50th Anniversary


Westwood Presbyterian Church


Looking back on our first

fifty years of fellowship

from 1958 to 2008...

and looking forward

to our future.


                                                                                 Memorial booklet provided by

                                                                             the 50th Anniversary Committee


From the 50th Anniversary Committee


     Rev. Joshua Long knew it would take a lot

of time and energy to put together a celebration

of Westwood’s first 50 years.

     At a congregational meeting in January

2005, he asked members to establish

a seven-member committee that included

two elders, one deacon and four members of the

congregation at large.

      On May 12, 2005 the committee held its first                                                                                         

Text Box: 50th Anniversary Committee members include (l-r) front: Jean
Wright and Reva Johnson; middle: Dale Alvey, Rev. Joshua Long, 
Bob Long and Bob Estridge; (back) Kym Smith. 
Not pictured- June Conlin.

meeting and immediately began a careful

study of improvements that were long overdue.

For nearly a year, committee members considered

suggestions to renovate the sanctuary, choir loft,

fellowship hall, kitchen, nursery and hallways.

     Our efforts culminated with a capital fund raising campaign in the spring of 2006, in which members pledged more than

$72,000 for the improvements. Miami Presbytery allowed Westwood to pursue a loan, and in August, an $85,000 loan was

obtained from Lebanon Citizens Bank.

     As generally happens with renovation projects, the actual cost for all of the improvements we’ve made has topped

$100,000- more money than it originally cost to build the church in 1958!

     We thank Rev. Long for his inspirational leadership these last three years. When we questioned whether we could afford

some of these improvements, he challenged us to have faith and trust that God would help us find the way to accomplish our 


     We hope you enjoy the many improvements that have been made

for this celebration.



Dale Alvey and Bob Long, co-chairs, Rev. Joshua Long, ex-officio,

June Conlin, Bob Estridge, Reva Johnson, Kym Smith and Jean Wright.




Visions of a new church development

     What is known today as Westwood Presbyterian Church actually began as

The Presbyterian Mission Church of Hamilton in March 1958.

     The Presbytery of Dayton and the Board of National

Missions of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. established the

new church. The founding partners believed Hamilton needed

a second Presbyterian church, because the city had grown to

78,000 residents.

     The first worship service was held Sunday, April 6, 1958 in the

red brick home that now serves as the manse. A month later, members decided on the name Westwood, because

it was located near West Park and Brookwood subdivisions.




     Fifty-three people became Westwood’s first members on June 15, and by fall, a committee began planning for a

new church.  Architecht Robert Beeghly of Winkler, Ranck, Beeghly developed the design, and Session approved

the plan for a  sanctuary, narthex, meeting room and small kitchen in March 1959.

     The cost of the building was revised down from $110,000 to $73,000 with the Board of National Missions

offering a loan of $35,000 and Front Street Presbyterian Church offering $20,000.

     A. Benzing & Sons Inc. served as General Contractor for construction, and the first worship service was held in

the new sanctuary in December 1960.




Rev. Niswander leads early days

Rev. Lee Niswander was Westwood’s first pastor from 1958 to 1962.


     The Reverend E. Lee Niswander was appointed as the first pastor of the original Mission Church and

guided members through the first four-and-a-half years.

     Initially, he worked with Acting Elders who came from the Presbyterian Church of Hamilton to launch the new church

development.  Those first elders were Robert Beeghly, Vernon Kershner, Arthur Livergood, Robert Marrs, James

Sisson, Jack Smith and Bruce Snider.

     Rev. Niswander had the difficult task of providing the inspiration and faith for a small group of individuals

who wanted to make a new church a reality.

     It was a time of growth. During his pastorate, Westwood’s membership jumped from the original 53 members in June 1958

to roughly 200 by the time he left in July 1962 to become pastor at the First United Presbyterian Church in Eaton, Ohio.

     With many young families calling Westwood their home, the church had an active youth program. Even in its fi rst year,

Westwood had a thriving Vacation Bible School that was attended by 53 children.

     The Session also voted to sponsor Brownie and Cub Scout troops, and scouting played a major role at Westwood for

many years.


Westwood’s original building committee included l-r: Bill Copeland,

Chairman John Marshall, Peg Williams, Rev. Niswander, George

Michaels and architect Bob Beeghly. Not pictured:  Jack Smith.



