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Published: Saturday, 10/16/2004

New look for an old church in S. Toledo

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
The Rev. Paul Kwiatkowski, pastor, said about $500,000 of the renovation costs came from the estate of Jerry Danford. The Rev. Paul Kwiatkowski, pastor, said about $500,000 of the renovation costs came from the estate of Jerry Danford.
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Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, the Norman Gothic structure built in Toledo's Old South End in 1892, was so run down a few years ago that it almost looked abandoned, the Rev. Paul Kwiatkowski said.

"It was so dark and black that people thought the parish was closed," Father Kwiatkowski said. "Now it's nice and pink and it's just a lovely building. We're celebrating all of that."

A concert by the Toledo Symphony will be held at 4 p.m. tomorrow to celebrate the resurrection of the church affectionately known as "Old Darby" because of its Irish heritage.

The pastor said nearly $1 million was invested in the renovation over the last five years, giving the church a new roof, thorough cleaning and restoration of stone walls and floors, and renovation of the 1928 Kilgen pipe organ.

The Kilgen organ was dedicated in a concert by Pietro A. Yon, the Italian organist and composer widely known for writing the hymn "Gesu Bambino."

Father Kwiatkowski said funding for the renovation came from several different sources, but the vast majority from the estate of Jerry Danford, who left Immaculate Conception about half a million dollars.

Mr. Danford, a TARTA bus driver and an organist for the Toledo Mud Hens, left about $2 million to two local parishes and four Catholic institutions after he died of congestive heart failure and lymphoma in August, 2003, at age 51.

While he wasn't a member of Immaculate Conception, Mr. Danford used to visit the parish and played the organ from time to time, the pastor said.

Father Kwiatkowski said another $10,000 for the organ restoration was raised by friends and family of Mary Lou Reilly, a parishioner who was murdered the day before Easter, 2002.

The church was designed by Edward O. Fallis, the renowned architect whose other local landmarks included the Valentine Theatre, the Mansion View Inn, the Madison Building, and the Williams County Courthouse.

The church's roof was destroyed in a 1920 fire but replaced with a design created by a Fallis successor, Joseph Huber.

The pastor said he is continuing to seek more funding for the church's renovation from Save America's Treasures, a Washington-based preservation group.

Father Kwiatkowski, 65, will be a participant in tomorrow's concert, conducting the Toledo Symphony in a performance of the Rossini overture, L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers).

The pastor is also an accomplished violinist and has been performing with the Perrysburg Symphony for 38 years.

The concert celebrating the restoration of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 434 Western Ave. at Broadway, featuring the Toledo Symphony conducted by Chelsea Tipton II, starts at 4 p.m. tomorrow. Admission is $10; $5 for children 12 and under.



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