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of the parishioners. Pews flanked only the main aisle while
latecomers had to sit on hard benches. But there were also
ornate Old World touches. Local families contributed funds
for the intricate stained glass windows. Churchgoers knelt to
receive Communion at the marble altar rail. The ceiling was
adorned with elaborate paintings of clouds and cherubs, and
a massive pipe organ led the faithful in song.
The surnames of the
early parishioners show
the variety of heritages that
worshipped at St. Anastasia.
Irish, French, Italian
and German names were on
those first rolls. An African-
American, Nathan Washington,
converted and was
baptized in 1916.
In 1926, a young German
priest, the Rev. Michael
Beerhalter, drawn to the
area because members
of his family had already
settled here, came to assist
Father Gabriel. Beerhalter
became pastor when Father
Gabriel retired in 1929.
Louis Forget was the first
baby baptized by Beerhalter,
who later became Monsignor
Beerhalter. Beerhalter kept a watchful eye on Forget
when he attended St. Anastasia School.
“The nuns taught two grades at a time,” Forget recalls.
“There were only six in my class. There weren’t uniforms
because no one could afford any in those days. The student
body was in charge of cleaning out the school. But we had
everything you needed as far as classes went — biology,
The Revs. Gabriel Ruppert and Michael
Beerhalter in a 1928 photo.
Louis Forget was the first child at St. Anastasia baptized by Monsignor