A chance meeting between two strangers sparked a search for the origin of a mysterious stained glass window.
While sharing a table this spring at Nippy's Fish Restaurant in Beaufort, Lamar Kilgore of Pennsylvania and Joe Roney of Dataw Island found that they had something else in common: A love of history.
Kilgore related the story of his search for the history of a stained-glass window purchased at a Beaufort antiques store. Kilgore's goddaughter bought the window 15 years ago as a birthday gift, but she had no background information on it.
The unusual design, triangular shape and measurements -- a bottom edge of 58 inches, and more than 50 inches from the base to the arch point -- would seem to make it simple to locate its beginnings.
"It is completely atypical of windows in a church," Kilgore said. "Almost all church windows depict Jesus or are graphically religious of saints, but this one is very impressionistic. At first glance, maybe it did not come out of a church."
But the antiques dealer who sold the window to Kilgore's goddaughter suspected it came from a church.
Kilgore's lunch companion Roney, who is a self-described American history buff, got hooked on the mystery and joined Kilgore in the search.
"I wanted to know where this is from," said Roney, vice president of the Lowcountry Civil War Round Table, a member of the Historic Beaufort Foundation and a retired pharmacist.
"The odd shape of it is what caught my eye. It is like praying hands, and there are very few windows like that in churches. It (the origin) ought to be easy to find."
Kilgore has been told it might have come from a church in Charleston.
Roney heard it might be from Second Baptist Church, but he has been unable to locate a church by that name in Beaufort.
With memories faded over time, and receipts misplaced, no one recalls the antiques dealer who related that the window might have come from a local church.
When asked what he wanted that year for his birthday, Kilgore, an artist and a man who has everything he needs, said he had always wanted a stained glass window that reflected colors and light around his house.
"I fancy myself to be an artist who respects the merger of composition and color, which a finely crafted piece of stained glass incorporates," said Kilgore, who hopes to suspend the window from the 22-foot ceiling of his Pennsylvania home.
After years of enjoying the beauty of the window, currently mounted above a fireplace in his Pennsylvania home, Kilgore became curious as to its origins. A retired lawyer and part-time Beaufort resident, Kilgore continues to visit the area as one of the people who purchased Gibbes Island to build Secession Golf Club on Lady's Island.
Kilgore sees it as a beautiful piece of art. The window is designed to take the eye from the base to the apex, and that is what a piece of artwork or sculpture ought to do, he said.
"I believe it is fairly unique. Almost all stained glass came from churches or from turn-of-the-century mansions, all had some kind of structured geometric or religious themes. This one has gentle curves," Kilgore said.
Roney began checking out windows in area churches and thinks it might have been the original window to St. Peter Catholic Chapel of Perpetual Adoration on Carteret Street, but no proof of the design of that original window can be found.
"St. Peter has one with almost identical measurements, but the current window dates to the 1950s when the church was remodeled," said Roney, based on information from church historians.
But a depiction cannot be found of the original window of the St. Peter Chapel, which was built in 1846. The current chapel served as the church until the main church expanded to Lady's Island in 1987.
Roney has attempted to reach out to area pastors while seeking the window's home. "Could it have been a window in a church that was demolished?" he asked.
The origins of this stained glass window, which features greens and oranges and a fleur-de-lis symbol at the top, remain a mystery, so far.
Clues would be appreciated, Kilgore said.
"The story of this window is a very intensely personal one to me," Kilgore said. "What a thoughtful gift it was."