HEARTLAND | Meredith Flynn
Goebel Patton will turn 100 years old this week. But he’s not the only one in his community, or even his church, to celebrate that milestone this year. Maxine Ferrari and Georgia Griffin, fellow members of Second Baptist in West Frankfort, already celebrated their 100th birthdays in 2013.
The unique situation – three centenarians in one church – attracted the attention of a local newspaper and has given their church cause to celebrate. Together, they represent 238 years of church membership at Second Baptist.
Patton joined the church in 1926 as a 13-year-old. “Back in that day, the only social activities were at church,” he says. Drawn to Second Baptist for the fellowship with other young people his age, he has stayed for 87 years, and still serves as chairman of the finance and properties committees. He also started a men’s prayer group in 1991, and reports they’ve met every single Tuesday morning since then.
Having Patton, Ferrari and Griffin as part of the church “ties us to our history,” says Pastor Brett Beasley. The 100-year-olds help younger people understand the church’s history, and give a perspective of what church life was like and how it’s changed.
Their faithfulness is also a source of encouragement, Beasley says. Two years ago, Ferrari arrived at church on a messy wintry morning when only about half of the church’s regular attenders were there. Beasley remembers good-naturedly teasing his congregation: “Maxine made it today, so really nobody’s got an excuse.”
Each of the centenarians has already received a birthday party this year, but Second Baptist is hoping to celebrate the three of them together some time in the future.
Happy Birthday indeed.