- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Manhattan residents Joe and Patricia Beaudet were devout Catholics who spoke often in their later years of building a miniature church - one with painstaking detail that reflected the faith they shared with each other through nearly 61 years of marriage.

“They had planned this for many, many years,” said their son, Ernie Beaudet, 62, president and chief executive officer of Heritage Bank in Topeka. “When they traveled, they’d pick up different things that they wanted to put in the church.”

Many of the items the couple collected were put away for that special project they talked about for nearly 20 years. But the project never quite got off the ground, The Topeka Capital-Journal (https://bit.ly/1iDkWdt ) reports.

That changed shortly after Patricia died at age 83 in October 2011. Joe, who was 89 at the time, finally got busy on the church.

A daughter came to visit him around Thanksgiving in November 2011, and the pair went to the Menard’s store in Manhattan, where they picked up a piece of birchwood that would be the genesis of the project.

From there, Joe was focused on working on the church. And he involved a number of his children and others to help him.

“If you came to visit him,” Ernie said, “you were going to be working on the church.”

Joe was a “perfectionist,” Ernie said with a laugh - and didn’t want to deal with anyone who didn’t share his vision of making a replica of a Catholic church.

For about two straight years, Joe worked on the church in his basement. Not an easy task, mind you, as Joe suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - otherwise known as COPD - which made it hard for him to go up and down the steps.

But Joe was on a mission - and now, more than ever, making the church became a priority, as a way to honor his beloved wife, of whom he was fond of saying “She was always a lady.”

He put his many years of doing detail work at Manhattan Monuments - a company he owned - to work as he made tiny pews engraved with crosses on their ends, a choir loft, a stand for holy water and a large steeple with a cross on top.

A portion of the roof can be removed to show the interior of the church from above. And a wall on the church’s left side also can be removed to give a close-up view of the pews and other features of the sanctuary.

The church, which sports a white exterior and dark gray roof, is an attention-getter from 50 feet away, as it stands about 6 feet tall from its base to the top of the steeple. It also is about 3 feet wide and about 6 feet long.

“It’s built to scale,” Ernie said. “It’s got many of the things you’d find in a Catholic church.”

About a year ago, Joe was nearing completion on the church - but he also was nearing the end of his life. And he sensed it, Ernie said.

” Wherever I’m at on the church when I die, I know you guys will finish it,’ ” Ernie recalled his father saying on several occasions. “I’m not sure that he believed he would finish it.”

Joe died at age 91 on Dec. 13, 2014. The church was nearly complete. All that was left were a few of the finishing touches.

Just as Joe knew they would, his children did, indeed, finish the church, which stands today on a small cart in the lobby of the Heritage Bank at 3024 S.W. Wanamaker Road. Ernie said people are welcome to come and see it as long as it is in the bank.

Ernie said he didn’t know how long that would be, but did say the church then would go to one of Joe and Patricia’s children.

Joe’s children believe their father was determined to work on the church and not to give up, in large part because he wanted to honor his late wife. The church’s name, St. Patricia’s Catholic Church, reflects his devotion to his wife.

“He may not have felt good enough to do something else,” said daughter Maureen Beaudet, 64, of Overland Park. “But he always felt good enough to do something on the church.”

___

Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com


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