Orville Tangen of Chatfield holds his great-granddaughter, Makendri Jeanne Burington, who is wearing the same gown he was baptized in.
Orville Tangen of Chatfield holds his great-granddaughter, Makendri Jeanne Burington, who is wearing the same gown he was baptized in.
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Fifty babies and counting...

"My parents bought this gown, and it's been worn by over 50 kids for their baptisms," said Chatfield resident Orville Tangen.

He is especially proud of his nearly-97-year-old baptismal gown which has been passed on to the fourth generation of Tangen children to wear for their dedications to the Lord.

The lifelong Root Prairie Lutheran Church member stated, "I was born Oct. 9, 1916, in Fountain. My parents were Theodore and Alma Tangen, and I was the oldest of four - my brothers, Robert, Gordon and Merlin also wore the gown. All my brothers, their children, our children and their children again have used it."

The World War II veteran lives in an apartment at the Chosen Valley Care Center so that he and his wife, Helen, might still see one another daily.

Their children - Dianne, Sharon, Marlene and Robert - are pleased to show off pictures of their collective eight children and "countless" grandchildren wearing the gown.

Orville hasn't forgotten how many great-grandchildren he has, but he cited that there are so many that it's hard to keep track as parents' requests for the gown grow as the months go by.

"Some babies may not have worn it, but a lot of others have - some of the babies were too big to wear it, but a lot of them have worn it," he said. "The last two baptisms were Marlene's grandchildren in Waukon and Caledonia, so the ones that had the last baby take care of it until the next baby is born, then it's passed on, no matter where it is."

The store-bought cotton gown has weathered the years well, according to Orville, who noted that it's a rather plain garment, but one that's been cherished.

"It's been passed on from child to child carefully," he said proudly. "It's not torn yet that I know of. It's just an ordinary gown...with a blue ribbon for boys and a pink one for girls."

Orville hasn't been to the most recent baptisms, but the children have been brought to him so he can see them wearing his gown.

"I don't know of too many baptism gowns that have been worn by so many children in one family. There can't be too many 97-year-old baptism gowns," he concluded.