Project to preserve history of church’s windows finished

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, June 15, 2011


WAKEFIELD—An ongoing multi-year project to preserve the history of Wakefield Baptist Church’s stained-glass windows has been completed.

“(They will not) fade into oblivion,” said Fay Savedge, author and co-editor of the new book, “The Memorial Windows of Wakefield Baptist Church.”

“That was our main objective,” said Savedge, who turned 95 Tuesday. “We were afraid that if we waited, the honored members and donors of these windows would be forgotten.”

A historian and genealogist, she compiled information about the members whose names appear on each window. The information is included in the book with a picture of the window bearing the member’s name.

Some of the 18 windows include the names of the founding members of the church, which was established in 1886. Others honor later members, including a former pastor and several church officers.

Photographs of the windows were taken by Ralph Seeley Jr., while Thomas Huber assisted with proofreading and research. Charles Taylor III drew the window placement, which is on the cover of the 24-page book.

Co-editor Gayle Lanier did much of the legwork.

“We couldn’t have had a better staff,” Savedge said.

“And we certainly could not have published this book without the time and effort put forth by Mrs. Savedge,” Lanier added. “She is a treasure.”

The book is dedicated to Savedge, who was born in Richmond on June 14, 1916. After graduating from the College of William & Mary in 1937, she moved to Wakefield, where she taught English, Latin, French and Spanish for two years at Wakefield High School.

“I liked the area, but only intended to stay here for a couple years,” she said. “Then I met James Savedge. We got married and I’ve been here ever since.”

Fay Savedge is fascinated by genealogy and has researched numerous family histories, including identifying the gravesite of a Confederate soldier in Wakefield Cemetery and the grave of another Confederate soldier under Rocky Hock Methodist Church in Little Surry.

Savedge helped research and write “A Peek at the Past — Wakefield 100th Anniversary” booklet and a booklet for “The Bank of Sussex and Surry’s 75th Anniversary.”

She and her daughter, Catherine Schlesinger, researched the history of the home and land surrounding Smith’s Fort Plantation in Surry County.

Savedge also assisted in researching a PBS New York documentary on the White and Bailey free black families in Surry, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, who migrated to Boston.

Another ongoing project is documenting the graves in Wakefield Cemetery.

“Two very talented girls, sisters Betty Jo Gay and Kathy Frierson, are helping with this project,” said Savedge. “They’re doing a great job.”

She thinks the stained-glass window book is a good thing.

“History is something that should be preserved,” Savedge said. “How else will our young people know about the lives their ancestors lived without documentation?”

Her friends say there isn‘t much Savedge doesn’t know about the area and its residents, and that she’s the “go-to” person when historical facts are to be established.

Lanier adds that Savedge has been so involved in so many aspects of the tri-county history that it’s almost impossible to name them all.

“We respect her so much,” she said.

Savedge was recently named honorary historian of the Town of Wakefield.