The historic “little white church” on Golden Valley Road was nearly at capacity the evening of Aug. 11 for a very special event hosted by the Golden Valley Historical Society. The church, known as the oldest public building in Golden Valley, was formally dedicated with a new name for its chapel in honor of the longtime servitude of Mary and Don Anderson.
The couple has lived in Golden Valley for more than 60 years, and have been married just as long. Colloquially, the two are referred to as Mr. and Mrs. Golden Valley, for their exceptional involvement in city groups, organizations and initiatives throughout the decades.
Don Anderson said he wasn’t sure of the origin of the “Mr. and Mrs. Golden Valley “ nicknames (and coming from a man with a near-encyclopedic mental library of stories, one must believe him). He agreed what was probably first said in jest simply stuck in peoples’ minds over time.
If the name was unofficial before, it’s official now. At the event, Golden Valley City Councilmember Denise La Mere-Anderson read a city proclamation that formally declared the couple “Mr. and Mrs. Golden Valley.”
Outside of the church, the letterboard advertised “Don & Mary Anderson, Mr. & Mrs. Golden Valley” to passersby.
A second, permanent placard hung above the interior entrance to the chapel, reading “The Don & Mary Anderson Chapel.” It will remain there for the society’s foreseeable future.
“It is our greatest honor to let you know that from this night forward, this chapel where we’re all seated will henceforth be the Don and Mary Anderson chapel at the historic church,” Historical Society President Kyle Scott said.
Laying the foundation
The dedication ceremony was attended by the Andersons and their family, friends, historical society members and other guests. Attendees were given a commemorative button featuring a photo of the couple.
The Anderson’s keepsake, presented by society board member and treasurer David Kuball, was a glass plaque with a historical photo of the chapel. On the reverse side was another photo of the chapel, but a sentimental one from an Anderson family wedding hosted in the space in 1996.
Kuball said many in the room had likely experienced “the Don and Mary impact.”
“They’ve definitely been a friend and mentor to me, and have had a huge impact on me,” Kuball said.
Scott said the program and dedication was a way for the organization to “honor the legacy” of the pair, who have been society members since 1993. She added that if it weren’t for distance, the room would’ve been even more crowded.
“Many others could not be here to celebrate as they’re scattered all across the country, but have sent their congratulations and best wishes,” Scott said.
Crystal Boyd, the society’s volunteer collections curator, said much of the work the two undertook was not glamorous, but vital to the organization. The organization did not have a place to meet when the Andersons joined, and one of the first decisions they took part in was the decision to purchase the property at 6731 Golden Valley Road from the Christian Science Society to serve as a headquarters.
During the course of two decades, the society would fundraise endlessly to turn a portion of the church into an award-winning museum, organize and digitize its collection and host monthly history education programs.
Boyd said during this time, the Andersons embarked on key work to attract stakeholders, grow membership, apply for grants and came up with other unique ideas to raise money. They were also stewards of the church property, abating asbestos in the basement and introducing modern utilities into the space like an accessibility ramp and a connection to the city sewer line. They also added a few sentimental touches, like the flagpole near the entrance installed in memory of society founder Bill Varner.
“Don and Mary’s support really laid the foundation that allows the society to enjoy the successes it does today,” Boyd said.
After she completed her remarks, Boyd turned from the audience to address the Andersons personally.
“Thank you for your long-term vision, and your commitment to create the Golden Valley history museum, and for all the people you enrolled along the way to help bring this place to life,” Boyd said.
The Andersons speak
The speeches by the couple were representative of the dynamic they brought to their decades of service to their home city.
For his part, Don recalled a few stories of his time with the society and the little white church, from the interesting to the hilarious. He remembered the time the church’s 1880s stained glass windows took on hail damage, and how an internet search in the very early 2000s yielded not only a good repair company, but the very company that had made and installed the windows more than 100 years ago.
He recounted cleaning up the remnants of “picnics” left on church property by those passing through on Golden Valley Road, and a particularly blush-worthy memory of a group of motorists that opted to “spend the night” in the lot. His remarks brought booming laughter from those packed into the pews in the church’s worship space.
“My 28 years of serving as a volunteer secretary has been an interesting and fun one,” Don Anderson prefaced the audience before launching into his stories. He ended his remarks by extending his thanks to the members of the society, the board, and the volunteers who maintained the building and grounds of the church.
“There are lots of things that can go wrong in an old building like this, so we appreciate them. They are the ones that made being the secretary fun and very enjoyable for me,” he said.
While Don’s comments brought levity, Mary’s brought gravity. When the microphone was given to Mrs. Golden Valley, she spoke with the same even-handedness she brought to her time as Golden Valley mayor, councilmember and chair of the Metropolitan Council.
“I thank you all for coming through. I’m just overwhelmed,” Mary Anderson said. “I would thank you for the honor and the recognition, but any achievements that I have made that led to this were not obtained by me alone.
“My family was very supportive in many, many ways. The citizens of Golden Valley were involved. The city staff provided guidance and information, and other Golden Valley elected officials – and appointed members of commissions and boards – worked to establish a functioning and forward-looking community.
“And finally tonight I want to share with you that particularly grateful to the current historical society board and the members of the society. They are really on a forward path to future accomplishments and success.”