Article

The Saints of St. Marks II
Elizabeth Irene Willis Shoemaker

Written by Jayne Allen Nichols

In 1979 when this author first came to St. Marks, Dave Wolf was the pastor and Beth Shoemaker was the church secretary whose calm smile and friendly manner set the tone for the office. She had been a volunteer at St. Marks since 1951 when the MacMurdos held services in the lath house, but it was Bob Moon who invited Beth to take on paid secretarial duties.

Beth credits Bob Moon with “giving her wings” as he encouraged her professional and personal growth and development. She also performed the job of wedding hostess which she enjoyed. Along with Bob’s sending her to staff conferences in Asilomar, Bob granted Beth’s wish to have Wednesday afternoons off to play bridge. Beth sums up her church secretarial experiences by saying: Bob Moon had terrible handwriting; Dave Wolf had a messy desk; but Jeff Snyder’s desk was neat as a pin. She retired from her job as church secretary in the late 1980s.

Like many St. Marks members, Beth originated in Nebraska where her father worked as a teacher and a principal in Lincoln. She was born Oct. 1, 1919 and grew up attending Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in her hometown. At an Epworth League meeting of youth at her church, she met her future husband, Merl Shoemaker, from Elm Creek, NE. They were both students at the University of Nebraska from which Merl graduated and Beth completed three year’s study in business administration. They were married in April of 1941 and soon interrupted their civilian plans for Merl’s service in the U. S. Air Force after war was declared in December of 1941.

It was their 1945 sojourn at Hamilton AFB near Petaluma, CA, that attracted the newlyweds to California. Merl took a job with the War Assets Administration after the war and Beth, initially, worked in the California State Dept. of Education’s textbook storage facility. This work was a little too quiet for Beth’s lively personality and a friend suggested she apply to work in the steno pool for the State legislature, which she did.

Among the famous names Beth recites in her memories from that time is Jesse Unruh, a long time legislator before term limits. He gave Beth dictation which she claims contained “flawless” English. She must have known proper English grammar herself to recognize it in another’s sentences. She commented about the behavior of a certain Speaker Protem at the time who liked to play a game called “kneesies”. It sounds like a practice we’d call sexual harassment today. But Beth also saw the installation of the first woman legislator, Katherine Neihhouse, during this time. When Beth’s first daughter was born in 1950, Beth resigned her duties at the capitol and stayed home to raise her family augmented by a second daughter in 1954.

In addition to volunteering at the Children’s Receiving Home and playing bridge, Beth also played golf with a regular foursome every week. She has always liked an active life and loved playing tag and hide and seek as a child. Now living at Carleton Plaza, she enjoys the activities they offer there including writing groups. Beth wrote a book for her great granddaughter Rebeckah, born in 2007, titled Rebeckah’s Blanket. It humorously recounts the mishaps that occurred in her knitting of a baby blanket for this beloved child.

Beth assures any and all that she is “too blessed to be stressed” and, indeed, her bosses called her unflappable. When Beth attends worship or other activities at St. Marks, you can readily identify her by her pink-flowered walker (she has two of them) and her inviting smile. She loves to tell stories and have company, entertaining them using her incomparable memory which puts my younger one to shame with knowledge of specific names, dates and events. She is almost 92 with plenty still to do.

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