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.
Edith Cameron (pg 8)
Attended services 1968; Charter member, 1971-2005
Edith was one of two First Church charter members still living in 2003 when she was interviewed. Edith and her husband moved from St. Louis in 1968 and she began attending the Presbyterian services led by Rev. Harry Price at the Pittman Funeral Home. She lived in Bonita until her death in 2005 at the age of 103.
On early church formation…
EDITH: We had very few people, you know, but it kept growing and then we decided we had enough money to build a church, and we did. Then I started doing all the things at church that people do. I didn’t teach, but I did play the piano for Sunday school and got involved with helping to clean the church. We didn’t have any janitors, so we were the janitors and it was fun. It was a wonderful place to grow up and I’ve met so many wonderful people over all these years.
On Rev. Harry Price…
EDITH: [He was a] very quiet man; no push at all. He was a sweet man and he never forgot your name. Never! A good pastor? Oh, yes; he would take care of you. If you were ill and you needed somebody to come over right away, he would be there. He was very compassionate, he really was.
Irene Horney (pg 9)
Attended services 1970; Charter member, 1971-1995 (transferred, Bradenton)
Irene was one of two First Church charter members still living when she was interviewed by church historians Bill and Judy Oehler in 2003. She and her husband Ray moved from Virginia in 1967 and retired to their home on Dortch Avenue. Ray helped Executive Presbyter Sam McCammon choose the original 10-acre site on Bonita Beach Road. He also served as our first Clerk of Session. After about a year, Irene was appointed Clerk and kept that position for 18 years. Irene passed away in 2009 at the age of 99; both Ray and Irene are interred in our Resurrection Garden.
JUDY: Irene, you used to bring flowers to the church, didn’t you? Where did you get them?
IRENE: Anywhere I could get ‘em. Well, no, I didn’t get them from the funeral home. I furnished them, either from my yard or from somebody
else’s yard or from along the road.
JUDY: Did you do that all year, every Sunday?
IRENE: For 22 years. And the day I left, it went in somebody else’s hands and then the members started paying for them. Maybe that was the best thing to do. I just thought I was being nice, although sometimes it was a little bit of a chore.
JUDY: It saved the church a lot of money.
BILL: Well, sure. Every Sunday for 22 years and we never bought any? That’s remarkable.
Marie McPherson (pg 10)
Member since 1974
Marie and her husband were Bonita Springs snowbirds for three years before moving from Brighton, Michigan. They started attending First Church initially because of the convenient location. Always involved in the church, Marie was a dedicated volunteer—whether cutting bread for Communion, collating Sunday bulletins or coordinating Meals on Wheels.
MARIE: Rev. Price and his wife were friendly, and the people were so wonderful; it was a warm family environment. I remember standing outside the church one Sunday waiting to get in. It was full and we had to wait for the first service to finish. Back then, Price Chapel was smaller than it is now. I think they expanded it twice over the years. We always enjoyed coming here in the winter. I remember when we arrived one year; after the first Sunday we were back, Rev. Price made a house call just to catch up.
Dottie Reynolds and I were drivers delivering Meals on Wheels. When the coordinator quit, Dottie and I took over; that lasted for 25 years.