When you visit with long-standing members of the Presbyterian Church and reminisce on the history of the Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor, the work of Dr. Frederick Maier, a retired Presbyterian minister from Arkansas City, will play a key role in the conversation.
It was Dr. Maier who originally outlined the vision for the community and issued a challenge to the citizens of Arkansas City in a letter he sent to the Arkansas City Traveler in 1962. That letter concluded with the statement: “There are various ways this problem can be approached if a group of citizens have a mind to do so.”
Neva Bahruth, a current resident of Presbyterian Manor and member of the First Presbyterian Church, remembers Dr. Maier fondly.
“Dr. Maier was the driving force behind the planning and fundraising of the project. Even though he had moved from Ark City, he was very much a part of our community and concerned about our future.”
At the time of Dr. Maier’s letter, he had been a resident of Newton Presbyterian Manor. Unfortunately, Dr. Maier was unable to travel to see the completion of the Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor, passing shortly after in 1979. It was in memory of Dr. Maier and Mrs. Jessie Maier that Arkansas City Presbyterian Manor’s chapel was furnished.
Many friends, family members and congregations provided pieces for the chapel—many of which are still present today. Amongst those is the chancel furniture provided by the Walnut Valley Presbyterian Church, which is no longer serving the area. In addition, several members of the Maier family provided the American and Christian Flags and Standards, which still stand proudly at the front of the chapel.
One special piece, placed in a place of honor at the front of the chapel, is a carving created by Dan Spangler. “Christ in Gethsemane” was hand-crafted in marble by Spangler in 1978 and is lit from behind to create a beautiful sight at any time of day.
The creation of the piece was a personal project for Dan who was not only married by Dr. Maier, but considered him a close, personal friend.
“A lot of love went into that particular piece,” said Jan Spangler, Dan’s wife. “It was a way of saying thank you for being there for us.”
Dan, who was a partner in the local monument company, purchased the marble used for the carving and sandblasted it into shape between jobs.
“He had a picture of Christ in Gethsemane that a friend had taken in California and used that as his guide,” said Jan.
Once completed, Dan lit the carving from behind and installed a rheostat to allow the light to be turned up or dimmed based on the setting.
“When you change the rheostat it brings out different features of Christ,” said Jan. “You can almost turn it clear off (but not completely) and you can still see his facial features and hands, or you can light it all up.”
The piece completed in time for the dedication of the chapel and Jan still remembers their reactions as it was installed.
“We were both so pleased because it showed a whole lot of love of Christ for us and his openness as he’s sitting on the rock … he talks to you.”
Dan passed away in 2012, but his love lives on in “Christ in Gethsemane” and numerous other pieces that adorn homes of friends and family throughout Ark City and other states.