Westwood grows throughout the 60’s

     The 1960’s proved to be a period of unprecedented growth for Westwood as membership reached nearly

300 by the end of the decade. This growth led to an expansion project. It

also was a time when Westwood called its first pastor.





Rev. Hugh L. White became Westwood’s second pastor in

December 1962. He’s pictured here with Mary Ann Marsh

(center) and his wife Joyce.


     After Rev. Niswander announced he was leaving, James Sisson chaired the committee that hired Rev. Hugh

L. White. A graduate of Center College in Danville, Kentucky and of the Louisville, Kentucky Theological Seminary

of the United Presbyterian Church U.S., Rev. White became pastor on December 9, 1962.  


Westwood began work on its fellowship hall addition in the

summer of 1968 to provide additional classroom space for

children and adults.



     Rev. White’s time at Westwood saw a second building committee appointed in 1964 to provide additional

classroom space for a growing Sunday School program. Ground was broken for the project in July

1968, and the $66,000 addition was dedicated in February 1969.

     In addition, Westwood members started a long-standing relationship with the Boy Scouts when Troop 982 was

organized in 1964. Steve Anglin, Jack Confer, George Johnson and Ken Reynolds were among Westwood

members who actively served as leaders.


The Morris family arrives


Text Box:      When Rev. White accepted a call from the First 
Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City in 1969,
members had no idea their next pastor would have the
longest tenure in Westwood’s history.
     Rev. Jim Morris was installed as pastor May 28,
1970 and would remain for more than sixteen years.
Westwood reached its all-time high in members at 345.
     The children’s Sunday School and Youth Choir
programs remained strong, and Jim’s wife, Nancy, was
deeply involved with these programs.
     During Jim’s tenure, Thelma Schraer chaired
Vacation Bible School and continued in that role for 
more than 30 years.
     Thelma would co-chair the Pulpit Nominating 
Committee with George Johnson after Rev. Morris 
completed his pastorate December 31, 1986.

Rev. Jim Morris was the longest

serving pastor at Westwood. He’s

pictured here with wife Nancy,

daughter in-law Debbie, son Tom,

son Dave and his wife, daughter

Jane and son John.


Text Box: Above: Children in a 1972 Sunday
School class. Below: Nancy Morris
(back row) directed children who
performed the cantata “We Three
Kings” in 1986.






Text Box:  

Right: Nancy and Jim Morris
are pictured here at Jim’s 
going away reception at 
Westwood in 1986.







Text Box:  Rev. Tom Gomola served as pastor from 1988 to 1998.












The 90’s: New children and a new look




Text Box:      Westwood began to see a decline in younger 
children in the 1980’s.
      That changed when Rev. Tom Gomola and his wife 
Jean arrived in March 1998 along with their children 
Katie, Jay and Alison.  In 1991, David joined the family, 
and over the next decade, the Gomola family brought 
many kids to Westwood.
     “Westwood’s Wonderful  Wednesday” program led 
by Thelma Schraer attracted 25-40 youngsters each 
week during the fall and winter months. Tom’s eldest 
daughter, Katie, got many of her friends involved in 
church plays and other activities.
     Two signficant building changes took place while 
Rev. Gomola was here. In 1989, Westwood’s Raise the 
Roof campaign resulted in a new roof and windows for 
the fellowship hall. Several families stepped forward in  
1994 to finance beautiful new stained glass windows 
for the sanctuary.
     Rev. Gomola served Westwood for 10 years, leaving 
in 1998.

Text Box:   
Rev. Gomola during the children's chat on Easter Sunday.















Text Box:       A Pulpit Nominating committee chaired by Ernie 
Durbin called Rev. Rick Hanger as Westwood’s fifth 
pastor.  Rick, Gwen and their four children arrived in 
Hamilton in December 1999 and Rick’s ministry began 
Sunday, January 3, 2000.
     During Rev. Hanger’s ministry, the Westwood  
Session decided to offer two worship services on  
Sunday mornings.  A contemporary service was held at 
9:15, followed by the traditional worship service at 
     In 2001, approximately 25 Westwood members 
decided to form a new church with a contemporary 
worship format.  Rev. Hanger left with them.








Text Box:  Above:  Work crews install stained glass windows in 1994.
Right:  New windows and a slanted roof were added to the fellowship hall in 1989.






Westwood enters a new century








Text Box:     Pastor Rick Hanger served Westwood in 2000-01.  Children were a big part of his ministry. 













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