On June 11, Westby Coon Prairie Lutheran Church Pastor Dan Wollman welcomed into the Lord’s family, Sidney Grace Fencl, daughter of Matt and Stephanie Fencl of Westby. The congregation was excited and intrigued when he shared that Sidney was wearing the 100 year-old baptismal gown that throughout the past century had also been worn by several of Sidney’s relatives, including her father, grandmother, uncles, and many other extended family members.
A picture of the dress, lovingly made by Sidney’s great-great-great grandmother, Annette Lunde, was featured with its accompanying story in an April 30, 1992, Westby Times article written by Maggie Gulsvig.
Gulsvig wrrote that the dress had then been worn by a total of 46 infants during baptism. Since then 23 additional family members havie shared the honor, with Sidney claiming number 69. The dress was “made of the finest embroidered batiste, the skirt has rows of tiny tucks in between a tatted inset. A three-inch band of tatting at the bottom of the dress has picots which gives a delicate scallop. A slip, also of batiste, has the same tucking but the wide band of lace at the bottom is crocheted.
According to Gulsvig, the dress was first created in 1917 for Roy Rude. At that time the dress was guarded by Sidney’s great-grandmother Inez Leum, whose mother Hilma Rude and grandmother Annette Lunde created the dress for Roy, who first wore the dress at his baptism in Westby Country Coon Prairie Church.
Today the dress is safely tucked away at the home of Sidney’s grandparents, Marla and Mike Fencl of Coon Valley. The History Alive Project, Inc. crew (Dave and Ruth Amundson) spent a few hours with the family in June interviewing people for this story. The Amundson’s quickly learned that Sidney, born on April 3, indeed has noticeable red tints in her hair like many of her family members and this little girl will be loved more than ever.