- Associated Press - Friday, August 14, 2015

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. - Preparations for Pope Francis’ visit to New York City in September have kept workers busy at an upstate New York business for more than three years.

The Keck Group’s church pew restoration plant expects to soon make its last delivery of pews and furnishings to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. The batch includes presider side chairs to seat the pope and Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the main altar.

Company founder Bob Koeck said 325 pews, or about 4,000 linear feet of oak, were sanded, mended and stained. The project began, fittingly, on St. Patrick’s Day 2012.

“The pews were installed in 1937, and they never left the cathedral,” Koeck said, “and you know how many people go there in a day. . We did a lot of work on them.”

More than a dozen workers, including Koeck’s son, Bob, a partner in the business, are divided into two shifts to handle that project and others coming from around the region and beyond. Fifteen specially equipped trailers are dispatched to remove the furnishings and deliver them to the company’s plant.

The cathedral project required 22 pickups and deliveries.

“We’re doing four cathedrals at the same time,” Koeck, 72, said in an upstairs office as sanders buzzed below. “St. Patrick’s, St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Chinatown, St. John the Baptist in Paterson, New Jersey, and St. Thomas Moore in Arlington, Virginia.”

The pine pews from St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral date to the 1800s and earlier.

“They must have had 20 coats of paint on them,” Koeck said, pointing to several pews in various stages of restoration.

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