History Minute 17

A History Minute
(#17 in a series)

In 1939-45, Grace supported Bundles for Britain, the English Speaking Union, and British Relief. During the War, the Battle of Stalingrad won by Soviets; Italy defeated, Mussolini executed; Warsaw Ghetto uprising against Nazis; “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”, "Comin’ In on a Wing and a Prayer”, “As Time Goes By”, “Stage Door Canteen”, “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”, “Pistol Packin’ Mama”, “Oklahoma!”, “Outlaw” with Jane Russell. Although the War ended in 1945, there was much work to be done: Grace Church made a substantial contribution to the re-building of the bombed-out St. Martin's-in-the-Fields in London. Two years later, “A Market Place in Merrie England” was the theme of the Grace Fair, with animal rides, a fortune teller, chamber of horrors, and puppet show with all profits sent to All Saints, West Ham, London, a needy church identified for Grace by the Archbishop of Canterbury...Grace received a scrapbook from the Vestry of All Saints. Here at home, Grace contributed to the re-building of Auburndale's Church of the Messiah which had burned in 1944, and Grace added the vestibule double-doors to keep cold airout ofthe rear of the sanctuary.

Of 105 Grace Church men and women serving in World War II, two were killed; three Vestrymen who were absent due to service in the War were not replaced on the Vestry (in the 1960’s, Charles Olton proposed that Vestry membership be rotated...although this innovation originallyhad been proposed thirty years prior, Charlie's idea stillwas considered“radical” in aparish where the Vestrymen ushers still wore formal morningdress on important Sundays).

From the departure of Rector Robert Smith, only four months elapsed until the arrival of Rector #10, Rev. Robert William Woodroofe, Jr. on Thanksgiving, 1945, direct frommore thanthree years as an Army Chaplain in North Africa and Europe.  Rev. Woodroofe, the son of an Episcopal priest, was born in Philadelphia, graduated from the University of Michigan and ETS in Cambridge (later EDS), and had served as Curate at Christ Church in Cranbrook, Michigan and as Assistant Minister of thewell-known St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan. Thus, the tall35 year-old Rev. Woodroofe, his wife Lindsay, and their four children (Benson, Robin, Robert III, and Katherine) moved into Grace Church's stoneRectorybeginning a rectorate that would last forfourteen years.Fast forward to the present: in 2006, Rev. Woodroofe died inConcord, MA at the age of 96; in 2007, sonRev. Robert Woodroofe, III retired as Rector of St. Gabriel's inMarion, MA.Also in 1945, United Nations founded; atomic bomb dropped; dimout for U.S. to save fuel; “June is Bustin’ Out All Over” and “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”. Post-war changes were comingin Newton and in Grace Church; learn about these in the next History Minute.
Historical coincidence: shortly after the German surrender in 1945, Army Captain Bradford Wright discovered that the Hospital Unit of Chaplain Woodroofe, an acquaintance from St. Bartholomew's in NYC (where Brad had sung in the St. Bart's Boy Choir), was located nearby. Brad comandeered a jeep and briefly visited Rev. Woodroofe. At this point in their lives, neither Bob Woodroofe nor Brad had ever heard of Grace, Newton! Brad has loaned a photo of theirunplannedmeeting in Germany. 

Don Kennedy,
Parish Historian