First Church’s MLK: Marylou Klar

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She came to California as bride. Mary Lou Klar moved across the country with her new husband just a few days after they married. Both grew up on the east coast but with the enticement of work and families ties to Bob’s aunt and uncle they migrated west. They landed in downtown Long Beach where Mary Lou found work as a secretary. They attended the Old Methodist Church on Easter but soon after they bought their house in North Long Beach they began attended Cal Heights Methodist Church.

Cal Heights Methodist

Cal Heights Methodist Church

Two sons later they moved to the former bean field that was a freshly built subdivision in west Garden Grove. A knock on the door drew the Klars to a new offshoot of the United Church of Christ. Their first meeting was in the breezeway of a drive through dairy farm. Mr. Granger preached and his wife tried her best with a pump organ. With the help of a land grant from the UCC conference, the church grew into an air-supported building. Later on locally famous modernist architect A. Quincy Jones would design a brick and mortar building. It is now a Baptist church.

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Formerly the Garden Grove UCC Community Church

As her four children got older, Mary Lou decided to go back to work. At that point she took a fourteen-year break from attending church. In 1980, the family moved back to Long Beach and joined the Bay Shore Congregational church. Like the Cal heights Methodist Church, the couples club was much older than the Klars so they stopped going. Throughout this period the Klar children continued to attend Pilgrim Pines each summer. It was at camp that Debbie Bond nee Klar met Mary Ellen Kilsby. Debbie came back from the mountains singing her praises,” Mom! You’ve got to go. She puts on a real sermon.” So they went and just kept on going.

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Mary Ellen Kilsby, former pastor of FCCLB

One of the most striking moments in the church for Mary Lou was the funeral of her son, Steve, in 1989. Steve moved home after being diagnosed with AIDs. Instead of feeling victimized, he joined a support group called Men Alive and the Great American Yankee Freedom Band. Over 150 people attended his memorial service. The organ was being repaired so the piano was used to accompany Mary Lou’s niece who sang, “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera.

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GAY Freedom Band marching in a 1980 parade

Mary Lou became involved with Families Who Care, a support group for families who have AIDs positive relatives. She took over as the coordinator after the original founder retired. Eventually a young gay friend, Buel Kent, said to her,” There’s more to life than AIDs” and that is when she became moderator. After her term as moderator she joined Membership Development and Women’s Fellowship groups but she has never “been asked or volunteered for” a board position. She enjoys being a greeter but cannot stand so she meets people other ways (as I am sure many of you know). Be sure and say hi to Mary Lou next time you see her in service!

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