RURAL BRYANT, SD, PRESENTS:
"Tacoma Seamen’s Center—
How it Started & Later Developed,"
1897-1978, by Shirley Muntz
Edited by Robert Marcello,
Published in MOORING LINES,
SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE, For Maritime Day 1978
SEAMEN’S FRIEND SOCIETY—1825
The word “mission” was adopted by the seamen, for it reflected the period of the Church when it was deeply engaged in spiritual revival and evangelical outreach. In 1825 the American Seamen’s Friend Society was established in New York, followed by the Boston Seamen’s Friend Society in 1828 to parallel with the dual nature of the Church. In short order there was a “Seamen’s Church” in all of the New World’s ports. An attempt to “minister in one’s own tongue” brought the influx of British Sailor’s Society, Sjomannskirke, Apostolatus Maris, etc.
May 1842 – “The Russian Emperor Nicolas has given permission for the erection of a place of worship for seamen in the port of Constadt; and the cornerstone of the Mariners Chapel at Harve was to be laid in March 1st” – noted the annual report of the American Seamen’s Friend Society.
SEAMEN’S REST, OLD TOWN—1897
The first Seamen’s Mission in Tacoma was started in 1897 by Mrs. Brigitte Funnemark, a Norwegian widow. She dedicated the Seamen’s Rest to the memory of her husband, Albert, who was lost at sea. Her daughter, Christine, helped by boarding each ship and inviting the officers and crew to visit the mission. Christine provided entertainment by playing the organ and singing songs.
The Mission was in their home at 2802 North Carr Street, and was recently listed as a historical site. The home had a reading room where newspapers, Bibles, books and magazines were available in Norwegian, German, French, Italian, Danish, Finnish and Russian. Mrs. Funnemark spoke French and German as well as her native Norwegian and English. The Mission was open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Regular non-denominational services were held on Sunday and two nights during the week. They also held regular Scandinavian services. The other evenings were called Mother’s Nights” Coffee and little cakes were served along with socializing and hymn singing. Two years later the mission was moved to a larger home at 311 North 11th Street (since torn down).
Funding was from voluntary donations. A purse was brought from each ship before it sailed. The Mission was forced to close in December 1903 because of failing health of Mrs. Funnemark. In all, seamen from 170 sailing vessels visited the Tacoma Seamen’s Rest. And, they came from all over the world.
Christine worked for many years as a bookkeeper for C.C. Mellinger Co. Later, she helped with the founding of the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
During this period, David W. Evans ran a boarding house for seamen at 30th Street and McCarver. It was a place of “much brutality” and “shanghaiing” of sailors. The Funnemarks were instrumental in making public the conditions and of its eventual closure.
TACOMA SEAMEN’S BETHEL AND INSTITUTE—1898
Chaplain Robert Sherwood Stubbs opened the Bethel Mission for seamen. His Mission was in a building in the business area of Old Tacoma. Bethel was supported by the National Seamen’s Institute in New York.
TACOMA SEAMEN’S INSTITUTE—1903-1932
“A family gathering at the Tacoma Seamen’s Institute was enjoyed by shi8pmasters and mariners of various nationalities and a helping company of men and women from the churches of Tacoma. Chaplain Stubbs and his wife were greatly delighted with the gathering. Mrs. Bedford gave piano solos and Miss Bertha E. Handcock presented several recitations.”—LEDGER 2-26-1900
Records indicate that on July 4, 1903, the Rev. Harry Ferneyhough, having arrived from Portland, established the Tacoma Seamen’s Institute. There is some question of relationship between this Mission and that operated by Chaplain Stubbs. . Ferneyhough is known to have made use of the St. Luke’s Parish House on 6th and St. Helens. He was supported by the Church of England as a mission to British seamen.
Because of fewer and fewer British seamen the Church of England withdrew its support. Rev. Ferneyhough continued for many years afterwards, however, supported by local subscriptions. The City of Tacoma provided space for his programs, rent free, on the Municipal Dock. It was noted that occasional grants were received from the American Seamen’s Friend Society.
The Institute had a Wellington pool table, social hall and gymnasium equipment available for use by all seamen. They also had a reading and writing room. Superintendent Rev. Ferneyhough held religious services every Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. He also served as a counselor and gave help in any area where it was needed. He also arranged football (soccer) games and socials.
Eventually, the Seamen’s Institute was moved to a downtown location. The last site was on 10th near A Street, in a building that was later to house Western Union. Failing health forced Rev. Ferneyhough to retire. The new superintendent, being less knowledgeable, and pressured by the nation’s state of depression, witnessed the closing of the Institute on May 27, 1932.
