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Man Tries To Preserve Tradition With ‘Nun Dolls’

October 19, 1986

ELMHURST, Ill. (AP) _ A suburban businessman says he’s trying to preserve his childhood memories of nuns and some of the Roman Catholic Church’s tradition by marketing his Genuine Nun Dolls.

″People like doll collectors and men and women who were educated by nuns buy them,″ said Tom Cholewa, who said he had sold about 500 of the 18-inch dolls with authentic, old-fashioned habits during the past year.

″They’re as original as we can get them,″ Cholewa said Saturday. ″The doll costumes are sewn by a tailor. Each one is a work of art. They could never be made on an assembly line.″

The dolls, selling by mail order for $89.95, have received enthusiastic support from nuns around the country, Cholewa said.

″The sisters have been very helpful,″ said the 32-year-old entrepreneur. ″They’re pretty excited about it themselves. They’ve also shown us everything from where they wear a pin to how to fold the garment.″

The dolls on display at his company depict such religious orders as the Little Sisters of the Poor, the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of Loretto. He said the dolls representing the Daughters of Charity have sold briskly because of that order’s distinctive cornet, or headdress.

″Everyone likes it because it resembles the one Sally Field wore on the television show, ’The Flying Nun,‴ Cholewa said.

″It’s complicated though. It must have taken us 50 tries to get it just right.″

Cholewa, who grew up in a Polish Catholic family in a west Chicago suburb, said he hoped eventually to have dolls dressed in the habits of all of the estimated 1,800 Catholic women’s religious orders, and is considering priest dolls, as well.

But Cholewa said his business was not connected with the Catholic Church and has not been sanctioned by any of the more than 300 religious orders whose habits he has duplicated.

″We run a disclaimer,″ said Cholewa. ″I’m serious about this, and I’m doing my best to do everything in good taste.″

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