By Susan Stevenson
When you enter Pat Feemster’s apartment, you get a glimpse of things she loves. Her piano has a special place in the living room along with art and furniture from her trips abroad. Pictures of her family are prominently displayed. You might not know Pat, but most of our congregation are familiar with her name. For many years, she was married to a Methodist minister, Ben Feemster, who once served as clergy at Westcliff United Methodist Church. We even have a large Sunday School class, the Ben Feemster New Testament Class, in our church. For her entire life, Pat Feemster has served God.
Pat was born in San Angelo, Texas in 1932. That year gas was 10 cents a gallon. With the addition of the first ever gas tax, the price rose to 11 cents a gallon. The depression continued to take a toll on the United States. To make matters worse a drought across numerous states caused the Dust Bowl. Tuberculosis became widespread because of malnutrition and poor health. A glimmer of hope came with the announcement of a vaccine for Yellow Fever.
Entertainment became key to survival in most households. Buck Rogers had his radio debut that year. Mickey Mouse cartoons became syndicated. Jack Benny started his own radio career, and Radio City Music Hall opened. John Wayne, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Bette Davis, and Bing Crosby had new movies. "Brother Can You Spare a Dime” was a very popular song by Bing Crosby.
In 1936, Pat’s family moved to Fort Worth in order for her father to help build the Fort Worth Coliseum. Fort Worth was such a big town compared to San Angelo that it took some time for everyone to adjust. Pat’s family really felt at home when they joined St. Paul Methodist Church. The church became the center of their lives. Pat’s father was Chairman of the Board, and her mother was active in the Missionary Society. Pat was President of the United Methodist Fellowship and played the piano for church. They never missed a service - Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. One summer when she was 11, Pat attended church camp at the new Glen Rose Camp. The year before the location had been a nightclub. Nothing had really changed when Pat was there. The dining hall was where the nightclub had been. It slowly changed, but at first it was quite an interesting place.
Pat was an only child, but her grandmother and aunt lived with them. They shared in the household duties and doted on Pat. Because of their cooking and sewing skills, Pat never felt that she suffered during the Depression. With several adults in charge of the meals, Pat really did not learn to cook until she was grown. Money or the lack of money was never discussed.
While growing up, Pat had a very special relationship with her father. He took her everywhere. They loved attending the Cats Baseball games and fishing. Pat’s father was a Scoutmaster, and there were always boys at the house. In fact, the boys would in the front yard waiting for her dad to come home from work. He was really a second father for many of the young scouts. Pat felt left out when the scouts attended camp, so her father would get up at 4:00 a.m. to come get her and bring her back to camp for the day. When World War II started in 1941, all of her dad’s first scouts joined the military together.
During her childhood, Pat had a lot of freedom and she was a tomboy. Her parents would let her ride the bus downtown by herself to deliver their house payments to the bank. She had to stand on tiptoes to reach the counter. It was safe for her to do that. Spending the entire day skating with her friends was great fun. Tennis was something she enjoyed and played her entire life.
Pat was nine when the war started in 1941. She found news of the war upsetting because she was a little girl. The movies always had a newsreel with information about the war. Although food was rationed, her grandmother was such a good cook that they never noticed any shortages.
When Pat was a sophomore in high school, she met her husband, Ben, at a prayer meeting in her house. Ben had been invited to come by the Methodist minister’s son. He only stayed a moment, but he was taken with Pat. The next day he asked the minister’s wife, “Who is the girl that played the piano?” At that time Ben was in college at Texas Wesleyan and was several years older than Pat.
There were two rules that were never to be broken. Pat was not allowed to attend a movie on a school night, and she was never to date a college boy. Ben asked her for a date, and she was allowed to go to a movie during the week. More importantly, she was able to date a college boy! After the second date, they knew they never wanted to date anyone else. They married two years later in 1950 when Pat graduated from Paschal High School. So many people attended the wedding that many stood outside. They opened the windows so the guests could see and hear the wedding. Today, getting married at 17 is considered very young. It was challenging, but they really loved each other.
Ben and Pat stayed in Fort Worth for a couple of years before moving to Atlanta for seminary. He attended Candler Seminary at Emory University. Although they each had jobs, it was a very lean time. Pat made 75 cents an hour at the library. By the end of the month, they ate biscuits for three days. Ben had a very small church on weekends in Alabama that was more than 100 miles away on very rural roads. The parsonage was quite cold which was not unusual at the time. They each learned things that helped them later in other churches.
After seminary, they moved back to Fort Worth where they started their ministry together. Pat was accustomed to being at church for all the services, so that really helped her in her new role as a minister’s wife. In the 1950’s a minister’s wife had a very different role from her counterpart in today's world. It was unheard of for a preacher’s wife to work outside the home. Even as some women began to do so, it was not an accepted practice for a minister’s wife. In most churches, the wife was expected to either play the piano or organ or sing in the choir. Of course she also taught Sunday School classes. Although you could be active in the organizations, such as Woman Society for Christian Service (UMW today), you were never supposed to be an officer. Divorce was not tolerated. If such a thing occurred, the minister usually had to give up his church.
Ben was a wonderful minister and was very popular. Pat was very proud of him and she loved the members of their congregations. She said, “Ben was a total minister. It was something he wanted since he was 14.” Moving often was not easy but it was the tradition. At Annual Conference the new appointments were announced and you only had one week to pack and move. They moved 11 times during Ben’s career. In one town their parsonage was split in two and moved to another location. While waiting for the house to be ready, a church member moved so Ben & Pat could live in her house. Along the way, the Feemsters met many interesting people and made many lasting friendships.
One of Pat’s memories is the time she accidentally burned the Sunday School building. It was a very small church with a small house for the Sunday School classes. She was the teacher and that day she had put pictures on a clothesline above the space heater. When she left the class, Pat forgot to turn the heater off. After lunch they saw fire trucks at the church and she realized what had happened.
Although Pat’s children were very good, there were times when they got into mischief. One time while her son was in middle school, he played a trick at church. He put firecrackers in the candles on the altar just in time for Sunday night services. Thankfully, there was one man who always lit the candles at night. He noticed right away that something was amiss. Although Pat was devastated by this prank, she eventually understood that it was not the end of the world.
Travel and vacations were special for Pat’s family. Every summer they went to Colorado to stay in the YMCA Camp in Estes Park. They loved to play tennis and hike. Summers in Colorado were so special that Pat’s children carry on that tradition. Later in Ben’s ministry a minister convinced Ben to lead a trip to the Holy Land. At first he did not want to do that but quickly changed his mind after his first trip. They took nine groups to the Holy Land and groups to 30 other countries. Pat kept scrapbooks from all of the trips.
Ben was the love of Pat’s life. When Ben became sick and died, it was quite a shock for Pat. He had always been healthy, so his short illness was very hard for her. Ben’s death forever changed Pat. She has never been the same and mourns him every day. They would have been married 64 years.
Today, Pat lives in Trinity Terrace and has many interests. She loves to play cards at night with friends. Reading is one of her pleasures. She has two children and four grandchildren. One of her grandchildren recently adopted a little boy. For her 80th birthday Pat's son made a special book for her with wonderful family pictures that she displays in her living room. At the end of her book, her adopted daughter wrote this paragraph:
“As you look back on your 80 years I hope you realize how many friends you have, how many young minister’s wives you’ve mentored and how many people you have influenced but most importantly, I hope you realize that Daddy wouldn’t have asked for a better wife and I couldn’t have asked for a better mother.” You cannot ask for anything better.
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