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Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation A Tribute to Denise Thirion Engraver Extraordinaire

The Elizabeth Colt Legacy foundation would like to acknowledge Denise Thirion and her out­standing work engraving our raffle revolver these past years.

Denise has announced her retirement and she has a won­derful portfolio of work.

Denise started her career in F. N. Browning’s engrav- ing department. At that time Browning’s engraving shop employed over 35 women. Denise studied the styles of the world’s renowned engravers and excelled at the work.

At age 20 Denise married fellow engraver, Angelo Bee, who also worked at Browning. Browning had started a new pioneer program that allowed engravers to work from their homes. She worked 14 years at F. N. Browning.

In 1971 Denise left Belgium and came to the United States. She set up shop in her home in Connecticut and through her sponsor worked as a contract engraver for A. A. White Engravers. The A. A. White Engravers shop con­tracted with the Colt Custom Shop.

In 1994 she established DT Engraving and became a direct engraving vendor for the Colt Custom Gun Shop.

In recent years she has engraved many of the most col­lectible guns of our time. She collaborated with ex-husband Angelo Bee to produce the famous and much publicized Anhauser Busch gun of the year that was auctioned off by Duck’s Unlimited. Angelo applied the gold work and De­nise engraved the scrollwork.

She has collaborated with Leonard “Corky” Francolini, known as the Michelangelo of modern engraving. Corky would apply the flush gold line work in his own unique style and Denise would complete the masterpieces by ap­plying her finest scroll within Corky’s gold framework.

Denise was influenced by the style of the older master engravers, i.e., L.D. Nimschke, Rudolph Kornbrath and the more modern engravers Winston Churchill and Ken Hunt. The “old European style” of engraving that she was taught at Fabrique Nationale has impacted her style the most.

To Denise:

It has been my great pleasure to work with Denise and her daughter, Joelle, these past years on the ECLF Raffle guns. So many times the CCA membership would tell the ECLF that they would rather have our raffle gun than the Show Gun. Her work spoke for itself The Foundation considers itself fortunate to have collaborated with such a special engraver.

For a number of years after Don’s passing, I concentrated on ordering engraved revolvers from the Colt factory. Many of my customers would request Denise. The arrival of any Denise Thirion revolver was cause for excitement.

She can be celebrated as one of the top engravers in our industry. Denise desires all the accolades we send her way.

Thanks again for your body of work and being a special part of the Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation. We wish you the very best in your retirement.

Others Speak of Denise

It has been my great pleasure to have the opportunity to examine the engraving work of Denise Thirion in the long line of beautifully engraved Colts she has produce for the Colt Collector Association. She was, of course, engraving. firearms years before her association with the CCA and the Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation, but my experience viewing her work started at the first CCA Show I attended in Tampa, Florida in 2003. Fortu­nately for the Foundation and the CCA, her work has been showcased an annually at venues across America. I have personally witnessed the overwhelming joy of each of the winners of the Thirion Colt – more conventionally recognized as “The Ladies Gun” over the course of years. Those who possess such a piece of CCA history are very fortunate indeed. From the engraver’s perspective, Denise Thirion’s work is based in the purest forms of historical Colt en­graving styles. All the while, as with other Colt Masters, her style is individually recognizable. Her interpretation of the old style is found within the distinguishable styles of Masters like Nimschke, Helfritch, and Kornbrath. Likewise, it is also refreshing to discover shadows of the modern artistic sophistications of artist like Win­ston Churchill and Ken Hunt. Examining and visually separating various disciplines within her style is capti­vating. It is also possible to see how her early training at Frabrique National plays yet another role in the fasci­nating mix of styles. It’s always pleasure to follow her patterns; to track and define the scrolls, geometrics and figures she so skillfully weaves into her work. Denise is an engraver’s engraver; her work is definable, historically based, and universally recognized. Her place in Ameri­can engraving is permanently fixed.
– Michael Dubber

I was an engraver for 43 years in the Colt Custom Gun Shop. I enjoyed looking at the work that came in from Denise. She was a true artist in design and tradi­tional engraving that followed the Colt history of quality.
– Steve Kamyk

