History of Eastrose

Eleanor Hunting, Founding Member
Installments were being published in the Petals monthly newsletter

with an epilogue by Michael Schilmoeller


How Eastrose Began – 1948 to 1956

In 1948, a movement began in the Unitarian Universalist Pacific Coast Region of the American Unitarian Association, to establish Fellowships throughout communities surrounding metropolitan areas. 

At that time, Leonard Hunting was Vice President of the Pacific Coast Region.  He and his wife, Eleanor Hunting, were members of the large congregation at First Unitarian Church of Portland, Oregon, known to us as “First Church.” 

Len Hunting proposed that First Church help start four Fellowships within a five to ten mile radius of downtown — North, South, East, and West.  Some First Church members were already talking about founding the West Hills Fellowship.  Unitarians in Vancouver, Washington wanted to organize a Fellowship but needed help.  The Huntings, Lees and Whites (three families of First Church) continued as First Church members, but helped establish the Michael Servetus Fellowship in Washington in 1953.

In April l956, sixteen First Church members met with the Rev. Frank Ricker, Executive Secretary of the Pacific Coast Council, in the Hunting home and decided to form a Fellowship.  They coined the name “Eastrose” from its geographical location on the “East side” of Portland, known as “the Rose City.” 

In September, thirteen families rented the abandoned firehouse at 82nd and NE Glisan for adult Sunday evening services.  On November 11, 1956, Eastrose became a Fellowship officially recognized by the AUA — the American Unitarian Association.

Our Moving Years (1956-1961)  Eastrose moved 6 times in 5 years!

From September through December 1956, Eastrose rented an abandoned firehouse on Burnside and 82nd for adult evening meetings.  In December, the firehouse was to be torn down, so we rented the upstairs in the Odd Fellows Hall on Burnside near 72nd.  Adults continued their evening services, but started a Children’s Sunday School which met from 10:30 to Noon with a Forum for parents.  To save money, we let out the space and did not meet during the summer.

In September 1957, children’s Religious Education resumed at the Woodland Park Dance Studio on Clackamas and 102nd.  The adults changed to morning services in a Chinese restaurant across the street.  On September 15th, Rev. Richard Steiner of Portland First Unitarian Church, preached on “Unitarianism — What is It?”    On October 6th, Pauline Gilson of First Church and Eleanor Hunting discussed “Our Children’s Religion — What Kind Do We Want?”  To save three month’s rent, we again closed for the summer.

From September 1958 to June 1959 (our fourth move) we rented a suite of doctor’s offices above the bicycle shop at 11911 NE Halsey.  On June 7th, Eastrose and Michael Servetus Fellowships enjoyed their annual picnic at Leverich Park, Vancouver.  In mid-June, Eastrose with other Oregon Fellowships camped overnight at Cove Palisades State Park near Madras.  In September, we again rented the doctor’s offices plus a three-room apartment to take care of increased children’s enrollment.  At Thanksgiving, we all celebrated  Unitarian Service Committee Sunday service, “Be Thankful you Can Help Others,” led by Eleanor Hunting.  Near Valentine’s Day, we had a delicious spaghetti dinner “fund raiser” with our youth as the servers.

Then on Sunday evening May 15 1960, an emergency meeting was held.  Eastrose voted unanimously to accept Mrs. Nellie Jane Campbell’s generous offer of a 75′ x 555′ lot on NE 181st Avenue near Halsey, free and clear of debt, which she gave “if you will build a church on it.”  On a sunny October Saturday, Eastrose families watched Mrs. Campbell turn the first shovel of dirt at our groundbreaking picnic.

During our building’s construction, we had our last and sixth rental space in five years.  From September 1960 to January 1961, we met in the gym of the Rockwood Elementary School.   Mrs. Campbell narrated our Christmas Sunday program that year. 

Our Own Building

Did you know? 

