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Today in the Mission Yearbook

Sharing life stories


Retirement community chaplain invites residents to speak with students

November 22, 2017

Folks living at Westminster Oaks Retirement Community in Tallahassee, Florida, have lived through some of the chapters of history that students study in class today. Chaplain Taylor Phillips reaches out to area high school and college classes, inviting teachers and students to come to the Westminster Oaks campus to hear the residents share their eyewitness accounts of historical moments.

Highlights have included:

  • Lawrence Snowden fought his way up the hill in the battle of Iwo Jima and lived to tell about it. After the war, he also worked for decades to foster positive relationships between Japan and the U.S. He was personally thanked for his efforts on the floor of Congress by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he is honored in the Veterans Hall of Fame in Florida, and his interview appears in the PBS documentary “Iwo Jima: From Combat to Comrades,” which aired in conjunction with Veterans Day in 2015. He is also featured in the book “Snowden’s Story: One Marine’s Indebtedness to the Corps” co-authored by M.R. Street.
  • As a teenager, Anne Allen survived first the Nazi, and then the Soviet, occupations of Budapest, Hungary. In the lulls between the Allied bombing raids, she would collect snow and scrape meat off of dead horses in the street to bring home to feed her family.

Harold Hansen worked on navigational systems for air and space flight. Throughout his career, his work was used on everything from the B-50 bomber to the Hubble telescope, and he served as the project engineer for the lunar module.

  • Donna Lou Askew served in diplomatic roles as first lady of Florida while her husband, Reubin, served as governor from 1971 to 1979, and then worldwide when Reubin Askew became the U.S. trade representative for President Jimmy Carter from 1979 to 1981. Donna Lou Askew still keeps in touch with Carter.
  • Josephine Newton broke the racial barrier in the dance scene of New York, performing with the Charles Weidman group at Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center and the Met. Newton and her husband socialized with Langston Hughes, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. When Newton shared her story with the millennial generation, it became a part of our history lesson to explain who those folks were to our students — as well as to our teachers!

Dr. Jack Early worked in community development in Guatemala in the 1980s. One of his projects involved reporting the increase in infant mortality rates, which was one of the consequences of the civil war there. Here, he shares his story with students from the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society of Florida State University School.

Westminster Oaks has a covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Students visit Westminster Oaks for the rare opportunity to meet and talk with residents and hear details they won’t get from books or videos.  The experience “challenges the traditional way society views the elderly,” says Sandy Saintilus, a sophomore with the FSU Center for Global Leadership and Social Change.      

Students have also entered unique projects in the Florida History Fair/National History Day competition.  In 2013, Lincoln High School student Natalie Jones created a video documentary on resident Mary Sakamoto and her family’s escape from the Japanese-American internment camps during WWII. From this experience, Jones was introduced to the Japanese culture and went on to be awarded a college internship in Tokyo this past summer.  In 2015, Lincoln High School student Nathan Morse interviewed resident Louie Wainwright, and his project “Gideon vs. Wainwright” placed second in state, top 10 nationwide and top 20 worldwide.

Students will be hearing from many more residents whose stories come from experiences all over the world, throughout the past century!

Presbytery of Florida

Today’s Focus:  Presbytery of Florida

Let us join in prayer for:

Presbytery of Florida Staff

Rev. Dr. Paul Luthman, Coordinating Presbyter
Ben Powell, Director, Dogwood Acres
Melissa Morgan, Administrator
Pam McVety, Stewardship of Creation Enabler

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff

Mienda Uriarte, PMA
Kris Valerius, OGA

Let us pray:

Gracious God, thank you for older adults who freely give their love, gifts and resources for the good of the church. They inspire everyone to do the same. All this is to your glory through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Daily Readings

Morning Psalms 65; 147:1-11
First Reading Ezra 10:1-17
Second Reading Revelation 21:9-21
Gospel Reading Matthew 17:22-27
Evening Psalms 125; 91