Few of us can claim that we have the faith of Abraham. But there are some among us who serve as wonderful examples of living a life of faith and hope well into old age.

Each year, the diocese recognizes and honors the exemplary ministries of our older members through induction into the Society of St. Simeon and St. Anna. The Society celebrates the wisdom, experience, maturity, and achievements ofpersons who are at least 60 years of age and Episcopalians for 15 or more years.

Eleven individuals were inducted into the Society as the Class of 2018 at a special Eucharist and luncheon at the Procter Center April 18. We’re sharing some excerpts from their nominating letters so you can get to know these exceptional people of faith and models of affirmative aging. (Click on each name to read the profile) A hearty congratulations to these faithful servants.

Photos by Sherri Martin/Diocese of Southern Ohio

Class of 2018

Charlie Evranian, All Saints, New Albany

Charlie Evrainian

A faithful member of All Saints, New Albany, for many years, Charlie Evranian is a true Christian disciple bearing the compassion of Jesus Christ to all he meets. His wisdom and kindness have become an invaluable asset to the parish. He is quick to help in any way he can. His tools of ministry range from broom and shovels to liturgy bulletins and palms. He exemplifies welcome and hospitality to all he encounters.

Charlie is loyal to his duties as a greeter, always quick to offer a smile and welcome to all who enter. For many years as the congregation began a “new” 8:30 a.m. service, Charlie would faithfully administer his duties as greeter no matter the weather, sometimes with only he, the parish deacon and the rector in attendance. Now, the 8:30 Eucharist has nearly 40 people due to the welcome and kindness they receive from Charlie. He truly demonstrates the hospitality of Jesus Christ in his life and actions.

Howard and Nell Gregory, St. Barnabas,Montgomery

Howard and Nell Gregory

Howard and Nell Gregory have been a part of several Episcopal churches in Cincinnati throughout the decades of their lives, serving as Sunday school teachers, altar guild, and vestry members along the way. They arrived at St. Barnabas, Montgomery, in the 1990s and were foundational in starting OPALS (Older People with Active Lifestyles), and more recently a popular supper club, so that people do not have to always eat alone.

Well into chronological old age, Howard and Nell exemplify an eagerness and curiosity about the world, a positive attitude about life and a willingness to create and encourage community among the people around them. Nell has a smile for everyone and a positive outlook on life despite some physical limitations. Howard is always ready with a joke or riddle.

Recently, a young family with four children came to the church. Howard, who has great artistic ability and throughout his life has enjoyed drawing cartoons of every sort, drew a cartoon character one Sunday for their young son, Jamie, to color. Jamie enjoyed it so much that Howard drew another the next time he saw him. From that time on, Howard planned his drawing to match the alphabet, and every Sunday was prepared with another drawing for Jamie. Jamie’s mother collected the beautiful drawings of the alphabet that her son had colored and created a book of them, which she then copied and gave to Howard. This connection has been an inspiration for a variety of new inter-generational community events to strengthen the bonds of the different ages and cultures at St. Barnabas.

Mary McKell, St. Paul’s, Chillicothe

Mary McKell

Mary McKell has served as altar guild director at St. Paul’s, Chillicothe, for many years. She tries to delegate and share the work with others on the altar guild as an important ministry and support for the clergy. Even though she has been altar guild director for a long time, she still studies and checks to see that things are as the clergy would like them to be.

Mary’s services to St. Paul’s are not limited to the altar guild. She is involved in a number of other things at the church as well, such as the knitting group, outreach committee, flower committee and fundraising committee.

A model of Christian living, St. Paul’s members can count on Mary being in her pew on Sunday, in the sacristy before church, in the kitchen after church, or sharing a comforting word with a grieving family after a funeral service. You will always find Mary welcoming a stranger or chatting up a friend, all in the name of Christ. She has a warm and welcoming heart for all that enter the doors of St. Paul’s, and does all she can to make them feel at home and part of the church family.

