Local family centered around 129-year-old baptism gown that's spanned generations, cultures

The garment has been handed down over six generations and has been a centerpiece for 118 baptisms, withstanding the Great Depression, and now, the coronavirus pandemic.
When 8-month-old Nicole Katherine Garcia was baptized in Norwalk this month, the celebrants wore masks and she wore a baptism gown that has withstood far more than a pandemic.

It is an heirloom that was stitched and crocheted together 129 years ago.

"My great, great grandma probably never even imagined it would go on for this long, and that it would transition from so many different families and cultures even. I have that Norwegian-Swedish background and the rest of my family is very Hispanic," says Kathy Garcia, the baby's grandmother.

The garment and its two petticoats are made from eight yards of cotton elaborately crocheted.

It has been handed down over six generations, originating with Helena Dahl of Superior, Wisconsin who made the gown. She and her husband August had immigrated from Sweden and joined many other new arrivals at Pilgrim Lutheran Church.

Perhaps Helena knew in 1891, that the gown would have to last. She had eleven children. And that was just the beginning.

"The gowns have been used in Catholic parishes, it's been used in Presbyterian, Baptist," says Carol Stienstra of Seal Beach.

Steinstra of Seal Beach wore the ensemble for her baptism in 1955, six decades after grandmother Myrtle did in 1894.

The gown has been a centerpiece for 118 baptisms.

Descendants of the Dahls in Wisconsin have joined with other denominations and ethnicities. The family album shows proud smiles of godparents and siblings through the Great Depression, the 1950s, and now, the coronavirus pandemic. The gown and their faith enduring all.

"To know that we're blessed to be the children of God and that no matter what we encounter in our life we have that to hold on to," says Stienstra.

Baby Nicole Katherine Garcia is part Nicaraguan, Guatemalan, German, Swedish, and like the gown, uniquely American.
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