  • In May 1958 the children gave $5.00 of their Sunday School offering and asked the adults to start a Building Fund!
  • On Saturday, December 13, 1958 a five-car caravan, led by Eastrose President Harold Ayer, drove 20 miles to a rugged tree farm.  The group hiked, searched and cut trees for themselves, other absent members, and a special tree for the Fellowship. 
  • On Easter Sunday, March 29, 1959, 11 Eastrose families joined 15 West Hills Fellowship families for an outdoor service.  Over 100 voices sang We Sing of Golden Mornings amid a drizzly rain!  Then adults and children climbed a steep, burned over hillside to plant 1,000 Douglas Fir seedlings donated by the Forest Service. 

Thus, on Christmas 1958, Eastrose families cut down a dozen trees for their holiday celebrations and on Easter 1959, they planted 1,000 “new lives” for future generations to enjoy! 

Did you know?

  • Except for Harold Ayer, the first 7 Eastrose presidents either moved away or were transferred by their companies. 

At last, on January 22, 1961, we made our final move into our current building, but it was just an unfinished “shell.”   Len Hunting, our lay leader, was Building Chair.  For months we had Every Saturday Work Parties to put up insulation, wood paneling, and to help member Frank Zahumensky plaster the six church school rooms. 

Arden Benson, Eastrose Petals editor wrote, “The enthusiasm of Eastrose Unitarian Fellowship is now beyond all bonds. We look at our new building, we work in it on Saturdays, and we wonder,  ‘Is this really us?’  We have more members, and are further in debt than ever before.  The new building brings a number of problems.  Rugs, any kind of rugs can be used to cover those cold concrete Sunday School floors.  We old-timers remember that Vancouver Fellowship lent us our present chairs.  They (Vancouver Fellowship) are growing and will soon need them back.  Eastrose board voted to buy chairs, but we do not have enough money.  So each of us could “buy” his or her own chair, as an extra contribution (about $6.00).” 

Did you know?

  • A few months after we moved into our new building, we noticed that the sugar cubes used at our coffee hour were rapidly disappearing. We soon found that our children were feeding them through the fence to the two horses living next door to the north.

Eastrose Fellowship – Grows and Expands

During the 1960s, mainline churches, including Unitarian ones, experienced great growth in membership.  By 1963, Eastrose had grown to 55 adult members, consisting of 35 families and 54 children and youth.  We had doubled in size in our new building! 

Sketch of Eastrose before 1999 remodelIn 1966, pressure from our growing Church School stimulated construction of a 24 x 40 feet addition to our building.  So work parties and fund drives continued.  The new addition, named for our secretary, Ray Thatcher, was used on Sundays for three classes with rolling cabinets as partitions.  Two classes met in the present minister’s study and the Fellowship office.  Our youth room also housed the new Len Hunting Library. 

By 1966, Eastrose had grown to 74 adult members and 85 children and youth.  Since in the 1960s there were no public kindergartens in East Multnomah County, a morning kindergarten (Monday through Friday) was held in our Thatcher Room.

Late in 1966 (near our 10th Anniversary) we purchased the lot and house to the North.  This lot years later became our park/playground and for possible future building expansion.  The First Unitarian Church, Portland, helped us with a loan for the down payment.  Larry Horton, Eileen’s realtor husband, kept the house rented so we could pay the monthly mortgage on our new property.

 In the spring of 1967 we put up a wire fence west of the house and backyard and tore down the horse shed.  There Larry Horton helped several needy local families plant small vegetable gardens and supervised their use of our Fellowship water. 

Eastrose Fellowship Pioneers & Early Leaders 

Of the thirteen founding Eastrose families, most served both as hard workers and visionary leaders.  They believed that a liberal religious presence in east Multnomah County was needed and possible.  So they devoted time, energy and money to make our Unitarian Universalist Fellowship come true.

Who were these first pioneers?  To what responsibilities for Eastrose did they commit? 

