An artist famous for creating a series of Christian-themed figurines and a scenic chapel in southwestern Missouri has died.

Sam Butcher first unveiled his “Precious Moments” artwork in 1975 through posters and greeting cards, then in 1978 began making Precious Moments figurines which are sold by Hallmark and other retail stores around the world. Some of his oldest figurines are estimated to be worth thousands of dollars.

He also spent several years as the story illustrator on the children’s TV show Tree Top House, in which he would use his teardrop-style drawing to tell stories.

In 1989, the Precious Moments Chapel opened in Carthage, which remains a top tourist draw. According to the chapel’s website, it’s more than 9,000 square feet in size and features hand-carved entry doors, wrought iron gates, and stainglass windows that Butcher designed himself. The interior contains murals, only one of which is considered to be completed. The chapel site also has a garden, museum, visitor’s center, and an Italian restaurant.

Sam Butcher was 85 years old. His death was announced in a social media post that appeared Monday on Precious Moments’ Facebook page.

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