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Great-grandfathers art makes him a cut-up at 81

Forest Grove's Jerry Rauscher has created over 150 stained glass pieces over the last 22 years, and he aims to keep on going
by: photo by Chase Allgood,

When Jerry Rauscher retired from the sales department at Franz Bakery in Portland in 1984, he needed a hobby.

Cutting the grass and tending the plants surrounding his Forest Grove home would only take up so much of his time - and Rauscher wasn't ready to sit around.

Diving into the intricate and colorful world of stained glass has been his cutting-edge answer.

'It's relaxing - it's no pressure for me,' said Rauscher, 81, tinkering with a red, white and blue stained glass replica of the British flag in his back yard studio, a surprise gift for some friends.

'I'll keep doing it as long as I can stand up.'

Always interested in the medium, Rauscher took a couple classes in stained glass at Valley Art in the late 1980s and fell in love.

He took his first classes from Forest Grove resident Sandra St. Johns, a master artist Rauscher credits for cementing his interest in the art form.

Rauscher tried one method, called lead came before settling on copper foil as his preferred process for linking the glassy puzzle pieces together.

'I could do more intricate patterns than before, so I like this system better,' Rauscher explained, pointing to a 20-by-27-inch piece depicting ribbons and flowers. 'With clear glass, I use silver-backed foil with a black patina.'

Each creation, large or small, takes a great deal of dedication and perseverance to put together. Using a knife to score the glass and pliers to break it, Rauscher fashions just the right size and shape to make every petal of a red rose look like the real thing.

He wraps each glass sliver in sticky-backed foil, then heads over to the table saw he uses as a workspace for nudging all the pieces together.

'You need lots of good light,' Rauscher pointed out.

Rauscher typically puts his hobby on hold when he and his wife, Pat, spend winters in Coolidge, Ariz., just south of Mesa.

But there was a time or two when he couldn't resist his artist's urge to make something beautiful, even while the couple was away from their house on 15th Place, where they've lived since 1955.

'It's just so rewarding,' said Rauscher, who displays a number of his pieces in Valley Art's downtown gallery. 'I've made pieces for each of our children, and quite a few friends.'

The Rauschers' four children and their families are scattered between San Francisco and Seattle. They also have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Jerry and Pat, who met at Pacific University in the 1940s, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary June 2. They've traveled widely, but never considered making anywhere else their permanent home.

'We've really enjoyed our life here,' noted Jerry, who sings bass with the Westside Singers, formerly the Forest Grove Gleemen.

Pat Rauscher taught kindergarten at Joseph Gale Elementary School for 13 years, later becoming a school librarian. She retired in 1987 and spends some of her leisure time doing crosstitch.

There have been many special orders over the years. Stained glass creations by Jerry Rauscher hang in living rooms and near the front doors of homes from Cornelius to Puget Sound, Wash.

He loves to come up with his own designs for pieces featuring birds, flowers, boats, lighthouses and ocean scenes.

'I sell quite a few pieces in the gallery and I've taken a few commissions,' Rauscher said. 'But I don't go out aggressively because I don't have the time.'

Over the years Rauscher has finished between 150 and 200 pieces of all sizes, from 8-by-12 up to 40-by-55. Many take weeks to build.

There are mistakes and some instant successes, but Rauscher takes it all in stride.

'The glass doesn't always break the way you want it to, and it's a challenge to grind the edges,' he noted. 'I have to practice patience.'

He's very proud of a piece he made for his son's Seattle living room, a graceful combination of diamond shapes and diagonal strips in a Frank Lloyd Wright style.

'That one was very time consuming, but it was satisfying,' Rauscher said of the piece. 'My kids are amazed I can do this,' he added with a laugh.

Cline Glass in Portland supplies the raw materials for Rauscher's art in brilliant blues, reds, greens and yellows. He juxtaposes the colored glass with etched clear glass to make attractive designs that cover a variety of moods.

From single roses in water-filled bud vases to the teddy bear that playfully decorates his kitchen window at home, Rauscher is grateful for the chance to express himself in glass.

'The big secret to making a beautiful piece is to choose the right colors,' Rauscher said. 'It's a real knack to get it right.'