  • BOB HERMAN, BOB PARR and DICK HYATT, our first presidents, were transferred out of Oregon by their companies, each after serving only one year. 
  • The nominating committee asked their next nominee, HAROLD AYER, if he planned to stay in Portland if elected president? He said definitely “yes” and he rotated with ARDEN BENSON for several years as Petals editor.  Arden also organized our Drama Group that performed for a few Sunday Services. 
  • LEE AYER was our efficient treasurer for a number of years. 
  • NELLIE JANE CAMPBELL gave us one acre of land free at 1133 NE 181st, if we promised to build a church on it.  She also bought $5000 worth of bonds to help finance its construction.
  • Lloyd Gilson, an architect and member of Portland’s First Unitarian Church, volunteered as our architect.  He helped us plan a simple building.) In early 1960 our president Dick Hyatt found a contractor who, by using less expensive metal trusses than wood ones, agreed to build a skeleton building for $16,000.  At that time we had $2000 in our Building Fund. 
  • RAY THATCHER, Eastrose secretary, found the Broadway Plan that helped small churches sell bonds with 5% interest returns. 
  • LEN HUNTING, our state recognized lay leader, was the building / bonds chair.  Almost all our members bought bonds for their children’s college education or as their own savings accounts. 
  • BILL BOSWORTH was president in 1960-61 and wife MARIAN was pianist and soloist. 
  • JANE HALLGARTH, our first Universalist, was Sunday School superintendent three years and Eastrose secretary, after Ray Thatcher. 
  • ELEANOR HUNTING was Religious Education Committee chair and volunteer DRE for the first four years. 
  • EILEEN HORTON followed Jane Hallgarth as Sunday School superintendent the next three years. 
  • LEE PETERSON served as first LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) Advisor. 
  • Although not official members, our LRYers were Eastrose pioneers, too.  In May 1960 their first all Youth Sunday Service included Elaine & Becky Hallgarth, Harvey Horton, Duane & Elaine Hunting, and Leoma Peterson.  These young people were also hard workers on our every Saturday work parties, helping finish our building and landscape the grounds. 

Who were other early leaders in 1961-1965? 

  • GEORGE HARVEY served as our sixth president and ISABEL was treasurer for two years before they moved to Corvallis. 
  • ELSIE HALL (now Bielecki) was building and grounds chair and started our Peace Garden.
  • JIM DEER was president 1962-63 before he, EVELYN and family moved and became leaders in the West Hills Fellowship. 
  • DUANE LEMLEY became president in 1965.  He and DARLEANE were active in our religious education program.
  • HELEN RUNNING was our first woman president and led us on daylong hikes.  Husband JIM, at the Oregonian Gresham office, was our news & ad person.
  • STAN SACKETT, both  as president and finance chair helped us through tense situations with his wisdom and sense of humor. LURAH was R.E. committee chair. 
  • DAVE TAYLOR wore three hats in the early years: president, program vice-president and Petals editor.  JEAN was treasurer for two years. 

In August 2003, NINE of our pioneers and early leaders are still Eastrose members.   Eleven have died.  Seven are active in other local or distant UU societies. 

OUTREACH — Our Local Community & the World

From the very beginning, Eastrose members & friends were involved and active in the local east Multnomah County community. 

Snow-CAP Community Charities:

Eastrose is proud to be one of the 17 churches that founded Snow-CAP.  In Snow-CAP’s early years, Len Hunting served as interim director for one year.  Lee Ayer was transportation coordinator getting volunteers to deliver food to shut-ins, to collect food barrels at grocery stores and to take Snow-CAP clients for doctor appointments.  Several Eastrose men (no longer with us) helped in the “Food Room” and Eleanor Hunting was the “Clothing Room”  volunteer coordinator for 5 years.  Larry Horton, besides keeping our rental house with tenants, supervised several vegetable garden plots, planted by neighboring families, on our property.  He was “custodian” of the usage of our water for these gardens which contributed food to Snow-CAP. 

Today Eastrose maintains and continually fills a food barrel for Snow-CAP and members deliver food, clothing, and other needed items to the Snow-CAP warehouse.  One of our members maintains the Snow-CAP website. 

