“Florida Pioneer,” Ensign, Dec. 1998, 65
Today a stake center exists in Fort Myers, Florida, but 50 years ago Church members struggled to find a place for their little branch to meet. That struggle ended largely through the efforts of Janett Conroy Perry.
During World War II a handful of Church members met in a building on a college campus, but after the college closed, the members tried in vain to find another meeting place. When the mayor was contacted and asked if a city building could be used, he replied that there were enough churches in Fort Myers and he did not intend to help start another one.
After the war ended, Janett noticed some abandoned government buildings at Page Field near her home. She immediately wrote to the War Assets Administration (WAA), inquiring if she could buy one of the buildings for the Church. The answer was in the affirmative, so Sister Perry contacted the county commissioners, who told her that the buildings at Page Field were to be sold to veterans, but she could purchase the chapel. She did so, and the commissioners accepted her check, though they did not give her a bill of sale or a deed to the land. A few days later, a veteran pushed for the classification of the building to bechanged from “chapel” to “dwelling” and bought the building. The commissioners returned the check to Sister Perry.
“I asked the commissioners to help me find another building but to no avail,” she says. “Every Wednesday for a year I went to their weekly meetings. When they asked me why I was there, I said, ‘To get a building for my church.’ They grew to hate seeing me!”
While accompanying her husband, Chet Perry, on a business trip to Washington, D.C., Sister Perry was introduced to individuals at the WAA who could help her. They investigated and told her that all the buildings had been sold to veterans, but if she could find a building of any kind, they would sell it to her. Immediately upon returning to Page Field, she saw a building that was almost completely hidden by weeds. “I felt as if I were led directly to it,” she recalls.
She wrote to the WAA about her find. They informed her that that particular building had been erroneously omitted from their for-sale list and that she could buy it. She paid for half, and the Church paid for half. The branch subsequently used the building for worship for 14 years before a new meetinghouse was built.
Janett says, “I feel like this was a mission from the Lord for me—to find a home for His Church in Fort Myers. I could certainly see His hand in the entire transaction.”—Norma Lee Fisher, Naples, Florida