color – St. Paul’s has been reborn as the Angel Museum.

Although her collection is a full time fixation (her license plate reads (N ANGEL), Berg insists it’s a purely secular endeavor, a hobby she and her husband of 43 years, Lowell, a retired 69-year-old grain-elevator operator, started in 1976 while traveling. “It has meaning for us because we did it together,” she says. But 12,037 angels? “One was enough teases Lowell.

“But it kept her out of the taverns.” [pic caption 1] I come here every few days to check on them and make sure they’re happy. ” says Berg (at the museum) of her angels. [pic caption 2] St. Paul’s faced demolition after the local diocese decided it couldn’t afford to staff it.

Newsweek Feature Article In the company of 10,455 artifacts, she is beatific. “They give you a good feeling.” ~ Joyce Berg, collector

Not alone:

It may be kitsch, but there’s more to the current angel obsession than the Hallmarking of America.

Like the search for extraterrestrials, the belief in angels implies that we are not alone in the universe – that someone up there likes me. “It’s a New Age answer to the homelessness of secularity,” says theologian Ted Peters, of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Calif. “Most people think of angels as benign, pleasant and helping,” observes University of Wisconsin psychiatrist Richard Thurrell. “And it’s nice to have comfort in a cruel world.”

Much of the new angelology is lifted from Roman Catholic sources – though without much regard for church traditions. “Angels represent God’s personal care for each one of us,” says Father Andrew Greeley, the sociologist-novelist. But all too often these days, it is the angels – not the Lord – who get all the credit.

To some extent the church itself is to blame. Although the invocation of angels continues in some churches – especially in the vibrant Orthodox liturgies, where the faithful join the heavenly host in singing Lord’s praises – their existence is rarely remarked.

Children’s prayers to their guardian angels, like other popular Catholic devotions, have declined since Vatican Council II. Among many otherwise upright believers, angels have become optional accessories, articles of hope but not quite faith. “When I die,” says Lawrence S. Cunningham, chairman of the University of Notre Dames’s theology department, “I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t meet any angels.”

The Globe Newspaper: A Heavenly View

What A Heavenly View

Collector Joyce Berg may not have an angel on her shoulder, but she’s made sure every nook and cranny of her home is filled with the cherubic charmers.

Joyce and her husband Lowell, of Beloit, Wis., have collected 8,366 heavenly hosts and hostesses since they started “picking up souvenirs” on car trips in 1976. Adjusting her tinsel halo and Velcro wings, Joyce can joyfully go through the litany of each one. Says Joyce: “Whenever we come across a new angel, I carefully catalog where we bought it, when, what we paid, whether the clerk was bald – you know, all the important stuff.”

Antique Trader Collector - Divine Collections

Divine Collections

What do people collect? There are many popular angel knick-knacks, mementos and products that people collect such as figurines and miniatures, jewelry, statuary and greeting cards, T-shirts and sweatshirts, books, and different items for the home. Many collectors put together amazing displays on shelves, walls or tables. Others enjoy creating collages with prints and cards.

A Collection By Chance – “It’s fascinating because it didn’t start out as a collection – it happened by accident,” says Joyce Berg. She and her husband, Lowell, noticed angels in the window of an antique store at the mall, and ended up buying limited edition Italian bisque porcelain angel, which they refer to as “two cherubs on a seesaw,” and a German porcelain angel.

This was 1976, and things have snowballed since then, with 10,970 different angels now in their possession. Joyce insists that if her husband hadn’t been interested in collecting angels, there wouldn’t be nearly as many angels in their home. Their angel-hunting continued year after year to make their collection what it is today.

They attend flea markets, antique malls, auctions, and house sales. Each new purchase is catalogued, but they only count the figurines, ornaments and other similar pieces. Not included are books, towels, table cloths, scrapbooks, napkins, and soaps, to name a few. Joyce’s response to why she is so drawn to angels is that they are “so sweet and darling that they can’t help but make you feel good.”

The Bergs have often come across angels for their collection in unexpected places. One time, they made a wrong turn while traveling in Walsenberg, Colorado, and happened to see the Fallen Angel Antique Shop.

She loves them so much she even dresses like one!

Chris Rodell — The National Inquirer

The National Inquirer: Heavens above! Grandma's living with 10,455 angels!When it comes to collecting angels, Joyce Berg has really earned her wings. She has a heavenly 10,455 figures of angels in her home! “Joyce has the biggest collection in America,” according to Mary E. Mathews, cofounder of the 1,000-plus-member Angel Collectors Club of America. “It’s beautiful — no one even comes close!”

The 62-year-old Beloit Wis., grandmother loves angels so much, she sometimes transforms herself into one. “Whenever I have anyone over to see the collection, I put on my angel outfit with the wings and halo and take them around the house — the angels are in every single room!” she revealed. Joyce began her collection in the mid-1970s on a whim, and it’s steadily snowballed since then. Now it’s worth more then $90,000. “

They’ve taken over our whole home — a ranch house with four bedrooms. And one of my children’s old rooms is now ‘the angel room.’ “It’s just filled with angels — we even have some hanging from the ceiling. “I suppose we have every conceivable sort of angel in the collection. We have angel soups, towels, salt and pepper shakers, lamps, bookends, cookie cutters, dolls — you name it. “We have angels from all over the world.”

