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Thief returns stolen statue with makeover

By Rachel Hergett

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 13 2011 3:10 p.m. MDT

In this photo taken Sept. 12, 2011, Harold and Mary Jo Paul pose for a photo behind the statue of St. Francis which was stolen from their Bozeman, Mont. home and then returned with a new paint job featuring lipstick, sparkly eye shadow and finger and toenail polish.

Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Erik Petersen, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

BOZEMAN, Mont. — St. Francis may have been from Assisi, but according to Mary Jo Paul, he wasn't a sissy.

In a letter to the editor published Aug. 13 in the Chronicle, she warned the thieves who stole her 2-foot, roughly 50-pound terra cotta statue of St. Francis to watch their karma.

Maybe whoever stole St. Francis read the letter and was a little worried, or maybe returning him was the plan all along.

Either way, Saturday morning, St. Francis reappeared in exactly the same spot from where he was taken from their Sourdough Road home. But he's not unscathed.

A new paint job gives him glittering green robes, gold sandals and a purple rope belt.

"I call it shock and awful," Paul said.

St. Francis also has new eyebrows, rouge on his cheeks, green sparkle eye shadow to match his robes and yellow finger and toenail polish. His bird friends, once muted terra cotta, are now a brilliant blue and canary yellow.

"I said in the letter St. Francis was not a sissy," Paul joked. "Now he is."

When Paul's husband, Harold, called her outside to see St. Francis' new getup, she said they both collapsed in laughter.

"I laughed so hard I cried," she said. "I was just cracked up the whole day."

Though the Pauls don't condone the theft, they appreciate the artistic eyes and humor of those that committed the crime.

"The person who did it is most ingenious, if unethical," Mary Jo said.

The Pauls have had the statue in their yard for almost 40 years, first in Florida, and now for more than five years in Bozeman. In the letter, Mary Jo wrote of how St. Francis stood guard as her children grew up.

"His history is part of my history," she said.

St. Francis is the patron saint of animals and the environment. In life, he was the founder of the Franciscan Order, and in 1224, he was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history.

"He's just a symbol of all that's gentle," Mary Jo said. "He reminds us to be good to each other, to be good to animals."

Harold, a former architect, said he admired the work of the thieves, although they "got a little off on the color."

"I'm not up on all this modern stuff," he said.

The Pauls have moved St. Francis to a less conspicuous place in their yard, worried he would draw too much attention on his corner. They plan on keeping him.

"I loved him. I thought he was a beautiful piece of art," Mary Jo said. "Now maybe he's more beautiful."

Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com

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