The Epistle would like to thank: Bill and Judy Oehler for providing the historical interview transcripts; Leslie and Harry Durling for their help in interviewing church members; and Judi Van Cleave for transcribing interviews and assisting with research.
Reminiscing with friends is always fun and often reminds us of things long forgotten. As you explore this issue, you will discover snippets of First Memories from some who have called First Church their home for many years. In 2004 the history committee interviewed some of the earliest members of our church; selections from those interviews are included as well as recent dialogs with some of our long-time congregants in which they shared their earliest and fondest memories. We hope you enjoy the trip down memory lane and smile fondly as you recall your own First memories.
Jean McClure (pg 11)
Member since 1980
BILL: What do you regard as a major satisfaction during your early years at First Church?
JEAN: The church family! It was the church family that ministered to me upon the deaths of my father and mother and celebrated with me when my children were married and had babies. They were not only ministers to us, they became family. Their willingness to work in the community was such a joy to see. Of all the churches in this town, we still have the largest number of people delivering Meals on Wheels. We are a church of volunteers. For years every single thing that was done in the church was done by volunteers. Of course, as things evolved, we got too big for that to be possible, but it was nice to see the church family pulling together. When I think of First Church, the greatest thing I think of? That fond church family.
BILL: I will never forget that. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it. It has been a theme, almost a landmark, of this church even through its growth.
JEAN: Joe always said that people bring people like themselves to the church. When we came, Harry Price, who had started this church, had just retired. He and Minnie were dear people, loving people; that’s the kind of people who built this church. They were the foundation, and they brought in more folks like themselves; it just kept on happening. We were beneficiaries of the start that he made. We were very fortunate.
Bob Adams (pg 12)
Member since 1986
After Bob and his wife Mary retired to Bonita Springs, they had 10 happy years together before Mary passed away. Bob remembers when they joined First Church.
BOB: We liked Joe and his wife very, very much. The church was so small then, and Bonita was very quiet; the traffic was nothing. I remember my wife had a hip operation and Joe and Jean came to the hospital to visit her. Joe preached wonderful sermons. He had a back problem, so in his later years he had to sit on a stool to preach… I happen to enjoy flowers, so I worked a lot with Judy Teasdale on the upkeep of the Resurrection Garden. I would do the trimming and so forth with my power equipment. I have fond memories of not only working in the garden, but also of laying my wife’s ashes there.
Bill Reynolds (pg 13)
Member since 1983
Bill and his wife Dottie moved to Bonita Springs after he retired from his career as a Physics Professor at SUNY–Albany. Bill found his niche on the Information Systems Committee and helped to set up the hardware for the church’s computer network. They were married for 37 years before Dottie went to be with the Lord last year.
BILL: As for memories, I can still vividly recall skits performed for the children’s service. Jean McClure and Betty Kelly controlled Muppet puppets while David Teasdale played Oscar the Grouch and bantered with the kids. In a Christmas Pageant I played Gabriel; I can’t seem to forget the two little cherubim chewing bubble gum. I used to help Dottie with Meals on Wheels; she always said, “this is a good way to learn the community.” We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with the renewal of our vows in Price Chapel.
Bobbe Hickman (pg 21)
Member since 1989
Bobbe remembers with enthusiasm her early years at First Church. She served in the Chancel Choir for 25 years, beginning when Joe McClure was Senior Pastor and Ruth Hermann was the volunteer Director of Music.
BOBBE: One year, Christmas was on a Sunday so we didn’t have our normal services. Pastor Joe was out of town but Associate Pastor Bob Abel said we could have an informal service. So we invited anyone who wanted to come worship and sing carols; Bob played his guitar. It was a very chilly day so everyone had on their heavy jackets and sweaters. We sat in a big circle; there were about 25 of us. That’s about the best memory I have; we had a wonderful time. One day every spring we would have a Volunteer Work Day to spruce up the landscaping, trim the bushes and spread what seemed like hundreds of bags of mulch. Then we would go to Mr. & Mrs. Cleveland’s house on the beach for bratwurst and limburger cheese sandwiches. Joe McClure NEVER ate one. Once just before the second Sunday service started and the choir was already in the choir loft, Pastor Joe came walking out and gently tossed something in my lap. He leaned over and whispered, “Make sure the choir doesn’t fall asleep during my sermon.” I looked down and it was a bottle of NoDoz.