Human Solutions:

Human Solutions provides family services and housing help (both transitional and permanent) for East Multnomah County residents.  Many Eastrose members traditionally contributed gifts and new clothing for one or two families at Christmas who were sponsored by this organization, and continue to do this each year for Human Solutions. 

Today, we also hold a winter warm clothing drive and periodically contribute household goods to this effort when special appeals are made to us. 

Worldwide Outreach Programs:

Eastrose members support several worldwide outreach organizations. 

  • UNICEF holiday cards are offered and purchased at Christmastime.  At Halloween, we take “trick or treat” collections for UNICEF. 
  • UU Service Committee receives direct donations from Eastrosarians as well as the fall “Guest at Your Table” boxes that are filled around Thanksgiving time.  UUSC also offers holiday cards, which are purchased by Eastrosarians.
  • The “Mitten Tree”, a tradition at Christmastime, raises funds for UUSC and warm new mittens and gloves for SnowCAP. 

These are some of the local and wider outreach programs that show that Eastrose members are, and have been, caring and concerned people who share with others.   Unitarian/Universalists combined are liberal religious faith with action!

How Eastrose Got its Name

Recently several members have asked, “How did Eastrose get its name?” 

At about the time Eastrose was formed in 1956, several other outlying UU fellowships were also begun. 

The Unitarians in Vancouver, Washington chose “Michael Servetus” for their new fellowship’s name in 1953 — which was the 400th anniversary of the burning at the stake of Michael Servetus, the Spanish Unitarian. 

Some Unitarians in  Portland’s western suburbs decided to name their fellowship for the “West Hills” there. 

On the east side of the Willamette River, there were no hills (beyond Mt. Tabor), and we did not want to limit our group to the Parkrose community, so we coined the word Eastrose for the East side of the “Rose City” of Portland. 

All three of these new Unitarian groups decided to be called “fellowships” rather than “churches”. 

The State of Oregon recommends that if there is no minister, that a religious congregation approve a person in its state incorporation as Lay Leader so that person can legally perform weddings and memorial services.  In 1961 Len Hunting was selected as Eastrose’s Lay Leader. 

In June 1953,  the Pacific Coast Unitarian Council (PCUC) had honored Len Hunting with the West Coast Outstanding Unitarian Layman’s Award.  At that time, Len was also the national Vice-President of the denominational Layman’s League.  He had also served on the American Unitarian Association (predecessor to the Unitarian Universalist Association) Board and chair of the national Nominating Committee, plus a three years term on the Unitarian Service Committee. 

Our Parish Ministry & Professional Religious Education

 In 1976, on our 20th Anniversary, Eastrose ordained Leonard Hunting as a Unitarian Universalist minister to be our first parish minister, part time.  Len urged us to know our U.U. history, to be a visible, liberal religious presence in our area and to serve the cause of humanitarian action.

Six years later in l982 we voted to call the Rev. Bruce Clear as our ¼ time extension minister, with the UUA sharing part of Bruce’s salary.  Bruce was also the ¾ time minister of Michael Servetus Fellowship in Vancouver, WA.  He wanted us to be more active in the community, but he could not help us on ¼ time.  So Len Hunting became minister emeritus and met monthly with other ministers in East Multnomah County and was on the SnowCAP Board.

 Rev. Bruce Clear often stated there were 4 basic religious needs strongly felt by all individuals:

  1. ethical dimensions (moral issues)—the need to discern right from wrong.
  2. the need to find strength to face life’s tragedies and joy to celebrate life’s triumphs. He said,  “Ours is an inner-directed faith that encourages greater joy and freedom from fear.”
  3. the need for identity – “Who am I?”  In order to answer this question, we must know our human/spiritual history (our heritage).
  4. the need to search for truth.  What is reliable in this life and what is not? Reason & science help us.  But one finds truth when one finds meaning in life.

1986-1987 Sandra Lee, an intern at First Unitarian Church and as a quarter time minister with Eastrose, brought us a broader vision of our potential for growth – both numerically and spiritually.  She urged us to reach out into the neighborhood and to offer more fun and varied events.

