“How Northlake Began” by Ellen Hanly

On a dark, rainy night in February, 1961, three women friends who attended Eastshore Unitarian Church and whose children were in the Church School there, began thinking and talking to each other about having a church closer to where they lived. One lived north of Kirkland and two lived in Redmond. They were Lola Reynolds, Betty Jirucha and Ellen Hanly. They invited Rev. Chadbourne Spring, Eastshore minister to meet with them at Lola’s home to discuss their idea.

He was surprised at first, thinking they didn’t like him or Eastshore. They clarified that they just wanted a church closer, and he warmed to the idea of having a church farther north for people in the Kirkland, Bothell and Redmond areas.

The three went to work, making lists of other friends that attended Eastshore, and University Unitarian churches and others they thought might be interested. It didn’t take long to get quite a group interested and in March, twelve couples met at the home of Madelyn and Glen Uhlig to elect temporary officers and draft by–laws.


We were also assisted by the UUA and Rev. Chad Spring and Eastshore members Marcie Eddy and Katherine Wensberg. The Pacific Northwest District also guided our initial steps as well. Maybelle Chapman was its President. She and her husband, Dr. Stuart Chapman had just a few years before started Edmonds Unitarian Church.


On April 21, 1961, we had our first church service at the Cadle Theater at Lake Washington High School. Rev. Peter Raible was our guest minister, giving an inspiring sermon using the story of St. Exupery’s Little Prince.
On May 15th, 1961, Northlake Unitarian Fellowship received its official charter from the Unitarian Universalist Association. That was the year the Unitarian Association became the Unitarian Universalist Association. Thirty-one people signed the Membership Book. Jack Davies became our first Board President.


A Building Committee of men went to work finding a place that we could rent or buy to hold our meetings in a more permanent place. They soon found the building at 302-First Street in Kirkland. It had been built in 1926, and was originally the E. L. Sessions Undertaking Parlor until the late 1940’s. It stood vacant for three years until it was occupied by the Trinity Lutheran Church as interim headquarters until 1958.


In September 1961, the first services and church school were held in the rented building by the Northlake congregation. The building was officially purchased in November of 1962 for $14,000 with some of the rent going towards the purchase.


The church school began with 35 children. Ellen Hanly was the first RE director and Dr. Alan Leider, chair of the RE committee. By 1965 there were 99 children enrolled!


We also hired our first minister, Rev. Ralph Mero, part time. He was part time assistant minister at Eastshore, also, and we became Northlake Unitarian Church. We also purchased 2-½ acres in Juanita that we might use for a future church.


Ralph Mero resigned in 1971 to become training director of Planned Parenthood.


Those first few years a lot of time was spent on the building and grounds. In 1974, we did a major remodeling of the building, financed by the sale of the Juanita property.


In 1977, we had a ceremony of burning the mortgage. Jane Pickering was President at that time and I remember well what a wonderful sixteenth birthday celebration that was.


We soon hired our second minister, Rev. Patrick Thomas Aquinas O’Neill, in the fall of 1979, on a part-time basis. By 1985, he left to accept a call to the Framingham, Massachusetts. He was a real Easterner so didn’t hesitate to return to that area.


In 1985-86, the congregation was served by an interim minister, Rev. Mary Scriver. She was not only a good preacher but started a number of adult religious education classes.

Northlake Chapel exterior view with bride at window