Pastor Mary Brooks
Sunday Worship :
11:00 am
7087 N. M-123 Newberry, MI


On April 7, 1959, a busy mother of six children, ages 4 – 15, wrote a letter that ignited the desire for a Methodist church in the tiny Upper Peninsula town of Paradise, Michigan. Ione Thompson’s letter to Rev. Gonser, the Superintendent of the Marquette District of the Methodist Church, was answered just three days after it was received, expressing interest and sending information for Sunday school materials.

On July 5, 1959, the first service was held in the Whitefish Township Hall, and 28 faithful attended. The church was officially organized on November 7 under the supervision of Rev. Gonser; by June of 1960, four children had been baptized.

By August of 1962, a plot of approximately three acres, south of Whitefish Township School, was purchased from the Michigan Conservation Department for $360. On November 1, Rev. Oswald was appointed the official minister. Another month later, the ground-breaking ceremony was held, with Rev. Gonser officiating.

Ione Thompson was instrumental in organizing the first MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship), and there were over 39 members by July of 1963. That same summer, twenty-two MYF’ers from the Detroit Central Methodist Church came to volunteer their services for the construction of the church. They were featured in the July, 1964 edition of Together, “Work Camp in Paradise,” accompanied by many photos of them inside the church and on the shores of Lake Superior for Sunday vespers.

On January 17, 1964, Rev. Seymour had to abandon his plans to conduct an evening service in Paradise, after walking 3 miles in a raging blizzard. He spent the night at the Pomeroy’s, south of town.

In 1964, plans for a church cornerstone and its contents were in the making. These plans and the contents are part of the church archives.

An interesting detail pertaining to the financial needs of the church occurred when Lady Margaret Rameden of London, England, learned of the church’s needs. She was the aunt of Jack Withey, a resident of Paradise. She sent a bank draft for 50 pounds sterling on May 5, 1964. This would have been a considerable sum at the time, and records of the transaction are still in the church records.

Just 20 months after its ground-breaking, on August 18, 1964, the Paradise United Methodist Church opened its doors to 72 people for an evening service.

The last event celebrating the advent of the United Methodist Church of Paradise occurred on August 14, 1983.

In 1985, eight stained glass windows had been created by Lori and Gilbert Kiper, relatives of Leo Zantop, a founder of the church.

The bell, as far as anyone can remember, was made in England and was originally installed in the Methodist Indian Mission Church in Brimley, Michigan. Before 1910, it was in an old, weather-beaten, unpainted building where church members met. Mr. Joseph Dibley, only 18 years old, came from England in 1909 and was appointed to the church in that year. He was the pastor there for only one year before he left for New Jersey to attend seminary.

Also in 1909, a new mission was built; it was dedicated in 1910 and it was in this church that the bell was installed. Three of the members were native Americans. Mr. Bill Waiskey was a very old man then but Andrew and John Waiskey were still very active in the church at that time. At some point, the church burned down and was abandoned. Somehow, the bell was saved but sat unused for quite some time.

Robert and Ione Thompson and Leo and Inez Zantop began the Paradise Methodist Mission Church in 1959 for the benefit of their families. They began meeting in the original Whitefish Township Community Building. In 1959, the Marquette District of the United Methodist Church gave the bell to the newly organized church as its first gift. Bill Bedell, Mike Thompson (for whom the tower was built), and his father, Robert “Kelly” Thompson went to Brimley to bring the bell to Paradise. Soon after that, they acquired the property where the current church was built and dedicated in 1962.

Private Mike Thompson graduated from the army’s basic training facility in Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 1966. In June of 1968, the day before Mike went to Vietnam, he hid the bell in a safe, wooded spot behind the church. He served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot and died there in 1969, a first lieutenant. Posthumously, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

The bell sat in the woods unused and still safely hidden. After Mike’s death, one of his friends, Loren House of Paradise, found it and retrieved it from the woods. Mike’s parents, Ione and Kelly Thompson, were charter members of the church and, together, initiated construction of the tower. Pat Thompson, Mike’s brother, designed the tower. Kelly Thompson is now deceased but Ione is still active in the church. The tower has the shape of a cross with a redwood beam as its center. The apex of the tower is shaped to form a cross, though this can be discerned only from the air.

In 1970 or 71, Howard Nodurft, Clarence Lazenby, Guy Haynes, and “Smokey” Nodurf, all of Paradise, constructed the tower. The community, as well as friends and family, contributed generously to the tower’s construction. It was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 31 of 1971 as a tribute to Captain Michael Kelly Thompson and to all the other young men who had given their lives for their country while serving in Vietnam.

Now the bell rings again, calling men and women to the worship of the one true God.

A circuit rider organ was given to the Paradise United Methodist Church during the early 1960s. Rev. Ralph Kelley, the pastor of the Metamora, Ohio United Methodist Church was the donor. This small organ was used for fellowship for many years. It is no longer being played but remains as a relic of the past and may be seen in the archives on the campus of Adrian College.


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