Artist stands in front of stained-glass window.

Windows of hope and light

People come to a hospital chapel to pray. To grieve. To hope.

One local man’s art will light those vulnerable moments for decades to come. Eddie Donald, of Foothills Art Glass, designed the stained-glass windows that adorn the front of Pelham Medical Center’s new chapel.

"I'm like a proud new papa,” Donald said. “They're my windows, even though the hospital has paid for them. The way I see it is they're going to witness to people long after I am gone.”

The new chapel is part of Pelham Medical Center’s recent expansion, a 55,000-square-foot addition that augmented the hospital’s emergency department and created a larger pharmacy.

“The next thing you know …”

Donald was working in retail in 1987 when he got the opportunity to work as the general manager for a stained-glass studio in Greer.  

“They taught me everything from scratch,” Donald said. “I told them I loved to draw as a young teenager and the next thing you know I’m designing their windows.”

Six years after joining the studio, the owners decided to take a sabbatical. Donald kept their phone number and opened a shop of his own. In the years since, his art has become part of the fabric of Greer and the Upstate.

“I’ve got steeple windows at United Methodist Church on North Main, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church steeple windows on South Main,” Donald said. “Down on Trade Street in Greer, I’ve got several windows in some of the old historic buildings downtown.”

Art for the hospital

Pelham Medical Center leaders approached the artist at the beginning of the year. Donald showed them a portfolio built over 32 years.

“They picked out three or four windows,” Donald said. “I took a segment from each window and created something new and different. Drew that to scale and colored it, presented that and they approved it.”

The four stained-glass windows, lit from behind since the room does not include an outside wall, are identical except for a circle where crosses intersect. In those circles, four elements are featured:

  1. A meadow with a stream and setting sun.
  2. A Celtic cross.
  3. A candle of hope, also known as a Florence Nightingale candle, to represent the healing arts.
  4. A sun, to represent brighter days ahead, because “the sun will shine on you one day,” Donald said.

The hard work

Donald designed and assembled the windows over three months. He credited associate Alex Brady with a lot of the work – despite never having cut glass before.

“Collectively, there’s over 700 pieces of glass, and he cut every piece,” Donald said. “As you can see from the result, he did a wonderful job.”

Donald spent a long time researching the candle of hope.

“I Googled and looked at probably four dozen candle holders,” Donald said, finally settling on one that “looked antique to me, especially with the finger ring.”

What’s next

With this job done, Donald has a shop full of projects waiting for him. He also has a wedding up ahead – to Joanne Hull, associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Spartanburg.

And in July 2020, at 68 years old, the artist will retire – sort of. He’ll close his professional shop and start working on personal projects at home.

The artist doesn’t want people to think he’s going away; he expects to continue doing work for churches as his schedule permits.

"Most people start in their garage or basement and then go to the next level,” Donald said. “I've been at the next level for 32 years and now I'm going to go to my garage. The irony of it all."

Want to see the stained-glass windows? Visit the second-floor chapel at Pelham Medical Center.