One of her favorites is an angel with a horn of plenty, which was made in Dresden, Germany, in the mid-1800s. It cost $525.

She said her husband Lowell doesn’t mind the cherub-filled household a bit. “He’s very supportive.” Her collection is so highly regarded among angel collectors that they flock to her house from all over the country. “I open it up to tours maybe four weeks out of the year,” she said. “Everyone loves angels.

You walk into the room and see faces that are so sweet, it just makes you feel so wonderful!” “People often tell me, ‘Joyce, I saw an angel and thought of you’ — which is a very nice way to be thought of!”

Museum idea may be blessing for old church

By Kathleen Ostrander – Sentinel correspondent, Dec-1994The Milwaukee Sentinal: Guardian Angels

Beloit – Angels brought an early Christmas present to a group of Beloit residents trying to save a historic Catholic church from demolition. St. Paul’s Church on Riverside Drive was built in 1914 and recognized in April as one of the city’s historic landmarks. The building is slated for demolition, but some residents have proposed using it to house a one-of-a-kind museum for an internationally recognized collection of angels and angel memorabilia owned by Joyce and Lowell Berg of Beloit.

The Beloit City Council Monday unanimously backed an initial feasibility study for the museum. “We were just absolutely thrilled,” Barbara Pellegrini, a member of the four-person citizen feasibility study team, said Tuesday. “We were surprised because we thought we wouldn’t hear anything for another 30 days — until the council’s next meeting. This truly was a wonderful Christmas present.”

The feasibility study was the first step in establishing the museum. A site study committee will be appointed to determine the exact cost of the museum, which has been estimated as $286,00. The committee also will look for funding sources, including grants, Pellegrini said. She said she already has received call from people wanting to volunteer their labor, which will cut the original cost estimates, as well as calls from people volunteering landscaping and marketing skills. “We are really excited about this.

I have to say, ever since the diocese closed the church, we’ve been hoping to find something to do with it,” said Patricia Casucci, another member of the feasibility study team. The diocese closed the church in 1988. St. Paul’s was established by the Catholic Diocese in 1913 to serve the needs of Italian-speaking immigrants in the city, but the historic building is in the middle of a planned park by Beloit 2000. Beloit 2000, a public-private development group, bought the church and wented it torn down to make was for Heritage Park on the river. Citizens circulated petitions and won a temporary reprieve. Theyh were asking to develop a profitable option for the building that would fit into the Beloit 2000 development plan.

The Bergs suggested the church would be the logical place to display their renowned angel collection and create the world’s first angel museum. The collection had been featured in national and international publication and contains 10,928 artifacts. Casucci and other study team members researched other museums, the potential tourist draw of the proposed angel museum, whether or not the museum fit into the Heritage Park theme and estimated costs. “I like history, and I like to save lovely old buildings.

I feel this museum idea will really boost tourism, and it is so near the downtown it would be logical people would be going there and it would boost business there,” Casucci said. Beloit City Manager Daniel T. Kelley said he thought the feasibility team put together a very comprehensive, professional study of the idea.

Featured Tempo Road Trip

Another in our summer-long series of stories on places, characters and other curiosities in the Midwest. By Patrice M. Jones – Tribune staff reporter The Chicago Tribune - Tempo Road Trips

Beloit Wis. – Joyce Berg likes to say the angels saved the old St. Paul’s Catholic Church building from demolition. Well, in fact, they did. At least indirectly. The church closed in 1988, and the building changed hands a couple of times before former parishioners got wind of a redevelopment plan that meant tearing down St. Paul’s Meanwhile, Berg, a longtime local resident, was looking for a way to establish a museum to house her massive collection of angel figurines. the church, she thought, would be perfect.

The church closed in 1988, and the building changed hands a couple of times before former parishioners got wind of a redevelopment plan that meant tearing down St. Paul’s Meanwhile, Berg, a longtime local resident, was looking for a way to establish a museum to house her massive collection of angel figurines. the church, she thought, would be perfect.

Today, the Angel Museum, which espouses no religious ideology, includes more than 12,000 angels of all shapes and sizes, most of them displayed under the former church’s impressive stained-glass windows. Berg, still a passionate collector, is a 75-year-old grandmother with cheeks as round as ripe peaches. She seems to have a story that accompanies every angel picked up in 30 years of road trips and vacations with her late husband, Lowell. To say she enjoys her longtime hobby is an understatement: Berg has been known to wear feathery angel wings, her white halo, angel earrings and a choir-type white gown when special visitors drop by the museum.

She says more than a few times that she is just an ordinary woman with an unusual calling. “I don’t want to make myself out to be a saint or something,” says the former elementary school teacher with a little giggle, smoothing her robe. “I just love my angels. They make me  feel good.” The angels – linked to dozens of countries and fashioned in almost every material imaginable – had pretty much taken over the Bergs’ home, lining the walls, hanging from the ceiling. The couple had even taken out windows and doorways to display them.

Word got around that the Bergs would occasionally let visitors in to see the collection, but when a tour operator called one day asking to bring a busload of folks by the couple decided they needed to find a better home for their little charges. Lo and behold, St. Paul’s was set for demolition. The Bergs quickly got together with former parishioners and other…

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