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Daffodil High Tea helps St. Peter's restoration bloom

http://www.timesheraldonline.com/articles/2004/03/13/news/news06.txt

Tuesday May 11, 2004
Richard Freedman
Times-Herald

The volunteers of the Daffodil High Tea fund-raiser work hard in the present to preserve St. Peter's Chapel's past. And what a past the 103-year-old Mare Island building has.

"During World War II, it practically had revolving doors, there were so many weddings," said Joan Hale, a High Tea steering committee member.

Then, there were those who stood in awe of the Tiffany stained glass during church service, who never got to see it another day.

"I often think of all the men from St. Peter's Chapel who went to sea and never came back," said Barbara Thompson, a major force behind the Daffodil Tea. "As Sue Lemon says in her speech about the chapel's history, they get religion real fast when there's a war."

The "Daffodil High Tea" concept was courtesy of Barbara Thompson and her husband, Harold, who were married 57 years ago in Santa Rosa where one of the minister's wives lived in a big Victorian.

"It was surrounded by acres of daffodils," Barbara Thompson said. "They probably started planting them 50 years before that. And we had a 'daffodil tea' there at the church every year."

Eventually, a hospital replaced the house and the daffodils with it. But Thompson didn't forget and brought the idea to Vallejo.

"We were kicking around ideas about fund-raising and talked to the board. That was August of 1999," Thompson said. "We believed we could do it. The motivation was St. Peter's Chapel from day one."

Thompson doesn't have to reach far for a reason to motivate herself to help the cause.

"When a young person is lost, it's so far-reaching into the community and family," she said. "So this chapel deserves to be preserved in its finest way."

The first Vallejo Daffodil High Tea drew about 650. Now, the four seatings max out at 880.

And, while patrons used to come in pairs or small groups, they now come in droves. And that's just fine with Hale, one of the original faces behind the Daffodil High Tea and a former St. Peter's tour guide.

"Our clientele seems to change each year. We are getting more large groups," said Hale, tickled that sales are doing well for next weekend's frolic that includes music, a chapel program and, of course, tea.

The event raises about $6,500, which funds various restoration and renovation projects.

Funds the first year went for new carpet. The second year was for new seat cushions. Removing some building-threatening trees was the third-year project. After last year's sabbatical for committee re-organizing, this time around will fund "an expert to come in and evaluate the condition and see what needs to be done as far as the restoration," Hale said.

Some of the exquisite Tiffany stained glass may be in need of repair. The foundation of the building also may have problems with settling, Hale said.

"We need to get experts in who know historical buildings and tell us what needs to be done," she said. "Then, we'll go after grant money and private funding to get the job done."

Thanks to a "very generous" local florist, daffodils were planted around St. Peter's Chapel. And the event has bloomed as well as the flowers.

"It's taken on a life of its own," Hale said of the Daffodil High Tea. "Word's gotten around the Bay Area to where we start getting calls in November."

There are two seatings each day for the fund-raiser, one at noon and a second at 3 p.m. For a $25 donation, it includes a chapel program at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Saturday's entertainment features the Carillon Handbell Choir under the direction of Betty Heise. Next Sunday, the St. Patrick-St. Vincent vocal ensemble Jazz Tec is spotlighted under director Kristy Juliano.

The weekend highlight isn't just one thing, Hale said.

"I think it's the event itself," she said.

The entertainment programs are at Quarters "C" and "D" with the chaplain program at the chapel. Sue Lemon will present a chapel history and there is also a talk about the stained glass.

Though Hale said about 70 percent of patrons are women, "it's amazing the amount of men who come."

Whatever gender, the chapel "is so beautiful inside," Hale said. "It lends itself to a meditative mood when you go in there. And the artwork in the windows is stunning. It's just a quiet place, a refuge."

This year also includes a cookbook dedicated to the late Gene Silverman, Times-Herald food editor.

"Gene was a big supporter. She gave us publicity and came and worked at the tea," Thompson said. "She made us feel like what we were doing was doable. She just gave us a whole lot of encouragement."

Thompson and Hale said sponsors were vital to bringing the Daffodil High Tea back this year, including donations from Wells Fargo, Mare Island developer Weston, KCG Consulting, and Lennar Mare Island.

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If you go ...

What: Fourth Daffodil High Tea

When: March 20 -21

Entertainment: Carillon Handbell Choir, Saturday; St. Patrick's Vocal Ensemble 'Jazz Tec,' Sunday

Times: Seatings noon and 3 p.m.; chapel programs 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Where: St. Peter's Chapel and Quarters "C" and "D" on Mare Island

Admission: $25

Contact: Reservations 645-8003, information 649-9464; tickets available in advance only at the Naval and Historical Museum, 734 Marin St., Convention and Visitors Bureau, 495 Mare Island Way.
 

Copyright © 2004, Times-Herald