GALLIPOLIS — Grace United Methodist Church will soon be saying a bittersweet goodbye to two members who have served as maintenance and custodial staff of its facility for several years.
Husband and wife duo John and Linda Sager will be heading south to a new home in Fort Myers, Florida, upon their retirement within roughly a month.
“I’ve been here the longest (of the pair), 25 years,” said John of his time with Grace United Methodist. “I started here years ago, part-time, just as a second job. I’ve always had more than one job most of my life. So, I started here part-time and as time went on I kind of created a full-time position because there were things that needed done around here that I could do with my past experience, instead of hiring someone else to come in and do (subcontracting work) like plumbing, electrical and so on.”
John said he had self-taught experience constructing homes throughout his life and building was a passion of his. He was the only full-time employee at the church, other than the pastor, for several years.
“I taught for the Gallipolis City Schools for 30 years,” said Linda. “I thought what am I going to do with my time? Well, I happened to come in with John a few times and I thought the dining room needed my loving touch,” she joked. “The chairs had fingerprints on them and I felt this place needed me because I’m a cleanaholic…I thought this would be a good place for me to be…I started part-time too and increased a little. I started with 15 hours and then went up to 18 because, like John, I just kept finding things to do that needed done. Not just normal cleaning and dusting. I was cleaning walls and windows and curtains and everything.
“Then, before I started working here,” she continued. “I helped in the office during the summer times just to volunteer and fold bulletins and things like that. When I was sitting here doing that, people kept coming in and wanting food. I just felt so sorry for these people that there was no place in Gallipolis that we had to send people to get extra help. So, I kept talking to the pastor at that time and the assistant pastor. The assistant pastor decided to get the youth involved and they did a little food drive just up and down Second Avenue one evening and brought the food in for me. I started a little food pantry and it started with five jars of baby food and has expanded. We help about 100 people a month now with our pantry.”
Linda said she couldn’t keep up with “everything and that was how I ended up with a little extra time.”
“Now, we have a wonderful volunteer system that runs the food pantry and they’re going to do a fabulous job,” said Linda.
The Sagers have been married for 32 years. Linda started assisting the church in the early 2000s. They met on a blind date. They shared a sandwich and yogurt shop as one of the first shops in the Ohio River Plaza started in the late 1980s, they said.
They still have a daughter and granddaughter that reside in Gallia. They said they will be back to visit.
Linda said Grace United Methodist was part of her first steps into Christianity. The pair joined the church formally roughly 15 years ago.
“We became active members and served on committees and took classes,” said John. “I chaired a few committees and we were on the administrative council, so we participated.”
“Wherever there’s a need, we’ve been there,” said Linda. “We always liked to sneak around and keep a low profile but when we got more involved in the church we opened up every now and again.”
“No matter what we asked them to do, they did, above and beyond what they’re supposed to do,” said church member Wilma Brown.
“They have wonderful work ethic,” said GUMC Pastor Ray Kane. “John is a master of all trades as well as a jack. He knows what he’s doing. He’s not just a jack. They’re loving, giving and go out of their way to help you.”
“They’re wise and thoughtful,” said church member Marlene Stout. “They’re always ahead. If you mention something, it’s already thought of or in the process of being done. They’re dedicated.”
“We have gratitude for their efforts with the church all these years,” said church member Greg Smith.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.