Four Hundred Years of Life

Posted November 16th, 2018

Reaching one hundred years of age is not uncommon these days.  However, in the McPherson Church of the Brethren, there are four women who turned one hundred in 2018.  That is uncommon!

On January 13, Jeannette Stump celebrated her one-hundredth birthday.  Born in a small town in Oklahoma, she came of age in the panhandle of Texas.  Married to Harley, they served churches in Texas and Oklahoma until McPherson College invited Harley to teach English. Reluctant, as he was “only a pastor”, the College pledged to help him hone his weekly writing and preaching skills into a professorship and so they came to McPherson. Born a Southern Baptist and baptized with her entire family, once backwards in a river, Jeannette found it prudent and “easy as pie” to convert to Church of the Brethren where she was baptized again by immersion, this time three times forward. Harley is gone now, but Jeannette remembers fondly serving churches and the College.  She had two sons, Harl who is a retired medical doctor in Hays, KS and Nelson a retired vocal music school teacher, who while living, had “such a beautiful high-tenor voice”.

On February 5, Gladys Naylor turned one-hundred.  Soon after graduating from McPherson College and marrying, she was immersed in the life and culture of Quito, Ecuador where spouse Kurtis, a conscientious objector, fulfilled his alternative service with Brethren Service Committee by starting a Boys Club. After WWII Gladys moved to Geneva, Switzerland where Kurtis served with the Brethren Service Commission overseeing aid operations in Europe and representing the Church of the Brethren at the World Council of Churches. At the invitation of the Russian Archbishop, they traveled to Moscow where Kurtis preached in a Russian Orthodox Church. Upon their return to the U.S., Gladys served in N.Y.C. as an Executive with Church Women United and they served churches in Denver, Wenatchee, WA and Pomona, CA where Gladys was Executive of the YMCA. These experiences and interactions solidified her deep and life-long commitment to the values of diversity and cross-cultural exchange. She is blessed with four daughters and their families; Merylee, Cherylin, Mariza and Illana.  Still lively, Gladys ponders, “I just don’t feel like one-hundred. How have I lived so long?”

Born one-hundred years ago on May 31st into the Sunnyside Church of the Brethren in Wenatchee, Washington; Hazel Snell was baptized not outside in a creek, as one might imagine for the era, but inside in a baptistery. She was gifted with a beautiful voice and a love for sharing that gift “for the Glory of God”. Only after a stroke in 1999 did she cease singing; in the choir, solos and duets with her beloved husband Art.  Honored as Lifetime Deacons Hazel and Art nurtured their fellow congregants through music and Caregiving. Hazel and Art lived and raised their family in Santa Ana, California.  They stayed there to be a part of daughter Ginny’s life and watch grandchildren grow until moving to Kansas in 1995 to be with son John and grandkids Becky and Amanda.  They were both school teachers and approached life thinking they “might as well be pleasant.”  To that end, Hazel still shares her positive disposition and she and Art’s endless reserve of corny jokes and puns; making it pleasant for us all.

On September 3, Miriam Hoover celebrated one-hundred years of life. Miriam was born into the Church of the Brethren in New Mexico.  Planning on being a professor’s wife and clear she “never wanted to be a pastor’s wife”, she married Wilbur Hoover, a Chemistry Major. Soon after Wilbur was called to the ministry and after Seminary began a series of placements, one of which was in Cambridge, Nebraska at the Afton COB.  He eventually served as the District Executive for Western Plains where they returned after assignments across the Midwest and Central Plains. They raised their children; Modena, Marlin, Marsha and Stewart – in situations Miriam remembers were “occasionally challenging” but because she was “so much in love”, she found a way to make it work.  She remembers when they moved to the Cedars sixteen years ago, they had a house dedication for their duplex.  Now, as she prepares to move again she wonders about having a dedication for “her new digs” in Assisted Living.

These four strong-willed, resilient women all live within the Continuous Care system of the Cedars Retirement Community in McPherson and continue to serve the McPherson Church of the Brethren through the ministries of prayer and presence. With vastly different lives and experiences all four believe they have grown and been nurtured by the Church. Their families of origin and their church family look forward to continuing the journey together – for whatever lies ahead.

Hazel Snell died Thursday, November 15, 2018

Text by Ann Stover and Kathryn Whitacre

Photo by Robert Dell

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