The Chicago Tribune: Places, Characters and Other Curiosities In The Midwest

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…