1990-1991 the Rev. Deborah Roth  (now Mero) focused on Inner peace and security.  She discussed with us “death with dignity” and to expect respect for our wishes on health choices and quality of life.  She left Eastrose to be extension minister at Boones Ferry Fellowship.

Rev. Sue Ayer, 3 years as extension minister, began as a half time, then three-quarters time minister. The UUA paid part of her salary and Eastrose grew in membership.  In 1995 Eastrose called Sue as our minister.  Sue encouraged professional leadership in RE. She retired in 1998 for health reasons.

We then hired Don Landes-McCullough (who interned at Eastrose with Rev. Sue Ayer’s guidance) as a quarter time consulting minister under contract for one year.  Don brought more music, art and drama to our services. He left to continue full time high school teaching in art and drama.

The next year Eastrose installed Sue Matranga-Watson as a Community Minister. Sue agreed to preach for us twice a year and to continue her member activities here.

In January 2001 Eastrose reaffirmed its search for a quarter-time consulting minister.  Rev. Jennifer Schnayer served for the 2001-2002 Fellowship year. T he following year Rev. David Maynard accepted our call for a half-time ministry.  As of 2003 he is in his second year. 

In 1957 Eastrose started a religious education program with 24 children.  By 1961 (when we moved into this building) we had 75 children.  For 33 years we relied on an active R.E. Committee and all volunteer teachers for our cooperative program.  Religious education was the responsibility of the entire Fellowship.

In 1990 Eastrose considered hiring a part time paid Director of R.E. (DRE).  Eleanor Hunting (DRE at First Church in the 1950s) was asked to be our first director.  In 1994 she retired after serving three UU churches and two fellowships for 50 years.  The next three directors – Kassandra Gruener, Linda Randall and Barbara Liles – were also Eastrose members.  Mar Goman, an artist, developed a more structured R.E. program.  After two years she returned to her full time art career.  This fall, we hired Niya Standish as our part-time DRE as well as part-time DRE at Wy’east UU Church. 

Eastrose Fellowship:  Anniversaries and Other Events

November 11, 2003, marked 47 years since Eastrose was founded on November 11, 1956.  For my last article on Eastrose history, I’d like to share a few highlights we’ve celebrated over the years.

First was our October 1960 ground-breaking picnic.  Nellie Jane Campbell gave us a one-acre lot, free and clear, in 1959, provided we promised to build a Unitarian Fellowship on it.  She turned over the first shovel of dirt at the ground-breaking.

In January 1961 we held the first Sunday service in our cold, unfinished building.  Families worked many Saturdays to plaster, wood panel and paint the inside rooms and chapel.

On our 10th anniversary in November we had our first large celebration with guests from other UU societies and the community.  The Rev. Robert Fulghum, executive director of the Pacific Northwest District, preached the Sunday sermon “Together We Advance.”  Earlier in 1966 Eastrose added the Thatcher Room and held a daily kindergarten in it.  We also bought the one acre lot and house north of us.

For several years in the 1960s we enjoyed an overnight outing at Snow Bunny Lodge on Mount Hood between Christmas and New Year’s.  In July during the 1970s and 1980s we held joint picnics with Michael Servetus Fellowship, often at Rooster Rock State Park.

On January 26, 1975, fourteen years after moving into our present building, Nellie Jane Campbell symbolically burned a mortgage bond!  Many UUs from the area celebrated with us.

For our 20th anniversary, November 7, 1976, Eastrose ordained Leonard Hunting as a Unitarian Universalist minister.  The Rev. Alan Deale of First Unitarian Church-Portland preached the ordination sermon for our first parish minister.

Each September we celebrated a weekend Family Retreat at Camp Collins on the Sandy River.  In 1978 for the Sunday worship service I wrote:

        What is so great a good as the joy of creating–
        Of shaping by our own thoughts and hands
        The beauty which others may share.

        Walking, looking and searching–
        Some of us found and wove a bit of nature
        To create this communal wall hanging for us to enjoy.

