Hundreds of figurines surround farmhouse
Couple’s collection amassed over 40 years
It’s been more than a year and half since Sarah Stika, wife of Louis Stika of rural Marion, died at the age of 84, but all he has to do is step outside of his farmhouse to get a curious yet touching reminder of their love.
Neatly arrayed around the house, on the front porch, and in display beds built especially for them are hundreds of animal figurines large and small that the couple amassed over about 40 years of collecting.
“She just kind of started,” Stika said. “We just bought them kind of together.”
Janet Marler, Stika’s daughter, said the collection got started after she left home.
“She enjoyed it,” Marler said. “She liked looking for them and finding them.”
The Stikas became acquainted when both attended school at Youngtown, although Louis was about six years ahead of Sarah. It wasn’t until Louis returned from Army service that he started to take a shine to an older and single Sarah when they were attending a car party.
“I guess we kind of started picking on each other,” Stika said.
They went together to a dance in Pilsen, and the relationship “just kind of took off from there,” Stika said.
He didn’t know at the time that Sarah would become such an avid collector of animal figurines, but it meshed well with his own personality.
“I collect everything,” Stika said. “Stamps, cigarette lighters, belt buckles, you name it, I collect it.”
The animal menagerie contains all sorts of critters, from chickens and pigs and cows to dogs, cats, squirrels, and skunks, that the Stikas picked up on out-of-town trips or were given.
“It made a good gift to give mom,” Marler said.
Stika said there likely are duplicates, and Marler confirmed that she and her sister, Rita, were responsible for at least one pair.
“One year Rita and I gave her the same thing, it was a little dog,” she said. “I think it’s on the porch yet. It was probably one of the last ones we gave her.”
Sarah took good care of the figurines, Marler said, repainting them, gluing them, and making sure they remained upright, no small task with temperamental Kansas weather.
While the chickens are Marler’s favorites, Sarah most enjoyed the swans.
“Mom always liked swans,” Marler said. “She kind of liked swans in the house, too. It was kind of her thing, I guess.”
The landscaped beds have sentimental value, too. They were built in part with stone from Sarah’s childhood home, just on the other side of K-150 from the Stikas’ farmhouse.
Over the years it became harder to keep things up, Stika said. Relentless sunshine has taken it’s toll on the plastic ones.
“These have all given out,” Stika said as he pointed to some plastic birds. “They’re so dry and crisp you can’t pick them up. They just burned up from the sun. The other day I tried to move one and it just fell apart.”
Many of the figurines have been left laying on their sides instead of being picked up.
“We used to do that, but now we kind of say, ‘OK, after the first 10 times it’s no fun anymore,’” Marler said.
Stika didn’t know how many figurines they had collected, but Marler ventured a guess.
“I would say over 100,” she said.
Her husband, Doug, disagreed.
“There are 50 right here in this little space,” he said, pointing to an area near the front porch. “I’ll bet there’s closer to 500 than 100.”
A deliberate search of the yard ensued.
“I’ve got 35 over here,” Doug called out from one of the landscaped beds.
“Is that all of them?” Janet asked.
When all was said and done, an equally curious reporter who also helped count tallied the results.
“I’ve got 444,” he said. “Wait, I missed that dog. Make it 445.”
The count was immediately called into question.
“Did you get those ducks?” Stika asked.
It’s likely a completely accurate count will never happen, but an exact number doesn’t matter nearly as much as the memories Marler has of her mother.
“She liked looking for them and finding them,” Marler said. “She and Dad did it together. She always liked them. She never had too many.”
Last modified Nov. 30, 2017