Precious Moments creator Sam Butcher dies

Samuel "Sam" Butcher, the artist and creator of the iconic collectibles company Precious Moments, has died. He was 85 years old.

The company said in a Facebook post that he died early Monday surrounded by family at his home in Carthage, Missouri. It said his life's mission was "to share God’s gift of love with the world." No details about his cause of death were provided.

As a young child, Butcher explored his artistry by spending hours underneath the dining room table writing and illustrating stories, according to press release announcing his passing.

But Butcher's childhood love of illustrating gained a wider audience when he began telling Bible stories on a children’s ministry television show while he drew. Known as "Quick Draw Sam," he'd tell a Bible story, then draw it. 


LEFT: Sam Butcher at Precious Moments Chapel (Credit: PR Newswire) LEFT: Precious Moments displayed in case. (Credit: Steve Kagan/Getty Images)

This illustrative work inspired him to form a company, Jonathan & David, in 1974, the forerunner of Precious Moments the company, and the birthplace of his tear-drop-eyed Precious Moments children drawings.

Early offerings included greeting cards, and within a few years, those drawings were transformed into porcelain figurines.

By the 1990s, Precious Moments figurines became a worldwide collectible phenomenon that would go on to break every record and win every award in the gift and collectibles industry.

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Precious Moments figurines and other products continue to be sold to fans and collectors worldwide.

In 1984, Butcher purchased property in Carthage to build a chapel "to glorify God's name and be a humble gift back to him." The Precious Moments Chapel is lovingly referred to as "America's Sistine Chapel," with its 84 wall murals and 1,400 sq. foot ceiling mural all hand-painted by Butcher. Sam felt the creation of the Chapel was one of the most significant creations of his life. 

A public memorial is being planned for next month at the chapel The memorial will also be live-streamed.

"He was such an extremely talented artist, but he never took the credit for his talent," said Joette Blades, the director of the chapel and a friend. "He always said that it was a gift from God, and he gave God all the glory for all the talents that he had."

The Precious Moments brand is continued today by his children – Don, Jon, and Deb alongside Master Sculptor Hiko Maeda.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.