Donna Nickerson, St. Paul’s, Chillicothe

Donna Nickerson

For a number of reasons, one of the first people you meet if you attend a service at St. Paul’s, Chillicothe is Donna Nickerson. First, Donna is in charge of the ushers. She wants to make you feel welcome and comfortable at St. Paul’s as well as to know what’s going on in the congregation. Donna keeps her eye out for people who might need attention by someone during the service, if they seem lost following the service, or may need help by the priest after the service. She just seems to always know who and when there are needs.

Another aspect of Donna’s ministry is her leadership of the outreach committee. Just as she has an eye for those who need help on Sunday, Donna is always looking for ways for St. Paul’s to help those in need in Chillicothe and in the world. She is always ready to respond to a hurricane in Florida or Texas or sub-freezing weather in the city of Chillicothe. Everyone knows that after the church service, you may be asked by Donna to help collect warm clothing for the domestic abuse center or cook supper for Hope Clinic. But whatever you are asked to do, Donna Nickerson will be right beside you all the time, helping you out and cheering you on.

Marybeth Peebles, St. Luke, Marietta

A native of Chicago, Marybeth Peebles has been a part of the St. Luke’s community since her arrival in Marietta in 2001, when Marietta College called her to a position as professor of education. She retired from this post in 2010. Both she and her husband, Jim, have been quite active in the parish, filling a great many roles.

Throughout her professional career, Marybeth has been active in community affairs, serving on the board of Red Cross for nine years. She has been an aerobics instructor for thirty-five years and continues to teach at the local YMCA. Her parish involvement includes serving as the chair of the Outreach Committee for several years. She has been a reader at the liturgy and a Eucharistic Minister and Visitor. She designed and directed the children’s reading program, Holy Moly, for three years. She has worked with other community groups to establish a monthly community meal, and coordinated an annual Secret Santa program for economically challenged families for several years. She has directed the parish’s monthly “Door-to-door” meal delivery to shut-in people in the city, and has served as parish liaison and coordinator of the principal fundraiser for the local church-supported food pantry. In most of these activities, Marybeth has worked with others from a variety of churches in Marietta. It is not too much to say that she is, in some ways, the public face of St. Luke’s parish.

Throughout her life at St. Luke’s, Marybeth has been unfailingly helpful and considerate. She treats everyone she encounters with dignity and respect. Those who are touched by the church’s various outreach programs invariably comment on how much they care for Marybeth, because she obviously takes a real interest in them as people, and not as receivers of benefits. This is, perhaps, her greatest contribution to the life of the parish: to model the all-embracing love of a God who does not distinguish between us based on our status or privilege.

Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Marybeth was unable to attend the induction ceremony on April 18, so no photo of her is available.

Sara Rich, St. George’s, Dayton

Sara Rich is congratulated by the Rev. Gregory Sammons at the April 18 induction ceremony.

Sara Rich joined St. George’s, Dayton, in 1975 and has been active in the Altar Guild since 1976, serving as the director for 18 years. She has served on vestry, as both Junior and Senior Warden, as a member of the search committee and has chaired a discernment committee. For the past 10-12 years Sara has been a member of the finance committee, and she chaired the 2000 capital campaign “Visions 2000,” which raised $1.5 million for new stained-glass windows and other capital projects. Somehow, Sara also found the time to be a Sunday school teacher, chair a Vacation Bible School and schedule acolytes for eight years.

Sara’s life is a testament to her beliefs, and she has given generously of her time, talent and skills. Her faith led her to join others to work for more than 20 years as a founder and board member of the Miami Valley Episcopal Russian Network (MVERN), to help restore Christianity in the village of Sabino, Russia. Seeking to make her neighborhood a better place, Sara held several leadership roles with the Kettering Board of Education and used her skills to raise funds for scholarships for hundreds of students in medicine and allied fields in Montgomery County. She is even-tempered, patient, kind, loving and generous. Her willingness to give of her talents has enriched her life in addition to bettering the lives of countless other people.

Janice “Gay” Roberts, St. John’s, Columbus

Gay Roberts is congratulated by the Rev. Gregory Sammons at the April 18 induction ceremony.

