Faith of our Founders – Lucy Karns

When Lee and Lucy Karns retired and moved from Newport Beach to their home in Palm Desert, they initially attended the Presbyterian Church just below St. Margaret’s.  They soon heard about the wonderful priest, Father Brad, up at St. Margarets and were surprised to find themselves sitting on kitchen chairs in the building we know today as Karns Hall.  Being inspired by Father Brad and Father Dan, St. Margaret’s quickly became their parish home.  They found the sermons to be spiritually enriching and appreciated the friendships that they developed with both Fr. Brad and Fr. Dan.  Lucy describes them as an extraordinary team.

Lucy remembers those early days as filled with of lots of hard work that was also loads of fun.  Lee, a vestry member and an active fund raiser inspired many of his friends to join in the effort.  They formed committees and hosted events, most aimed at raising funds to build the beautiful church we are heirs to today.  Lucy has fond memories of the effort to bring the Quinby organ to St. Margaret’s.  She shared that her husband Lee, Jean Smith and Nancy Watson traveled across the country to listen to organs and find the perfect sound for our church.  She recalls that everyone was willing to be involved because they could see the results of what their hard work was accomplishing.

Lucy and Lee Karns

Lucy remembers the days when the church was so packed that everyone had “self-assigned” seats for fear of running out of room.  In those days so many attended that they had to have police directing traffic for Sunday services.

She remembers the wonderful spirit that existed throughout the congregation.  She fondly recalls spending long days in what we now call the Karns Kitchen where she and others prepared a full meal to serve at the annual welcome back party.  This event was the biggest social event of each year.  It was hosted by the “year-a-rounders” to welcome back seasonal members.  It included beer and wine, a full dinner, music and dancing.  The effort to make it a special occasion was rewarded annually by a great turnout.  “We just don’t have parties like that anymore”, she commented.

When talking about a time when she felt spiritually enriched at St. Margaret’s, Lucy recalls the many hours of prayerful and loving support she received from Fr. Dan when her husband was hospitalized at Eisenhower following a major heart attack.  She recalls Fr. Dan staying at her side for many long hours and, after receiving the news that even if he survived he would never recover, she recalls praying “please God, if you’re going to take him, take him now.” He passed away shortly after that.  She attributes her own survival during this very hard time to Fr. Dan’s support.  And she recalls the sadness she felt when Fr. Dan, not long after this, became so sick himself.

Over the years Lucy has been a generous pledger and she often steps up when funds are needed for special projects.  In talking about St. Margaret’s today, her greatest hope is that we find a great rector, “someone who we all can talk to.”  She would like to see even more outreach, “things like food distribution in the park.”  She hopes that we will do more fund raising, describing the project of naming the pews for a $100 donation and the spirit of involvement that it once brought to St. Margaret’s.  But she also cautions that things have changed and that we’re now challenged to find new ways forward.

(L to R) Alice Sleight, the Rev. Lane Hensley and Lucy Karns

Lucy attends the 10 a.m. Eucharist every Sunday.  She lives in Rancho Mirage and remains close to her three children, Shane, Brad and Amy.  She recalls the challenge that she and Lee shared in blending their families and is grateful for the closeness of her children, commenting that they are “real brothers and sisters,” sharing everything with each other.


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