I started seeing Denise’s work in 1995 when I became the Supervisor of the Colt Custom Shop. I quickly be­came aware of her unique style of engraving. I met her at the Colt Collectors Association show in Burlingame, CA. She has been very generous with us by helping with the Ladies raffle gun for the Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation for many years. I wish her all the best in her retirement.
– Joe Canali

During the mid 1980s, Denise Thirion and I had many conversations regarding the style of engraving for Colt factory guns. At that time we discussed combining the styles of the old masters, i.e., Helfricht, Young and Nimschke of the 1860s-1890s era. She asked for copies of these master’s works and then developed her own style of engraving from those designs, which was and is truly masterful. Due to her artistic talents, Denise Thirion guns have become very desirable today with Colt Collec­tors and will be for many years to come. The Colt Collec­tor’s community will always be grateful for her contribu­tion to the artistry of steel engraving.
– Albert Brichaux

I have always had the highest esteem and respect for Denise. On a personal level, she raised our two kids to become principled, successful and kind without much help from me. Her work has always been impeccable and I have enjoyed collaborating with her on many projects. I met Denise at the Browning factory in Belgium when she was 16 years old and we have been united through our children and engraving for so many years. Who she is as an individual and her work makes her irreplaceable and I will miss working with her and wish her the best.
– Angelo Bee

My mom is my hero. She came to the United States in 1971 by herself with two kids, no child support, didn’t speak a word of English but determined to make a better life for us. She worked 12 hours a day and never strayed from her disciplined schedule. I cannot remember her taking a sick day. When she was sent to do gun shows, I would dismantle her workbench and set it back up for her at the show so she would not lose too much time or income. She always took pride in her work and she loved it when she was allowed artistic freedom to engrave. Although she was not paid very well by her sponsor for the first 20 years, she found a way to buy a house and take my brother and I on family vacations every other year. By 1994, her sponsor often left her weeks without work so I convinced her to contact Colt directly. I will forever be grateful at all the kindness and assistance of so many people from the Colt Custom Shop and everyone associated with the ECLF for giving her the opportunity to be recognized as an individual. Her private clientele grew. She did a lot work for my dad as his clients would often request her when it came to any Colt firearms. Her continued relationship with Colt as one of their engravers has kept her busy until her retirement this year. She was honored to be chosen to do the ECLF gun every year and aspired to do a little something new or unique that would be well received. She truly loved her craft and has always strived to do her best work possible.
My mom is the perfect example that no matter your circumstances, through hard work, discipline and hon­esty, anything is possible. I will forever be grateful to all the people that have been so instrumental in making this a wonderful journey for both my mom and I and for all the sacrifices she has made so I can say “I’m living the dream.”
– Joelle Bee

The Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation is pleased to announce that the 2021 raffie gun has been engraved by John Adams, Jr .. John is a well-known engraver and popular among collectors. Shown here is a sneak preview of the revolver. The Fall magazine will feature a full biography of John along with an article about the gun.

Elizabeth Colt Legacy Foundation 2019 Raffle Gun

Donations and Raffle combined totaled $12,485.

Another successful CCA Annual Convention! Thank you to all of you that stopped by the ECLF table to make a donation or just say hello. All of the positive comments about our commitment to the youth around the United States is very much appreciated.

Thanks to Wilmer and Lorena Kellogg we had the pleasure of meeting two trap shooters from the famous Ft. Hayes State University Shooting Team; Jay Ziegelmeir and Lane Sorenson They took the time to go around with Mary Ashing to say hi to everyone and, of course, to sell raffle tickets for the ECLF gun. At the banquet Saturday they were both introduced and spoke to everyone about what trap shooting meant to them and the ECLF donations.

Again, you folks are awesome!!!!

By Jan Quick

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Left to Right: Wilmer Kellogg, Lorena Kellogg, Carol Wilkerson, Fort Hays State Univerity shooter Jay Ziegelmeier, Ladies Gun winner Toby Hinesley, Fort Hays University shooter Lane Sorenson, Jan Quick, Beverly Haynes and CCA Past President Joe Canali