Gay Roberts has been a member of St. John’s, Columbus, for over 50 years and has actively participated in all facets of the church’s ministries. She is a quiet presence with deep, spiritually astute insights into matters both religious and secular. She bears the personal challenges of family members with courage and faith, never wavering in her trust in a loving God. She models God’s love in her own relationships.

Gay has served many terms on Mission Council and as Senior Warden. She has served as a faithful volunteer at His Place dinners and in the adult learning center. Currently, Gay is serving another term on Mission Council and also as church librarian, distributing free books available to adults and children. She spent many years teaching Sunday school and helping with any activities involving children. She is a “go to” person at the church – if something needs done, she is always willing to help out!

Gay regularly attends worship and takes advantage of Advent and Lenten programs that focus on spiritual practices, biblical reflection, and prayer. She puts her faith where her life is. She reaches out in love even when she has been hurt and actively prays for those who are in any pain. She is, at the same time, honest in her encounters with people and gives spiritual guidance from her heart. Gay sees Christ reflected wherever she looks – in other people, and in creation.

Willa Tait, Holy Trinity, Kenwood

The Rev. Margaret Sammons holds a photo of Willa Tait, who was unable to attend the ceremony

Willa Tait is a lifelong Episcopalian, and was baptized in the Cathedral prior to its present location in Cincinnati. Ever since she was a young child, Willa has faithfully attended Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, from Madisonville to its present location in Kenwood/Madeira. 

Over the years, Willa has served the church in various capacities, including Altar Guild secretary and directress, Sunday school teacher, greeter, lector, chalice bearer, music planning, and as church auditor and historian. She took on responsibility for bulletins when the church secretary left, and added a newsletter to the weekly bulletin to keep the community informed.

Willa, who will turn 90 this year, continues to assist with altar guild duties, including the care of all linens. She still does the weekly bulletins, consulting regularly with the organist and priest. Willa was baptized, confirmed, and married in the Episcopal Church, raised two children in the church, and has watched the church pass through many seasons, all while remaining an ever faithful servant.

Willa has never met a stranger in her midst; with every newcomer she has stepped forward with a warm and genuine greeting. Willa is the true matriarch of Holy Trinity, Kenwood, yet does not like to draw attention to herself. Rather she prefers to celebrate others, expressing praise and gratitude for their contributions. She is a quiet, behind-the-scenes woman who knows the love of Christ in a way that simply emanates from her being to all those around her. Willa is the source of memory for things past at Holy Trinity, as well as pointing to the hope of what is to come by way of her gentle spirit and openness to those who are new, applauding change as it unfolds.

Linda and William Whittle, St. James, Cincinnati

Linda and Bill Whittle were joined at the ceremony by the Rev. Mary Carson, Priest in charge at St. James, Westwood.

Bill and Linda Whittle are partners in ministry as well as life. They have been active members of St. James, Cincinnati, for many years, raising children and grandchildren in the parish.

Bill has served on the vestry and stewardship committee, and as an acolyte, lector, and Eucharistic minister. He is also one of the founders and organizers of the Belles and Whistles, a group of model train enthusiasts who erect a massive train display in the parish hall each December to the delight of children and adults alike.

Utilizing her nursing background, Linda spends many hours each week talking with parishioners by phone or visiting them in the hospital, skilled care facilities, or at home. Bill often joins her when they are serving as Eucharistic visitors. Together they provided pastoral care to members of St. James during the transition between clergy when there was no interim. When they visit parishioners, they bring smiles, comfort and caring so that those who are often isolated can feel connected to their parish.

Both are members of the choir. Bill’s been singing since he was a boy. Linda joined just a few years ago, perhaps so she could sit with him more often! Both are also graduates of Education for Ministry.

Recently Linda took on the responsibility of serving as St. James’ representative to the Westfed food pantry, the neighborhood ecumenical pantry. She is helping St. James to become more active in donating needed food items and is volunteering in the once-a-month packing and distribution. 

They both love God and the Church and the deep faith in Christ that they share freely with others is an encouragement to those with whom they serve.