Stephen Kay Heritage Room Dedicated at Church of Our Savior
The culmination of four years of in depth research and digging into the rich history of the Church of Our Savior in North Platte was recognized recently when the Stephen Kay Heritage Room was dedicated by Bishop Scott Barker in early September,
The room, named in honor of COS historian, Steve Kay, features tall recessed and lighted display cases, a storage room with shelves for documents, a special picture hanging system for the west wall, and room for displays on the north and south walls as well.
The process which led to the new facility actually began four years ago when Steve began doing some research on COS history. “I started with finding pictures of all the priests that had served Church of Our Savior,” Steve said. “We had a list of names but not many pictures so I began researching all the places they had served after leaving COS and contacted those places as well as doing internet searches and found all the pictures except for one, Actually, I found it (the Rev John Gray), but it was of such poor quality it could not be reproduced.”
Steve worked with Don Milroy, a member of the parish and a photographer as well as owner of Brown Harano Studio in North Platte, and got all the images restored and framed. “I had found over 100 pictures of the 27 priests that have served COS over parts of three centuries and I worked with Don to pick the best one for each person.”
The priest pictures are now displayed in a gallery in the main hall at Church of Our Savior.
In addition to getting the pictures, Steve also made contacts with many people. “When getting pictures of the priests I made contact with many families of the priests and that has been most interesting,” Direct ancestors of the first priest to serve COS attended the dedication of the Heritage Room after driving down from Minneapolis, MN. Steve provided copies of all the pictures to the National Episcopal Archives in Austin, TX.
Once completing this project Steve then set his sights on researching the Japanese heritage of Church of Our Savior, especially the ministry of Hiram Hisanori Kano. In connection with Father Jeffrey Nelson, current priest at COS, Steve began to put together pictures and a history of the Japanese mission congregation in North Platte (St George’s.)
He was greatly aided in his research by photos placed in scrapbooks by the Rev Francis Pryor and his wife in the 1930’s and 1940’s. These pictures were scanned and restored by Don Milroy and displays were made and put out for people to view on display boards and tables in the main hallway at COS.
The pictures generated a great renewal of interest in the Japanese congregation and Father Nelson and Steve began discussions of ways to honor and recognize this important part of the heritage of Church of Our Savior. Steve then found an article about a sermon preached about Father Kano, organizer and priest of St George’s, by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori.. Working with Father Nelson and Brian Gardner, Senior Warden at the time, it was decided to invite the Presiding Bishop to come to North Platte and join in recognizing the ministry of Father Kano. Father Nelson extended the invitation to the Presiding Bishop and she came to North Platte the weekend of July 28-29. 2012 to join in the celebration of Father Kano’s ministry, not only in North Platte but in Mitchell as well.
The event was filmed and placed on the website of the national Episcopal Church and was noted in several national church publications.
Following this event, Steve began to concentrate more on the history of COS Itself and began to dig in closets. files, and drawers throughout the facility. Steve dug through closets not only in the church building itself but in the adjoining Educational Wing and also the Sacristies. He kept an eye out for historically significant artifacts, documents, and photos.
“One of the most interesting items I found were the brass items donated by the Foley family in 1889.,” Steve pointed out, “They were all used in the first church building built in 1872-73.” Steve also located the original documents of incorporation of the parish and the actual record of the order for the first bell for the church! “I was also able to find newspaper articles reporting on the Consecration of the second church building for COS in 1893.”
So that all of the information that Steve has found is not lost to future generations, Steve has authored a book entitled “Church of Our Savior – Our Second Century of Service”. The book reports on the time period from 1967 to the present and builds upon an earlier book telling of the earlier history of COS called “Travails and Triumphs” authored by Sharon Hollen, another member of Church of Our Savior. The new book is $20 and can be purchased through the church office at COS.
“What really amazes me is how much this parish has done for the city of North Platte,” Steve says. At one time or another we have sponsored a hospital, a school, a Sunday School for children on the north side of the city Many of the projects the parish undertakes today such as the Wednesday community meals, the free haircuts for students returning to school, and the like are in the spirit of these previous outreaches.”
The new Stephen Kay Heritage Room is currently featuring displays of original photographs taken of the damage to the previous church structure by a fire which destroyed that building in July. 1962. Some artifacts from that building are on display. Also photographs of the construction of the current COS facility and pictures of the corner stone laying and the consecration of the new building in September, 1964 are on display. Also being featured in the Heritage Room at this time are the artifacts placed in the cornerstone of the church in 1963 and removed recently to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the building.
Displays in the room will be changed periodically to reflect different eras of parish history. Two large glass display cases sit outside the room and also feature elements and pictures of COS history. Those displays will be changed periodically as well.
The Stephen Kay Heritage Room is located to the south of the main hallway at COS and just opposite of the Fireside Room. The Heritage Room is open during regular business hours and on Sunday during worship services.
“I think Church of Our Savior has one of the most interesting histories among the parishes of the Diocese of Nebraska”, Steve reported. “It’s great to see this story on display in the new Heritage Room.”
“Church of Our Savior’s story is the story of service to others,” Steve said.
– Brian Gardner