The Parish Church of St. Helena Hosts 54th Annual Spring Tour of Homes

by Gail Westerfield

Mar. 11, 2010

Barbara Hathaway, Shirley Parsons and Bishop Alden Hathaway

When Alden Hathaway, Bishop in Residence at The Parish Church of St. Helena, married his wife, Barbara, two years ago, they lived in a tiny condo. When they couldn’t fit the possessions of two lifetimes into the small space, Barbara had to move practically everything she owned into two storage units.

But then the newlyweds found a dream home in which to begin their life together, thanks to another great relationship: Barbara’s friendship with long-time St. Helena’s member Shirley Parsons.

“Shirley is solely responsible for us having this house,” Barbara says, so it’s apropos that Shirley will be head docent for the tour of the Hathaways’ house during this year’s Spring Home Tours.

The Parish Church of St. Helena will host “Old Point by Candlelight: A Walking Tour of Historic Beaufort’s Most Distinguished Neighborhood” in downtown Beaufort on Friday, March 19 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The evening begins with a free tour of the Parish Church of St. Helena from 4-6 p.m. Tour participants will be given maps to help them explore seven noteworthy private residences in the Old Point, including the Hathaway’s home, as well as The First African Baptist Church.

The evening will end with a reception on The Green featuring hors d’oeuvres and live bluegrass. All proceeds will benefit The Women of the Parish, which supports more than 20 local and global charities. Tickets are $40 per person and include the reception. For more information and tickets, call 524-0363.

Barbara and Shirley first met at a church retreat and “we were kindred sisters from the beginning,” Shirley confirms. As they walked together every morning, Barbara says she “unfolded this saga of how we were looking for a house, preferably within walking distance of St. Helena’s.”

A friend of Shirley’s had talked about wanting to sell her house to move closer to family, so Shirley introduced the Hathaways to the homeowner and another deep friendship blossomed immediately. Before long, the Hathaways had a place to blend their furnishings into a colorful, eclectic home.

Barbara said she’s always been drawn to primitive and “country” antiques, while Alden contributed pieces he’d picked up in Japan and China while he served in the Navy.

The Hathaway’s house was built in 1929 during a building boom, and Shirley adds that “it’s one of the best-built houses in Beaufort.”

Alden notes the house’s “nice little touches…It doesn’t overpower you with decoration. It’s just very comfortable. Apparently ‘old Beaufort’ people have been here for parties…and they remember it fondly as having a good time here. And we’ve certainly had some good times here already.”

Shirley, who has been a home tours docent “for about twenty years,” takes her work seriously but with a dose of good humor. She once prevented a man with a concealed video camera from shooting in a home that had specifically prohibited photos. “I saw a little light on,” she recalls, indicating a hip pocket, “and I didn’t say anything. I just moved wherever that camera went. And now he has wonderful pictures of my tummy.”

Her dear friends, the Hathaways, will be on hand during the tour if anyone stumps her with a question about the house. “We’re real happy to have them here in Beaufort,” Shirley says with a smile. “They have added a lot.”

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