First United Methodist Church Clarinda, Iowa [part 9]

1951-58  Wauneita McConnell, Associate Pastor

In February of 1951, Wauneita McConnell was appointed as Associate Pastor.  While at Clarinda, she also served the Shambaugh Church . 


Her work in Clarinda centered on youth involvement.  Her enthusiasm was of great importance as the youth in the church became more and more involved.  She calls here years in the ministry a “great, wonderful, awesome time”. 


Some of those young people with whom she worked particularly remember that she had the first car that they had seen with an automatic dimmer.  Hayrides at the Louden farm and other farms were fun activities.


Hugh and Maxine Louden remember that she often said, “God only has our hands and feet to do his work.”


After leaving Clarinda Rev. McConnell served churches in Moravia and Maryville , Missouri., and Russell , Iowa .  She retired in 1984 and in 2003 resides in Indianola , Iowa .


1958-62  David W. Ash


After being a collegiate associate in Ames , Rev. Ash served churches in Minburn and Nevada .  Rev. Ash began his pastorate in Clarinda in 1958.  After the popularity of the Greenwood pastorate, it was a difficult role to fill.


Rev. Ash was fascinated by farm life and several parishioners report how he loved to visit their farms and the farms of congregation members.


Rev. Ash was challenged with kicking off the fund raising campaign for the educational unit.  The story is told of how surprised he was at the kick-off dinner to learn that one faithful parishioner (Bill Markle) had left the dinner and was already making his calls.   He was also surprised one Sunday when the ushers did not bring the offering plates forward.


  In 1959, the Ash family Christmas card included infant daughter Susan Louise.  Her birth is the only record of a child born to a pastor’s family while they were serving the Clarinda church. 


Mrs. Ash directed the choirs.  His mother-in-law was church secretary.  Jennie Schenck was W.S.C.S. President when a group of women worked all day to prepare the parsonage for the Ash family.  Jennie remembers that the day after they moved in a full page of additional work to be done was given to the women. 


The following excerpts are from Rob Ash, son of Rev. Ash.  Rob is the head football coach at Drake University :


“I'm sorry to tell you that my dad passed away in August of 1998 with complications from Alzheimer's.  He had been in pretty tough shape for 3-4 years, and had been living in Wesley Acres in increasingly more dependent condition each year.  My mom died in 1989 of cancer and dad had remarried the widow of a former Methodist pastor in 1991, but unfortunately they didn't have much quality time together before dad started having serious medical problems.


I can remember a lot about the days in Clarinda.  Of course we had the terrible fire that destroyed our detached garage, including our car and our Nimrod camper, along with dad's workshop and several bicycles, on a Saturday morning just one day before we were scheduled to take off on our annual August camping trip for four weeks.  The trailer was loaded with sleeping bags and camping equipment, and we had already packed in boxes of canned food for the trip.  As I recall, dad went ahead and preached on Sunday, then we put out the "all-call" for help.  My uncle from DeWitt , Iowa loaned us his station wagon, and various members of the congregation pitched in with a tent, sleeping bags, and all kinds of gear, and we left as scheduled on our camping trip with the garage still almost

smoldering!  What an incredible outpouring of sharing that was!


(You know, we had an incinerator out back of the parsonage where we burned a lot of our trash -- I had almost forgotten that we all used to do that -- and the day the garage burned down it was very windy and we always figured that some burning trash blew out of the trash can and over into or on top of the garage to start it on fire.  We were sitting at the breakfast table on Saturday morning, eating breakfast when we heard the fire sirens and we said to each other -- wonder where the fire is?  When the trucks turned down the alley by our house, we knew it must be close, and of course when we got up to check we were amazed to seethe garage in flames.  The garage was totally destroyed.)


As kids, we used to love playing on the big front porch of the parsonage.  We would sit in the porch swing and watch for cars (there were quite a few on Washington street) and when a car would reach the street at the bottom of the hill, we would try to run off the porch, around a tree in the front yard, and then back up on the porch swing again before the car got to the corner at the top of the hill (the boulevard street).   It didn't take much to amuse us, but at least we weren't watching TV or playing video games! (We also made the back yard an ultimate playing field -- we had a baseball diamond and a football field laid out between the church on one side, the back of the house, the hedge and the alley on the side opposite the church, and the short white picket fence along the back.  In fact, the incinerator can was both second base and the goal post.)


I also remember many, many projects, such as scraping and painting the Sunday school building that was on the opposite side of the parsonage from the church.  As you recall, it was a rambling old structure and it wasn't in the best of shape, but we worked and worked to fix it up and make it look as good as possible.  I remember scraping off the old white paint on the outside walls of the building and some of the wood would come off with the paint because it was in such disrepair.  But I also remember some great Sunday school classes in those old sitting rooms!


There also was a terrific snowstorm that just buried the town and I remember dad was concerned about all of the snow on the roof of the church offices.  We actually got up on the roof of the church (not the highest roof, but the roof over the office area) and shoveled the snow off of the roof onto the ground below.  Of course, the next game was to jump off the roof into these fabulous snowdrifts!  One tragic occurrence that day happened when dad was finished shoveling and he tossed his shovel off the roof before he was going to climb down.  At the moment he let go of the shovel, a young man who was staying with us walked out of the door below and the flying shovel hit him right in the forehead, causing a huge, scary

cut but no life-threatening injury.


