Doll collectors the talk of Courtyard

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 23, 2000

There’s a hint of what awaits those who enter the apartment at Courtyard Apartments outside the front door.

Saturday, December 23, 2000

There’s a hint of what awaits those who enter the apartment at Courtyard Apartments outside the front door.

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A tall and, of course, rotund Santa Claus is there to greet visitors as well as a snow white teddy bear and friends.

But that’s just the beginning.

Open the door and enter the apartment of Alfred "Pete" and Lillian Loewen’s domicile and it quickly becomes doll heaven.

There are dolls in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. Dolls on shelves above kitchen cupboards, end tables, dressers and night stands. Dolls on book shelves and inside china cabinets, too.

In fact, there are so many dolls, visitors may not notice the exquisite collection of vases and oriental art.

Naturally, with so many fine pieces of art all around, it bears noting: be careful where you move.

The Loewens’ tastefully decorated apartment is not cluttered, but it is certainly filled.

First, Mr. Loewen’s story.

He was born in Canada and moved to the United States to live in Austin with his family when he was 12.

He put in 42 years of employment at Hormel Foods Corp.’s flagship plant in Austin before retiring in 1979.

He and Lillian have been married almost 63 years since exchanging vows in 1938.

They have two children, daughters Roxanne and Bonnie and seven grandchildren and great-grandchildren also.

Mrs. Loewen has maintained a higher profile than her husband, because of her long-time public service.

A native of Ventura, Iowa, she moved with her family to Austin and was a "liberated lady" before many others.

A long-time justice of the peace at Mapleview, she became the first female police commissioner for the city of Austin.

Mrs. Loewen also was involved in promoting emergency services and helped develop a youth organization to do that.

After retiring, they, like so many others sold their home, and when the Courtyard Apartments project was complete, they moved into a comfort ball third-floor apartment.

At Courtyard Apartments, the couple – or rather their apartment – is the talk of the complex and all because of the striking collection of porcelain and ceramic dolls.

"I’ve always collected vases. I would go to estate sales to buy them and eventually friends would tell me when a nice one would become available. It’s been a hobby of mine for a long time," said Mrs. Loewen.

Today, the collection holds 66 dolls, but more could arrive at Christmastime. Obviously, giving their mother and grandmother a fine doll is a popular present choice for the family.

"Pete bought me my first doll. It’s name is ‘Christine’ and that was about 10 years ago. Now, the dolls have taken over my life I guess," said Mrs. Loewen.

"All are porcelain or ceramic. All name names or titles of who they represent. They have specially tailored clothes. Some even wear jewelry. I just like to admire them," said Mrs. Loewen.

Ironically, she never had a doll when she was a child, so, in part, her hobby is making up for that oversight.

Mrs. Loewen is particularly about the dolls she collects. "If I see one that I really want, I will order it, but it has to be something special. I don’t just buy dolls for the sake of buying them," she said.