Lucky Dale Meisinger sort of fell into his career as a certified chimney sweep - and it was a fall, 24 years later, that ended it.
Mr. Meisinger began his career shortly after he and his wife purchased a 25-acre farm in North Augusta. The home had a wood-burning stove that needed cleaning. But finding someone to do it proved difficult.
"I thought that it would be neat to learn how to do that, so I did," Mr. Meisinger said.
After two weeks of training at a school in Massachusetts, Mr. Meisinger began a chimney sweep business. He specialized in historic restoration.
Then, four years ago, at the bottom of a 41-foot chimney, his career ended.
"I fell and burst my colon," he said. "Then they found out that I was in the third advanced stage of colon cancer."
After chemotherapy treatments and a remission diagnosis, Mr. Meisinger resigned to do consulting work and handed over his business to his son, Dale Jr.
But these days, revisiting his working days is as easy as pulling the doll, fashioned in his likeness, out of the box.
Madame Alexander Dolls, famous among doll collectors, agreed to design the doll at the urging of Mr. Meisinger's parents.
"My parents are very influential doll collectors," Mr. Meisinger said. "They approached (Madame Alexander) on my behalf."
"This was an unusual project for us," Dawn Fallon, vice president of design at Madame Alexander, said in a telephone interview. "But we've had a wonderful relationship with (the Meisingers). It's not easy to get a doll made."
The doll was created as a limited edition for the South Carolina Chimney Sweep Guild's 25th anniversary. Only 1,000 dolls were made and close to 500 have been sold.
"We were looking for something to commemorate (the anniversary)," said Renee Brigman, a member of the guild. "It honors Lucky Dale and the guild. He is very well respected nationally and is well known in Augusta. We hope the doll will make chimney sweeps known worldwide."
Mr. Meisinger designed the doll, resplendent in red scarf and top hat.
"That's the way I used to dress. Where I went to school, we wore the red scarfs," he said. "The top hat is part of my trademark."
And the honor of having a doll made to look like him is not something Mr. Meisinger takes lightly.
"They told me that I am only the third person in their history to have a doll made in their likeness that wasn't famous," he said. "This is quite an overwhelming experience. I never dreamed it would progress to this level."
WHAT: Lucky Dale Madame Alexander Commemorative Doll
AVAILABLE: Write to:
South Carolina Chimney Sweep Guild
c/o Blue Sky Chimney Sweeps
Route 1, Box 618, Highway 49
Laurens, SC 29360
Reach Jennifer Hilliard at (706) 823-3220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.