Modern communications is not all it’s cracked up to be. Over a bad cellphone line the name of the man who made the windows of the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral in Bloemfontein sounded like Leonardus Albertus. ”It is in fact Lambertus Emundus (Leo) Monsma.,” writes his son-in-law, Tony Nell. “ and he was responsible for fixing stained glass windows in some churches in the Karoo.”
“Leo was born in Holland on July 5 1909. On October 10. 1934 he married Cornelia Helena Francina Hamers. They had eight children – four sons: Wiebe, Johannes (Han), Innocentius (Inno), and Alfonsus (Fons), and four daughters Annette (Netty), Lydwina (Lydia), Veronica (Ronnie) and Odelia (Diel), the youngest, who was born in South Africa.”
Leo, a leather tanner by trade ran his own business in Holland. During World War II he was active in the Dutch Resistance Movement. His tannery was damaged in a bombing raid. In 1948 Leo then decided to move to South Africa to create a new life for his family in a country not ravaged by war. He arrived in February, his family followed in October. In South Africa, Leo did not follow his trade as a tanner, but held various posts in companies such as General Chemicals, where he became acquainted with liquid latex.
“This became the core of his stained glass business. As a hobby, he started making glass mosaic items, such as tabletops, using various colours of broken glass. They were an instant success. He then experimented with different colours and pigments. More artistic pieces such as lampshades and furniture followed. Before long Leo had developed his own colours and pigments, methods of mixing these with the latex and effectively applying the mix to glass sheets. He patented his methods and Glasparents was born.”
Before long he was accepting commissions for huge stained glass projects in Bloemfontein and throughout South Africa. He also fixed up windows for many small churches across the Karoo.
“In 1962 Leo and Helena, returned to Amstelveen, in Holland, with their three youngest children. He continued doing stained glass work in Holland until he died on September 25, 1980,” said Tony.