1st Unitarian Universalist Congregation
of the Palm Beaches
635 Prosperity Farms Rd.   
North Palm Beach, FL   33408
   

Recollections of Margaret Robson, Nov. 2010


In the early 1950's, the Ross brothers, Richard and Robert, were homebuilders in West Palm Beach. Attorney William Blakeslee was their legal counsel. With their wives Maureen, Edith and Anita, they each had young children and all wanted a liberal religious education for their families, which they expected to grow. They chose to try to start a Unitarian fellowship in Palm Beach County.

They put an ad in the Palm Beach Post inviting the
public to a meeting on Tuesday evening, Nov 3rd at
the George Washington Hotel to learn about
Unitarianism. Norman Robson and I were dating and
we attended,along with about two dozen other people.

The Rosses and Blakeslees were gracious and
enthusiastic and invited everyone to another meeting
at the Alfar Dairy meeting room on Nov.15th. We
attended that and subsequent meetings.

Bob and Edie Ross were holding religious education
classes for children in their home on Sunday mornings.
Edie, Maureen, Anita and another mother, Chris Scott, were taking turns teaching. Bob and Edie bought a lot of teaching materials from Beacon Press.

There were also Sunday evening meetings held in Bob and Edie's home in Palm Beach for a while until they had enough people to justify meeting at the dairy building.

As I recall, it took 20 "signed" members to establish a fellowship. Among the early members:
David and Ruth Sturrock -- an older couple. He was a noted expert on south Florida tropical fruit trees.* I believe he wrote more than one book on the subject. He developed the popular Duncan Mango and gave Norm and me a small tree in about 1958, which has been a prolific producer.

Mr. & Mrs. ____? Stanton, an elderly, intelligent couple.Chris & Tully Scott, a West Palm Beach attorney with five young children.Norm and I were regular members. Because I had been a teacher before we married (10 days after that last meeting) they asked us to be religious education teachers, which we did for about a year. By that time, there were probably 6-7 children in each of two age groups.

The Rosses were paying for everything. They rented a small Greek Orthodox church in Northwood near the lake. I'm not sure of the year, but Bill Blakeslee died of diabetes and his memorial service was at that church. Anita was pregnant with their sixth child.At some time, they bought the empty Christian church diagonally across from the First Methodist Church on Hibiscus St. in West Palm Beach. It needed a lot of repair. At the same time, the growing membership called its first minister Jack Loadman. At that time, Harriette and Rudolph Glassner joined the church. (I might be mistaken. They might have joined earlier, but I don't remember them until the Hibiscus St. church.) They were a major asset to the Congregation. They had a young daughter, Elizabeth, "Cookie". We were still in that church when Cookie was to be married and needed a nicer venue for her wedding. Harriette asked Norm, who was a practicing architect, to redesign the interior of the church. She paid for the refurbishing.

In the late 50's, the Rosses began development in the village of North Palm Beach.** Edie and Bob invited us to dinner to meet Nancy and Marshall Benjamin, who they hoped would start a private pre-school in North Palm Beach. Both Ross couples entertained a lot at large cocktail and dinner parties. They were always wooing new church members by inviting them to their homes. Edie was a talented, generous hostess.

In the West Palm Beach church there were a number of families who worked at Pratt & Whitney. I remember:Lee and Keith CloyedDonna and Norbert KurtyEunice and Harold Tiedemann -- Hal, a strong leader, was church president. Eunice married George McLafferty after Harold died.Jean and Robert Thompson -- Bob was also a church president during the 80's.

Sometime in the 60's, Bob and Edie moved to Miami. They had five children and Norm designed a large house for them. They became very active in the UU church in Miami. Dick and Maureen divorced and both moved north. Anita Blakeslee, also an attorney, stayed in Palm Beach and continued activity in the church for a while. There's a chair in our sanctuary dedicated to Bill. We gave a chair dedication for Bob and Edie.

The Rosses and Blakeslees were the founders of the Palm Beach fellowship and pushed it to churchship. Harriette and Rudolph Glassner followed and carried on their work and a lot more.

Eventually Bob and Edie move to Woodstock, MA and were active UU's there. Edie died about 12 years ago and Bob moved to Atlanta to be near two sons. He was active in a UU church in Atlanta and visited our church in winters. He died three years ago.

Written by Margaret Robson

*According to several online sources, the original Duncan Mango tree was grown from a seed planted in 1956 by horticulturist David Sturrock of West Palm Beach. Sturrock wrote that it had been a cross of Edward and Pico. The tree first fruited in 1960 and the new variety was named after Ralph V. Duncan of Boynton Beach, and was patented by Sturrock. The variety was recognized for its excellent eating quality and handling characteristics, as well as its production, and later became a nursery stock tree in Florida.

** In 1954 for $5.5 million John D. MacArthur bought 2,600 acres of land in northern Palm Beach County. The land included most of today's North Palm Beach as well as Lake Park, Palm Beach Gardens and Palm Beach Shores. MacArthur then began developing what is now North Palm Beach which was mangrove swamps and farm and ranch land. The area was punctuated only by Monet Road and Johnson Dairy Road to the east-west and US1 and Prosperity Farms Road to the north-south. Full scale development and incorporation as a village occurred nearly simultaneously in 1956, with extensive dredging creating waterfront cul-de-sacs, and the development of a new east-west artery, Lighthouse Drive, connecting Old Dixie Highway and the newly aligned US1. US1 was widened and became the main office and civic corridor. Lake Park West Road was also extended from Old Dixie Highway to US1 and was renamed Northlake Boulevard, becoming the village's main commercial corridor.