        Joan warped the background and added some binding strands.
        Each of us added our own bit–twig, rock, leaf, moss–
        Even a strand of spaghetti and kernels of popcorn–

        Visible memories of our week-end at Camp Collins–
        To take back and hang at Eastrose.

        Blessed are they whose hands bring forth beauty
        From the common things we often pass by.

In 1991 Jim Deer, former Eastrose member, brought back Soviet soil which Eastrose President Elsie Hall (Bielecki) mixed with our Peace Garden soil.  Each August we still hold a special outdoor peace service.

For 44 years Len and I wrote an annual Christmas poem.  I’ll close this Eastrose history with the 1956 one:

        With tinsel and giving, we honor the birth
        of Jesus, who taught us to love all on earth.
        We’ve learned of his life and the good he did;
        But much of great interest forever is hid.

        Since no one is sure now which day he was born,
        We don’t really know which should be Christmas morn.
        Let’s make people happy each day this New Year:
        With kindness and good deeds we’ll spread Christmas cheer.

— by Eleanor Hunting

 An Epilogue

There are a number of notable milestones for Eastrose that do not appear in Eleanor’s wonderful history.  These include

  • the courageous decision to keep the fellowship’s doors open in the late 1980’s, when membership numbers dropped to a mere handful.   According to accounts, part of this decline was due to the loss of members because of job-related relocation and part to a difference in theology that arose among members.  The remaining Eastrose members wanted to remain more humanist while those who left to create the Vancouver church, Michael Servitus, wanted Eastrose to be more theist.
  • the $140,000 gift of  Jean Elkington in the late 1990s that made a remodel of the fellowship a possibility.  This remarkable gift was made with no conditions, except that the fellowship arrange for her transportation to the fellowship when she could no longer transport herself.  The building remodel was directed by Katie Larsell in 2000.  It resulted in expansion of the chapel, creation of the narthex — which had been kitchen area, and the addition of new school rooms in the Thatcher extension.  Until her death, Stan Sackett and Michael Schilmoeller provided the requested transportation.
  • the hiring of a paid choir director, Brenda Stevens, in 2000.  The choir proved a huge success and its funding continues.  The choir endeavor gave rise to several other successful musical undertakings, such at the Children’s Choir, the Voice Choir, and Rewinders band.
  • the $15,000 in gifts and donations that gave us the Jean Taylor memorial stained glass window for the chapel.  The window is based on a design by Ron Randall.  Jean’s devoted husband Dave Taylor provided much of the financial support for the window from sales of his autobiography, This I Remember, and its sequels.
  • a $20,000 gift by Carol and Dean Knox brought the novelty of cool oasis to the fellowship building in the form of air conditioning.  The system also helped Eastrose replace its idiosyncratic baseboard heating system.
  • between 2003 and 2007, the fellowship grew from about 60 members to over 100 members, largely due to the leadership of Rev. David Maynard.  In its preceding 50 years, the fellowship’s membership never sustained more than about 60 members.  It remains at about 100 members today.
  • a generous gift from Lee and Betty Gerold in 2008 provided seed money for the Children’s Choir
  • the $200,000 campaign to complete landscaping for the fellowship in 2008.  The director of construction was Jude Watson, Katie Larsell ran the capital campaign, and Michael Schilmoeller created bridge financing.  The pledges for the project spanned three years and paid for all costs and financing.  Financing was internal, member-only debt.
    Several elderly members had fallen crossing the rough field that had been our parking lot, which was also a challenge for those in wheelchairs.  Children had to cross a frequently busy through-road on the property to reach their play area.  Close misses had occurred after service when traffic was leaving and Eastrose children ran out into the road to reach the field.  A paved parking lot was deemed an aesthetic enhancement by some.  All agreed it was an essential safety improvement.  The parking lot features a permeable form of paving that permits water to pass through, rather than be collected as run-off for the sewer system.  This design not only saves the cost of sewer hook-up and on-going service, it is considered the most environmentally responsible means of dealing with property drainage.