Sam Butcher, artist who created Precious Moments figurines of teardrop-eyed children, dies at 85

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Sam Butcher, the artist who created the Precious Moments figurines depicting angelic teardrop-eyed children, has died. He was 85.

The company said in a Facebook post that he died early Monday surrounded by family. It said his life’s mission was “to share God’s gift of love with the world.” No details about his cause of death were provided.

Some of the Christian-themed figurines feature Bible verses or children praying. Fans have collections numbering in the hundreds, while critics deride them as kitsch.

Butcher’s childhood love of illustrating got a wider audience when he began telling Bible stories on a children’s ministry television show while he drew. That experience led to him cofounding a business in 1974 named Jonathan & David after the biblical figures, according to his online obituary.

Early offerings included greeting cards. And within a few years, those drawings were transformed into porcelain figurines.

Thousands of designs have been produced over the decades, and fans of his work flock each year to the Precious Moments Inspiration Park and Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri.

The cornerstone of the pastel-painted, non-denominational oasis is the chapel, which Butcher was inspired to build by a 1983 trip to the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It includes 84 Biblical murals that cover more than 5,000 square feet.

“He was such an extremely talented artist, but he never took the credit for his talent,” said Joette Blades, the director of the chapel and a friend. “He always said that it was a gift from God, and he gave God all the glory for all the talents that he had.”

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