Story by Reagan Scott
LINCOLN (SNR) - When Erich Broer was studying architecture at the University of Nebraska, he took a year and a half of sculpting and fell in love with it. However, Broer knew that he couldn’t support a family through sculpture, and spent his career running a commercial construction company with the help of his wife, Janet and other family members.
Broer retired two years ago and returned to sculpture, starting with repairs to a broken statue that he encountered during a retreat with the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre in Shelby.
The statue was one of Mary holding Jesus, but one of Jesus’s legs was broken. A few of the retreat attendees commented on how they wished someone could fix it, and Broer said that he would give it a try.
It took three or four trips to repair the statue, but Broer was able to complete the project. Since then, he has restored many statues for St. Louise Gift and Thrift Store in Lincoln.
Mark Main, the manager for St. Louise, is a member of Sacred Heart Parish with the Broers. When donors and businesses in town drop off broken statues at Catholic Social Services, Main calls Broer, who takes them home to repair them.
Main said, “When he fixes them up, they look almost new, and we’re able to sell them.”
Proceeds from St. Louise Gift and Thrift are used to support the work of Catholic Social Services.
Recently, Broer repaired a crucifix with a broken arm.
“[After Broer took it back] it was sold before the day was out,” Janet Broer said. “The statues that he repairs usually go out within one or two days.”
Main said that the crucifix, which sold for 250 dollars, was then donated to be displayed in the new library at North American Martyrs School in Lincoln.
Main said they appreciate the work that [Broer] does.
“He’s a champion. All of the money made at St. Louise goes to the poor.”
Broer said that the hardest part of the repair work that he does is matching new paint colors to the original ones, specifically skin tones. He doesn’t have an exact way of doing it; he just eyeballs the change in color as he mixes paint in old Chobani yogurt cups.
Having a statue with missing parts also presents challenges. Broer said that he has to look at the statue and ask himself, “How do I fix it?” Sometimes this means visiting shops to look at the details on statues, so he can get an idea of what they’re supposed to look like.
While he doesn’t have a set amount of time that he spends repairing statues, Broer said that it can be easy for him to get lost in his work.
“For me, there really is no favorite part,” Broer said. “I just really enjoy doing it.”
Main commented that Broer’s work, which he does without compensation, says a lot about him.
Main said, “Broer and his wife are very dedicated to Christ and have done numerous things to help us and his parish. They are a great example of Christ’s work.”