MONT ALTO, Pa. ― A community service project at Penn State Mont Alto has not only led to the restoration of the cross at the Emmanuel Chapel but also to the discovery of historical items once housed there.
On May 25, the Questers of the Falling Spring Chapter dedicated the restored Emmanuel Chapel cross, repaired by J. Michael Logan, to the Mont Alto Campus. Also presented were some historical items uncovered through the project’s research, which include a Holy Bible, once belonging to the Emmanuel Chapel; and the photo and bust of Bishop Potter. The bust was originally donated to the Chapel 100 years to the day, on May 25, 1918.
Penn State Mont Alto Chancellor Francis K. Achampong saw the project as an opportunity to demonstrate campus values.
“At Penn State Mont Alto, we value community. We value relationships both in our campus and in our community,” he said.
It was a chance meeting on May 31, 2017, at a community event in Mont Alto where Achampong first met a member of the Questers Club, who later contacted him wanting to know if the Mont Alto Campus could offer the group a service project.
Achampong and the Questers then communicated for a few months considering a number of projects. On Dec. 7, Achampong received an email saying the group had selected the renovation of the damaged cross at the Emmanuel Chapel.
Because Questers work to preserve and restore historic artifacts and educate by research and study, the Chapel project seemed a fitting pursuit to Quester President Nancy Rood and Vice President Cynthia Myers. When the ashes of human remains were found under the cross while excavating it for renovation, the project took on even more meaning.
They wondered: who was buried there?
“It said ‘Something Boy 1980.’ That’s all we could tell,” said Bradley Kendall, Penn State Mont Alto supervisor of maintenance and operations, who excavated the cross.
Through hours of painstaking research, Rood and Myers learned the “1980” was “1930” and the ashes belonged to T. Edgar Boy, and his mother, Eleanor, who was interred next to him. Boy died in 1930 at age 27, but before his death had been friends with the Rev. Alun Arwel Hughes. Hughes was chaplain at the nearby South Mountain Sanatorium where he ministered to tuberculosis patients and at the same time was priest in charge at the Emmanuel Chapel.
The Episcopal minister also raised funds to renovate the Emmanuel Chapel and Boy may have helped with the renovation.
Although Rood and Myers could not confirm through their research why Boy and his mother are buried at the Chapel, their research did lead them to discover historical artifacts relating to the Emmanuel Chapel.
Rood and Myers were steered to Harrisburg’s Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania while doing research about Hughes. With the help of Diocese Archivist Debbie Robelen, they were surprised to find a Holy Bible from the Emmanuel Chapel and a photograph and bust of Bishop Henry Codman Potter, who ministered at the Emmanuel Chapel in 1856. Potter eventually became the seventh Episcopal Bishop of New York and was instrumental in the construction of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, which is among the largest Cathedrals in the world.
After Potter's death and due to his love for the Emmanuel Chapel, Potter’s family donated the bust to the Chapel in 1918 on his birthday, May 25.
During the event, Potter’s bust and photo were presented to Mont Alto Historical Society President Beverly Spicer and Vice President Carolyn Poffenburger. The items will be housed at the society’s facility.
“We decided not to disturb the remains of Boy and his mother…to leave them where they were and memorialize them through a marker,” said Achampong. “Now as a bonus, we have a Bible from the Emmanuel Chapel and the bust of Bishop Potter.”
“That brings me full circle back to our value of community," said Achampong. "Today, we witness what happens when we come together as a community and work together for the common good."