'Chief cook and bottle washer' helps mark 50th

In the Dunedin chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are member Gwen Marshall (seated) with longtime members and friends (from left) Judy Stone, John Blazey, Bill Stone and Thelma McLeod. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
In the Dunedin chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are member Gwen Marshall (seated) with longtime members and friends (from left) Judy Stone, John Blazey, Bill Stone and Thelma McLeod. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
The first thing that struck Gwen Marshall (82) about the people at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was that they were so securely happy.

She was working at a florist's shop until she was old enough to go nursing, when by chance she met a girl who was ''a Mormon''.

''I had never seen anyone who was a Mormon before. She was so securely happy. That's what struck me.''

A friendship blossomed and after a while, Mrs Marshall said the girl invited her to meet her friends, who used to gather at St Clair Beach on Saturdays.

''They didn't believe in alcohol, cigarettes or swearing. There was an aura of goodness about them.

''I think they went to the beach as a good clean Saturday activity.''

When she was invited to join them at their church one day, she said it was a great shock.

''They were meeting in very humble circumstances. It was upstairs in an unused government building. It was dingy - not what I was used to.

''But it was the sincerity, the wholesomeness of the people . . .''

She joined the church in 1947, and later became an integral part of the construction of what is the present day chapel on Fenton Cres, in St Clair.

''I was the chief cook and bottle washer for the construction workers,'' she said.

''People still say today that when the church was being built, it was an incredibly special time - a very happy time.''

Mrs Marshall said there was only about a handful of people who were members when she first joined the church. Now, there are about 900 members, many of whom attended the church's 50th anniversary at the weekend.

There was a meet and greet at the Carisbrook School hall on Friday evening, an open day at the Dunedin chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and celebration supper on Saturday, and a Sabbath service yesterday.

 

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