Janet Beal and the Memorial Book
By Wendy E. McFee
Janet Beal was always doing stuff around St. John’s. “It’s my church,” she would tell you. Everyone knows that for donkey’s years, she was the keeper of our beautiful Advent wreath and that she was a long-time member of the choir. What you perhaps don’t know is that she has been the clerk of the vestry, the president of the ECW, and for many years, an altar guild member, a Eucharistic minister, a lector, a member of the pastoral care team, active in the care of our grounds and as choir member, she kept everyone in the choir informed, looked for professional section leaders and kept our library of music in order. It was in the last endeavor that I joined her in the summer of 2017. We spent several hours taking out every box of music in the Chapter Room, checking that its contents matched the label on the box, that it all faced the same way, that photocopies were properly stored. If you’ve ever looked at how much music there is in the Chapter Room, you will know what a task this was and believe me, there were dozens of pieces of music that were misfiled.
When we had finished that assignment, for some unknown reason, we set about looking for the Memorial Book. This used to be kept in the Sacristy but it could not be found there. We checked the office and the Rector’s office with no success. Someone suggested that it might be in the room opposite the Curate’s office. We inventoried every box and file folder in that room and placed the inventory on the back of the door and in the office. We didn’t find the original book but we did find a project that Betty Alt, as Vestry member, had completed in 2003. She had taken a photocopy of the Memorial Book and divided it into a number of sections. She had written on one of these sections, “Don’t type” and had attached her notes updating the various sections to those sections. We then found on the office computer, the documents that Betty had had typed up. In 2017, Janet put together a folder with these documents and a note explaining the situation and asking the reader to “enjoy looking at the history of some of the beautiful elements of our worship and the people in whose memory they were created and given to St. John’s.”
In early 2019, Alfred Schlosser passed away and his wife, Jackie and her good friend, the Rev. Dorothy Greene bought a pair of beautiful candlestick holders in memory of Alfred. Dorothy asked us to include this in the Memorial Book. It was then that Janet and I set about bringing the Memorial Book up to date.
The church was renovated in 2013 resulting in some changes. We decided to review all that Betty had done in light of the renovation and attempt to reconstruct all memorials and gifts since 2003. We enlisted help from the Rev. Cynthia Bell, Rick and Carla Berry, Kathy Brenner, Lynne Buly, Bonnie Burdick, the Rev. Dorothy Greene, Laura Hoffman, Ann Kirkham, Paul Maki, Pat Melrose, the Rev. Tom Nicoll, Frank and Nancy Pierson, Laura Rawlings, Jackie Schlosser, Francisco Vargas, Tom White and Jmel Wilson. We can’t be sure that we haven’t missed something even with that illustrious panel. However, if you look at the Book and notice an omission, please feel free to let Wendy know. The Book is now easy to amend, update and search electronically. It is kept as a Word document on the Parish Office’s main computer with a copy (also in PDF format) on the Church’s Amazon storage site. It was decided that it would not be available on the Church’s website.
Not all the gifts recorded in the Book can still be found within the church campus. There are a variety of reasons for this; in some cases, gifts were no longer usable, such as a movie projector from earlier days.
Betty had a section entitled “Bequests.” It was decided that we would not include this section. We included only gifts and bequests that were given for a specific purpose (other than a Capital Campaign - that would mean most of us would be included!). In fact, not all gifts of money given for a specific purpose are included.
Some of the gifts are small. For example, a purificatory was given in memory of an Altar Guild member. The donor thought it shouldn’t be included but we thought it was such a loving action that it should be.
We found a couple of plaques where it wasn’t clear what the gift was. We checked the Vestry minutes of the time but they included no mention. We have footnoted our best guess for these plaques. Further, the original Memorial Book stated “Chimes in Tower inscribed: ‘To the praise of God and in loving memory of William Edward Bevis …’” Francisco went up into the bell tower with me to check this out. The inscription appears on the largest bell. The bells were made in Troy, New York.
We have placed the Memorial Book in the Narthex. There is also a copy with a different cover in the sacristy. As you may know, Janet passed away on December 26. She had seen and approved the Book and was waiting for me to write this article. Thank you, Janet, for all you have done for St. John’s. And thank you to all those who gave us time and information.