Faith of our Founders – Caroline Berkey

Years before St. Margaret’s existed, George and Caroline Berkey moved their young family from Beverly Hills to Palm Desert to be close to their date and grape ranches in Indio which were near the Salton Sea.

Caroline, having attended Episcopal elementary and high schools in Portland, Oregon, and being rooted in her Episcopal Faith, brought the family to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Indio where they worshiped for a number of years. Caroline still has fond memories of the spirit of family worship at St. John’s, including the annual May Day celebration which included a May Pole.

George and Caroline

When Palm Desert entered into a period of rapid growth, the Berkey’s along with others, felt called to plant an Episcopal church within the city. Caroline recalls the owner of Keedy’s offering their group the back room of the restaurant where regular meetings were launched. She remembers the Bishop telling George that the church was “a go,” as long as he and his fellow visionaries raised the funds to make it happen. The group continued meeting and reaching out to local businesses for commitment to the vision and financial support, and thus St. Margaret’s became a reality. Caroline remembers these as exciting times filled with a lot of hard work

The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori blesses the Berkey Centennial Garden in honor of Caroline’s 100th birthday.

Caroline describes her journey at St. Margaret’s as one of great involvement. She has always viewed church as an extension of home and greatly valued involving her children in the many church activities. She recalls the day that her grandson Christian walked down the isle at St. Margaret’s as an acolyte. She cherishes the three photos that hang in her hallway, her grandfather as a teenager with her three grandsons on either side all serving as acolytes. She says that if the house were on fire, she’d grab it on the way out.

Caroline’s favorite photo of her grandfather and three grandsons as acolytes

For many years Caroline served on the Altar Guild. She loved that work and has many fond memories of feeling close to God as a member of the Altar Guild team. She also loved being chairperson of the Annual Christmas Tea, which she describes as an elegant celebration to which she brought her mother’s sterling tea service. She describes it as a great party with everybody dressed in their finest. She commented that “we don’t have parties like that anymore.” She also fondly remembers the building of the bell tower and the joy it still brings each time it rings.

She describes her life at St. Margarets as keeping her and her family close to God. After all she said, “that’s why we’re here.” She describes St. Margaret’s most special attributes as the church itself and the church community that is so filled with faith and love. Her hope for St. Margaret’s is that it continues to grow and attract many more families.

Caroline and Val

Caroline will turn 102 in September. She is blessed that her daughter Val, who was married in the original St. Margaret’s church, now Karns Hall, has lived with her for almost four years. Val not only takes good care of her, but they enjoy reminiscing and laughing together. What a blessing they both are to our St. Margaret’s community!

Caroline and her family

Editor’s Note: This is the first article in this series about the wonderful people whose many contributions to St. Margaret’s have made it the place it is today.