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April 9, 1996

This week's mail brought a note from John McLemore with the news that he will be ordained as a minister in the Christian church (Disciples of Christ) next Sunday in Purcell. That was interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it climaxes a long spiritual journey for John, but it also evoked some pleasant memories of the years he spent in Perry.

John first came to Perry almost 30 years ago, in September of 1966, as youth minister of the First Christian church while he was still a student at Phillips University. He worked with the pastor, Rev. Joe Samuels, who is now retired and lives in Oklahoma City. Joe was very interested in the theatre; and in due time started a summer theatre project here for young people. One of the group's first productions was "Our Town." The effort gave young people of this community a worthwhile activity for several years. They did some innovative things that were well received.

In June of 1968 John married Carolyn Miller, one of Emaline Miller's daughters, and the young couple moved from here the following year. In 1973 they returned to Perry and John was employed by Wilma Smith at Fleet Sales. Early in the spring of 1975 a few folks from Perry and the surrounding area got together to organize Stagecoach Community Theatre. "Oklahoma!" was their first production, and John won the part of Curly McLain, the male lead.

That first play was historic for several reasons, but it's safe to say that John essayed the part about as well as it's ever been done by a non-professional performer. He has a marvelous singing voice and an instinctive stage presence. His Irish smile is irresistible. John even had a home permanent to make his straight black hair fit his character's name.

John, Carolyn and Emaline were three of the prime movers in Stagecoach as performers on-stage and backstage workers as well. I became better acquainted with all of them through Stagecoach activities. John was one of the group's first presidents, but in 1978 he and Carolyn again left this city. Since then he has worked as the associate minister at Putnam City Christian church, associate minister at the First Christian church in Kingfisher, and now he is in his thirteenth year as minister of the First Christian church in Purcell. During all of that time he has been a licensed minister, but never ordained.

For the first nine of those last thirteen years John and Carolyn lived in Oklahoma City where he sold computers and served the Purcell church on a part-time basis. In January 1993 he quit his secular job to fulfill his lifelong goal of graduate theological education and enrolled full-time at the Phillips Theological Seminary in Enid. In 1994 he and Carolyn moved to Purcell but he continued commuting to classes at Phillips. On May 18 he will graduate with a master of divinity degree with honors and at 3 p. m. next Sunday he will be ordained in Purcell.

"It has been a long and winding journey to this point, but I finally made it," John writes. Carolyn works at St. Anthony, hospital in Oklahoma City. They have a son, Patrick, who just recently turned 25. Patrick and his wife have two children. John and Carolyn also have a daughter, Katherine, who will graduate from Oklahoma City University this spring with a degree in music performance (oboe). Carolyn's mother, Emaline, is now an attorney in Oklahoma City. John's mother, Myrl McLemore Otti, is a patient at Perry Nursing home. John's stepfather, Elvin Otti, lives on Highland Drive, near his daughter, Karen Perry, who also has been a staunch supporter of Stagecoach.

Because of their close ties to this community, John and Carolyn have stayed in touch with many Perry friends through the years and I guess we feel like we own at least a part of both of them. John and Carolyn have had a long struggle to reach this point in their life, and all of us here congratulate them on achieving such a notable goal. We wish them well as they continue their journey and we thank them for the wonderful contributions they have made to the people and organizations they have touched along the way.