My Memories of The Chapel of Four Chaplains
By Carol Devlin Gadsby
I remember being very excited during the construction of The Chapel of Four Chaplains. I was about five years old. I had heard the story of the four brave chaplains from my parents who were very good friends with Dr. Daniel A. Poling. Not only was Dr. Poling their pastor, but also he was the father of one of the chaplains. As young as I was, I still felt a connection to this big event that was about to take place.
One Sunday after church, I went down the back steps that brought me right to the front of the Chapel. I walked over to the circular piece of limestone that eventually would rotate and hold the three altars. As I stood there, I tried to imagine how this whole idea was going to work. To my amazement, it turned out to be such a beautiful memorial to the four chaplains and all who lost their lives on the Dorchester.
On February 3, 1951, the day before my seventh birthday, the Chapel was dedicated by President Harry S. Truman. The Chapel was full and the overflow went up into the sanctuary of Grace Baptist Temple. I was among the overflow and watched the dedication on a closed circuit television. It was quite thrilling for a seven-year-old to be a part of this piece of history.
As time went on my family became a big part of the Chapel’s history at Broad and Berks Streets. My father, Russell Conwell Devlin, and my brother, Daniel Poling Devlin, took people for tours around the beautiful Chapel. I became an acolyte at the Vesper Services and my sister, Evelyn, sang in the choir. My mother, Alice, helped at times when they would have refreshments for special dignitaries. Being an acolyte gave me the privilege of meeting some of these dignitaries before the service. One very special one was Rev. Billy Graham. I remember shaking his hand and thinking how strong his hands were and what a great smile he had.
In 1959, my sister, Evelyn, was married in the Chapel by Chaplain Walter H. White who became a wonderful friend to my family. He and his wife and children were so gracious. They invited us many times to their home for dinner. In 1980, my father-in-law, Howard V. Gadsby, received a Legion of Honor membership from the Chapel signed by Chaplain Fredrick H. Hoffmann.
Therefore, you see The Chapel of Four Chaplains at Broad and Berks Streets will always hold a special place in my heart. The magnificent altars and the beautiful mural that memorialized the Rev. Clark V. Poling, the Rev. George Fox, the Rev. John P. Washington and Rabbi Alexander Goode were such a spiritual way of bringing three faiths together. I wish that everyone knew the story of these brave chaplains who gave up their life vests so that others might live. May God bless their souls. I wish great success to the Chapel at its new location in the Old Philadelphia Navy Yard, but the Devlin family will always remember the original location at The Baptist Temple at Broad and Berks Streets.
Sunday, March 2, 2008