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Stitching together a 100-year-old tradition

Charlotte Marjorie Sadar of Lake Oswego will become the 19th baby christened in a gown handed down from generation to generation

REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Charlotte Marjorie Sadar will become the 19th baby in her familys history to be christened in a gown that has been kept in pristine condition for a century.Charlotte Marjorie Sadar doesn’t know it yet, but she’s about to make history.

When the infant daughter of Scott and Charity Sadar is christened Sunday at Holy Family Catholic Church in Portland, she’ll be the 19th member of her family to wear a handmade white gown that was first used 100 years ago.

“We are incredibly proud to be part of this tradition,” says Scott, who lives with his wife and daughter in Lake Oswego. “It is quite an honor. One hundred years. I have to thank my grandmother for this.”

Julia Bencelic Zivko fashioned the gown in 1915 from fabric and lace she had brought with her when she emigrated to the U.S. from Croatia. She settled in Cleveland, married Frank Sadar and added a pink ribbon to the dress for the christening of her first daughter, whom she named Julia.

REVIEW PHOTO: CLIFF NEWELL - Scott Sadar and his wife, Charity, will have a most joyful day on Sunday when baby Charlotte will be baptized in the familys 100-year-old christening gown.Young Julia lived to see 16 more babies wear the gown, including her sister, Amelia; her own two children, James and Theodore; and in 1977, Theodore’s first-born son, Scott — whose daughter now will carry on the tradition Sunday.

“To be part of something like this,” Charity Sadar says, “is just so amazing and incredible.”

Charity’s mother, Judy Smith of Lake Oswego, agrees.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Smith says. “I wish my family had a dress like this.”

Charlotte’s other grandmother, Sandy Sadar of Ohio, is now the keeper of the delicately embroidered gown. Julia Sadar, the first to be christened in the family heirloom, passed away in 2008 at the age of 93, and the gown was found stored in her attic.

In the box, Julia Sadar left a note telling how much the gown meant to her and expressing how grateful she was that it had been passed down from generation to generation.

“It is such an honor to have our grandchildren baptized in it now,” Sandy Sadar says.

At the end of the 20th century, there was a long baby gap in the Sadar family. But Charlotte’s cousin Mason became the 18th family member to wear the gown when he was christened in 2014, and now Charlotte — who was born May 5 — will celebrate not only her own baptism but also the gown’s 100th anniversary on Sunday.

How does such a little dress last such a long time?

In between baptisms, the gown is wrapped in unbleached muslin and stored in an acid-free parchment dress box.

Over the years, Julia Sadar would launder the dress by hand, using Ivory Snow Flakes and rinsing it three times. And as Sandy Sadar says, “Never any starch!” The gown was placed on a towel to be air dried, a process that took several days. Finally, it would be pressed, and it has been taken out only for special occasions, with a blue satin ribbon added for boys and a pink ribbon for girls.

Sandy Sadar says she was nervous about washing the gown, but that she found a vintage soak for antique lace. “I am honored to carry on this family tradition,” she says.

Certainly, the gown has been treated with great care. It is put on and taken off as quickly as possible. But babies will be babies.

“There’s always a chance for a baby blowout,” Charity notes.

When the worst cannot be avoided, action is taken so fast that no stains are allowed to settle, and the christening gown will be as pristine as ever for Charlotte’s christening on Sunday.

It will be the kind of day a family gets to celebrate only once every century.

“We will all be present when Charlotte is baptized,” Sandy Sadar says. “My husband Ted, son Scott, daughters Julie and Jennifer will be present, as well as our grandson Mason. They all wore the gown! It’s pretty amazing that the gown is so pure and white after 100 years.”

Hopefully, the Sadars say, it will last another 100 years.

“It is definitely a family treasure,” Sandy Sadar says. “It’s an heirloom we hope to continue in our family for many years to come. It just warms my heart.”

Contact Cliff Newell at 503-636-1281 ext. 105 or cnewell@lakeoswegoreview.com.