MERCHANT MARINE AND WWII
During the Second World War, American merchant seamen came under strong influence of the military. Seamen, themselves, were given a new name, Merchant Marine. To a great extent, the Seamen’s Mission was incorporated into Servicemen’s Centers and the USO. This continued in and beyond the Korean War.
TACOMA SEAMEN’S CENTER—1964
In an attempt to separate merchant seamen from the military the Seattle Seamen’s Center, relying on their own success, purchased the rights of the Port Home mission from the Tacoma Servicemen’s Center. The Port Home became the Tacoma Seamen’s Center, an agency of the American Lutheran Church and a seminary student was engaged to provide services for seamen.
Lacing funds for a separate facility, the Tacoma Seamen’s Center contijued sharing the facilities of the Servicemen’s quarters. Eventually a shift was made to the Lutheran Servicemen’s Center on 10th and Pacific Avenue. In 1968 Robert Marcello was hired to be the Lutheran’s Superintendent. The next year, the Lutheran Servicemen’s Center and their facility was forced to be abandoned.
Following an interim when seamen were brought to Chaplain Marcello’s home for services, the Seamen’s Center returned to share facilities with Tacoma Servicemen’s Center. It was a brief stay. By Christmas, 1971, a neon sign was brightly advertising TACOMA SEAMEN’S CENTER on Pacific Avenue near 9th Street in a building vacated by the Sportsmen Club. For the first time in nearly forty years, the Mission flag was raised.
On April 19, 1974, a fire in the building caused the flag to come down again. Relief was provided by the Olympus Hotel across the street. The hotel offered an office, rent free, for a year while new facilities were sought. While the Mission was hopping about in downtown Tacoma, a new organizational structure was formed. The Tacoma Seamen’s Center ceased to be a branch of the Seattle Lutheran mission. Instead, it became a corporation of several denominations showing interest in the mission to seamen. The American Lutheran Church continued as the major sponsor and later was joined by the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
As of Maritime Day, 1978, the Tacoma Seamen’s Center maintains program offices at 2332 East 11 Street, a building in the proximity of the docks. Chaplain Marcello and Chaplain Ray Eckhoff visit ships regularly conducting services onboard and ministering in ways befitting a mission—without a home to raise the flag.
Note: Materials for this history has been compiled by Shirley Muntz and edited by Robert Marcello.
Special note: The issue of MOORING LINES containing this Commemorative History was preserved by Mrs. Pearl Ginther of Puyallup, WA, a long-time supporter of the mission and center.
From a letter of the Tacoma Seamen’s Center, January 7, 1997: “Thank you, Pearl, for your many years of giving to the Seamen’s Mission. We are truly grateful for a mission warrior like you. God bless and Happy New Year.” Signed, John L. Thurber, Treasurer, and Rev. Eddy Johnson, Executive Director. A full copy of the letter is given via a link below. Mrs. Ginther continued to support the Center, in fact, from 1997 to her homegoing to heaven April 30, 2011, attending the Seamen’s Center Ladies Auxiliary meetings right to the end of her long life of 101 years and some months—Ed.
A Tribute to Centenarian, Pearl Ginther
Her family attended a large birthday celebration on the weekend of the 13th. Relatives from across the US and Europe attended. Over 200 guests and family reached out to honor this wonderful woman. In addition to her own children, she had many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, plus numerous other relatives and great-grandchildren, plus numerous other relatives and guests.
Her reception was held at Mt. View Lutheran Church.
For years, Pearl has told her friends, "I plan to make it to my 100th birthday if my family likes it or not." Pearl has been an active member of Mt. View Lutheran Church and carried God's mission to the Tacoma Seafarer's Center since 1980.
In describing her accomplishments, we could fill this entire newsletter. But, for her sake we'll only list the top ten!
Each year Pearl personally wraps 30+ Christmas boxes and writes letters to all the seafarers that receive her church's gifts. She is and has been a member of the Ladies' Auxiliary for 29 years. She attends monthly meetings, has served as President, Historian, devotion leader, cookie-maker, recruiter, prayer chain member and numerous other roles. Pearl is a fervent Pray-er for the Seafarers and any others she hears about.
Several of Pearl's children are also serving at the Center. She has an innate ability to make you smile and laugh (often at herself).
Pearl could not be more enthusiastic about spreading God's word through our ministry. She is an example of love, faithfulness and commitment, with a source from God's Spirit itself. One of your writers was brought to the Center ten years back, when asked to help deliver Christmas boxes. She is a contributor in every way possible.
THANK YOU, PEARL!! THANK YOU, GOD, FOR OUR PRECIOUS PEARL!--Submitted by Ed, Sue and Herb, The Moorings Lines Newsletter, October 2009
All Rights Reserved