Help A Local Star
LIKE many churches over 100 years old, Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church on the Washington Street Mall is facing maintenance-related challenges. About six years ago, the church began a project to repair its stained glass windows, an expensive undertaking totaling $1 million.
“We are down to the last $220,000, that’s what we need,” said Terry McGarvey, Our Lady Star of the Sea business manager.
The church’s large stained glass windows, transepts, are completed. The lowest windows on the building known as casements have been finished. Of the middle windows, called clear story, six have been completed with seven windows still needing repair.
The church’s clear story windows are massive in size. While the Biblical scenes are barely visible from outside, inside the sanctuary, sunlight brings in a blaze of color.
The cost to repair each clear story window is $50,000. The windows are removed and carefully transported to Media, Pennsylvania’s The Art of Glass, where they’ve been disassembled. Then the lead that holds the glass in place along with the sash and frame is replaced. Original brass hardware is reused when possible.
While stained glass window repairs are expensive, the workmanship and value of the windows is priceless, said Terry.
“The next biggest challenge is we need some major repairs to the roof,” he said.
Some years ago, the church put a new slate roof on the building. The current problems are flashing, valleys and membranes. Missing gutters are also on the repair list.
“We’re literally talking hundreds of thousands of dollars to do this,” he said. “I see this project larger than a Catholic thing; this is a Cape May thing.”
Terry said the church is an anchor for the mall and the community.
In addition to roof repairs, pointing on the granite blocks of the church need repaired.
As a result of roof deficiencies, the church is suffering water intrusion.
“There is plaster falling off over the Blessed Mother,” said Terry. “Our Lady needs our help.”
Water is also leaking near a statue of Saint Joseph. Chipping plaster is visible over two stained glass windows.
A window depicting Jesus and Mary may be repaired as early as this summer, said Terry.
The total project is expected to take 18 months to two years to complete.
The church is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A bell in the tower is stamped with a date of 1878, the year of the church’s incorporation. Prior to that date, a church called St. Mary’s, chartered in 1848, existed in a location that is now the Acme parking lot.
Many visitors to Cape May enter the church to view the sanctuary with its high ceiling and stained glass windows, said Terry. A fundraising drive will begin shortly.
The B&B Queen
at 92 years old, Terry Ripoli, may be the oldest innkeeper at a bed and breakfast inn anywhere in America, although no one is keeping such figures. Terry began cooking breakfast for guests and doing laundry 15 years ago after her son, Dave Ripoli, bought Highland House on Broadway in West Cape May.
Her lifelong career was as a hairdresser; she opened her own shop in south Philly at the age of 31. Hairdressing was more formal in those days with the stylists wearing white shoes, white stockings and dresses. She wore a pearl necklace and earrings to work. Each stylist was required to have a unique hairdo and hair color serving as sort of a living catalog of styles, said Terry.
She also worked as a hairdresser for eight years — while in her 80s — in a nursing home. “I started cutting everybody’s hair for nothing,” she said. “When I left there, I was making $8 per head.” At lunchtime, she helped patients eat their meals.
But Terry’s hairdressing career ended at the age of 87, after hip surgery. The plan was for to Terry to recuperate at the bed and breakfast inn, but she soon became involved with its operation. Today, she rises at 5am to start breakfast, which may include scrambled eggs, French toast, waffles, homemade cake and “Terry’s muffins.”
The Highland Inn is pet-friendly which is one of the joys of Terry’s life. “The dogs make me happy,” she said. “They all seem to like me, too.”
Meeting people (and mutts) keeps Terry young, and the inn in the heart of West Cape May gets a number of repeat guests who like its homey charm and garden. She is a good listener, one who refuses to discuss politics with guests.
According to Dave, the old house had been closed up for some time before he purchased it 19 years ago, when it had a mustly smell. When Terry cooked meat balls and gravy one day, it instantly began to smell like home. His mother’s help at the inn is a blessing, since he continues a career in Philadelphia.
While Cape May is a newer destination for Terry, she has been coming to Wildwood for more than half a century. Her brother owned a home at 23rd and New York Avenue, she said.
“In my day they had the Lucky Club, and Joey Bishop was there and Sammy Davis Jr. was there,” she said.
Terry worked as a hat check girl at the Nut Club.
Summers as a teen were spent living and working on a farm in Mt. Holly, New Jersey owned by Lester Jones, “picking tomatoes and potatoes.”
In those days, she was driving a 1939 Hudson with running boards.
“We used to go to the town called Lumberton that had a bar. I was 16 years-old then and that’s how I learned to dance a Polka,” said Terry.
She said her long life is attributable to eating well and enjoying life. She admits to smoking for a portion of her life.
Terry is part of a large Italian family of five boys and two girls. Her father Anthony worked in a shipyard in Camden.
Terry met her husband, Edward, on Valentine’s Day at the Half Hour Club in Philadelphia. They raised five children together.
Travel has been a part of her life including trips to Spain, Algiers and Italy and a cross-country trip across America on a bus.
Birthdays have become a big deal for Terry. Her friends and relatives held a block party in Philadelphia on her 90th. On her 92nd, she received 40 cards, many of them from guests at the inn. Her celebration included dinner at Cucina Rosa and a trip to Rio Grande to see the movie, The Heat. Dave honored his mother on her birthday by purchasing a brick with her name on it on a walkway in Wilbraham Park, appropriate, considering how at home Terry now feels in Cape May.
She compares the view of the garden from the side door of her kitchen to Italy or Spain. “I feel like I belong here,” she said. “I live a nice happy life because I had a nice family and we all palled around together,” she said. “We all stuck together.”
Terry’s maiden name was Gatto which means “cat” in Italian. Maybe she has nine lives like a cat. If so, she is currently only on her third, with six more to go.
Mrs Lincoln: The Play
During the first four years of the Civil War, Mary Lincoln wore a different pair of silk gloves every day. “She was a great embarrassment to her husband,” says Candace O’Donnell, who co-wrote along with husband John Mary Todd Lincoln: Much Madness is Divinest Sense, playing at the Chalfonte Hotel on August 10 and 24 at 8pm. Candace, a Cape May resident, will perform the lead (and only) role.
“I’ve always been fascinated by her,” Candace told us. “And a book about Mary that I read as a member of the Cape May Book Club rekindled my interest.”
Candace didn’t want to tell a story of “unrelieved” tragedy and was able to tap into the humor. For starters, Mary was “the original retail therapy girl,” who hid bills from her husband. “I hope people come away thinking: ‘There’s something about this woman I never would have guessed,” Candace said.
The show, which is $20 a ticket, will take place in the hotel’s Henry Sawyer room. Reserve tickets in advance by calling 609-884-8409.