Only four short years, but they were great years.  I got my name "Rob" in Clarinda because my best friend was Bob Sinn and we didn't want to have the same name, so I shortened my Robert to Rob and he took the Bob.”  --Rob Ash


Rob also forwarded some notes from his sister Sheryl who lives in Connecticut, is married to an educator, works for an executive search firm, and has 13 and 16 year old sons:


“I remember Dad organizing kickball games for the youth groups in the backyard right next to the church.  I don't think it was a very big back yard, but somehow we made it work and tried not to hit a church window.


I remember you and I helped Dad on Saturdays at the church -- It was our job to fill the pews with newly sharpened pencils and pads of paper, or fold bulletins for Sunday service, or count the coins from the collection plates and put the coins in coin rolls.


I remember LONG mornings of endless church services on Easter, starting with a 6 a.m. ecumenical sunrise service at the drive-in movie theater.  The pastors from all the local churches were on the stage in front of the movie screen, and everyone sat in their cars and listened through the drive-in movie speakers.  Then we went back to the church and had some sort of Easter breakfast there and put on new clothes and went to 2 more church services, usually to sing in the choirs, which Mom directed.  Looking back, I wonder how she got 4 children (including a baby) up and dressed for 3 church services, then directed the combined adult and children's choirs in performances of elaborate Easter day music, then came home and one hour later had a full roast beef or ham dinner ready for the family.  She was the ultimate pastor's wife, doing it all.


I remember the wonderful candlelight Christmas Eve pageants that told the story of Christmas through a moving tableau of costumed angels, shepherds and wise men.  As a little girl I looked up to those teenagers who were angels and longed to be one someday, because they were so beautiful in the candlelight with their white dresses and glittering halos. You were probably a little shepherd boy around that time.  Those pageants were one

thing Dad instituted at every church he served.


I remember that in a small town, everyone seemed to know my Dad.  One Memorial Day, when relatives visited with a big family of children, we left our cousin Sarah at the cemetery where we were watching the parade, not noticing that one was missing. . .A policeman came to the door with her a while later (she still hadn't been missed) and said, ‘She says her name is Ash, but I know she's not one of yours, Rev. Ash.’  He knew us all.


I remember I liked our house, but I can only remember the downstairs right now.  I can't remember what my bedroom was like.  The parsonage had big, high-ceilinged rooms downstairs (at least it seemed so to me), perfect for laying out card baseball games or having birthday parties, or setting up a playpen or a big table for Sunday dinner.


I remember going to lots of potluck dinners.  In my kitchen, I have my Mom's recipe box full of casseroles and jello salads collected in five different pastorates, with notes in Mom's handwriting like "Chicken Recipe – Ruth Seabrook" or "Noodle Hot Dish - Alice Lubke."   Chicken was the clear winner: there is "Chicken Casserole - Lois Miller" and "Chicken Supreme for 8 - Mrs. Fossem" and "Chicken and Broccoli - Helen Larson (Hardy)." I see three recipes from Hyldred Reese ("Bazaar Stew," "Dried Beef and Noodle Dish," "Tuna Casserole.") and that brings back memories of a wonderful Clarinda woman.  We children spent many hours and even some overnights at Hyldred's house when Mom and Dad were busy with church business or out of town at a conference.  She was a warm and affectionate babysitter and friend - always greeting us with big hugs and fresh baked cookies.  When my best friend lost her father from a surprise heart attack, Hyldred kept us both at her house that first awful night after.


That's all I remember right now but perhaps a few of these memories will be interesting to Clarinda.


By the way, I do think the fire was the most notable thing that happened while we were in Clarinda.


What I remember is hearing the fire sirens.  I watched them come up the street and then my heart started to pound when I realized they were turning into that alleyway or little street by our house.  And I remember the smell of burned things lingered in the house for a long time after.  I remember that we rescued all the canned goods that had been packed for the trip, but

the labels were burned off, so for weeks after, Mom would reach for a blackened can from the pantry and not know if she was opening pineapple chunks or soup.”  -Sheryl Ash


Rich Ash is an actuary with Jackson Insurance in Lansing , Michigan .  Sue Ash is the only child we have record of who was born while a family lived in the parsonage.  She is an artist in Minneapolis .


During the years of Rev. Ash’s pastorate, Nelson Crow built a youth choir that was the envy of other churches.  A large group of young people, sometimes numbering up to 30, performed faithfully every Sunday morning at the early service.  During Christmas break it was a tradition to ask college students to rejoin the group for a special Sunday performance.


Some parishioners still recall the controversy over the virgin birth which was debated at length with Rev. Ash.


As Rob mentioned, it was during Rev. Ash’s ministry that elaborate Christmas pageants were developed.  Ruth Tarrant fondly remembers the fun time in Fellowship Hall making angel wings.  Pieces of those costumes can still be found in the third floor “archives” of the church.  After the Clarinda assignment, Rev. Ash served churches in Ottumwa and Decorah.  He retired in 1988.