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Catherine Ponder's Ponderings: Charles R. Fillmore

Charles R. Fillmore
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A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about Charles R. Fillmore

Charles R. Fillmore
Charles R. Fillmore

I became aware of Charles R. Fillmore during my early days of attending Unity School more than 50 years ago. I have viewed from afar ever since his rise in the ranks of that institution founded by his grandparents, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore.

When he first became president of Unity School, he did a phenomenal job of downsizing in some ways and upgrading its work in other ways—all for the purpose of better serving several million constituents of the Unity Movement. The Silent Unity prayer department and Daily Word magazine were among Unity's greatest outreach to humankind worldwide.

He has now retired and serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of Unity School of Christianity, Unity Village, Missouri. He still is very much aware of the progress Unity School made under the direction of his daughter, Connie Fillmore Bazzy. She served as President and CEO for more than 20 years. She recently handed over the reins of those jobs to a longtime Unity Student, businessman, and former corporate director for both for-profit and non-profit organizations, Tom Zender.

One of the new Trustees of Unity School and a long time friend of mine, Walter Starcke of Boerne, Texas, told me how delighted he was when Charles R. Fillmore (whom he called Charlie) recently took him and New Trustees on a tour of Unity Village, inside and out. It was a tour that lasted several hours. Mr. Starcke said he could feel the love that Charles R. Fillmore displayed for the place where he had spent so much of his life and for which he has worked so hard. Before working at Unity School, Charles R. Fillmore served in World War II.

Soon after my husband, Kelly Ponder, and I founded Unity of Austin, Texas, we learned that Charles R. Fillmore would be passing through our city on his way to Houston on business. When we invited him to speak to our pioneer group in a ballroom at the Commodore Hotel in Austin [TruthUnity note: The Commodore Perry Hotel is The Brazos Place Condominiums at 802 Brazos St. Austin], he graciously complied. We were startled by his acceptance, since he rarely, if ever, spoke for Unity groups around the country. His job with Unity School was too all-consuming.

Kelly Ponder had been a Unity Student since childhood and was especially thrilled to get to know a member of the Fillmore family. Our Unity of Austin people loved Charles and his talk. We felt it a special blessing that a Fillmore was the first person from Unity School to speak to our fledgling group. That there are now several Unity Churches in Austin and surrounding areas is but further proof that our feelings were right. Though we knew it not at that time, Charles R. Fillmore virtually helped launch Unity in central Texas.

While Charles was in our area, my husband had to teach a class at University of Texas. Charles accompanied me to the campus to pick up Kelly after his class. Charles was delighted with the red tile-roofed buildings—so like those at Unity Village. He was impressed with the spacious surroundings, and he was especially delighted with the theme engraved on the front of the main building: "The Truth shall make you free."

Kelly related to Charles R. that as a young boy, he remembered when Charles' grandfather, Charles Fillmore, and his wife, Cora Fillmore, had come to town to speak for the Unity group. They were then meeting in the Massey building in downtown Birmingham, Alabama—the city where Kelly had been born and educated. This special meeting was held at the prestigious Tutwiler Hotel.

Indeed, it had been Kelly's parents who had made all the plans for the Fillmores' visit. The Ponders had arranged for the Fillmores to stay at an upscale boarding house that served a vegetarian menu, as they had requested. Kelly also recalled the delight of getting to sit next to Charles Fillmore on the way home from the train station, where the Ponder family had greeted the Fillmores and escorted them to their quarters. Mr. and Mrs. Ponder had acted as their hosts during their Birmingham visit at the request of their minister, Harriet Price.

Kelly's mother had been in charge of the book table when Unity met in the Massey Building. It was a fold-up card table, and in the late 20s and early 30s all the books published by Unity School would fit on that table. She later said, "I never dreamed the day would come when I would have a daughterin-law who would have written more books than would fit on that table."

Charles R. Fillmore graciously listened to all of these stories, and others, about the history of Unity in Birmingham and the Ponder connection. Later, after Kelly made his sudden transition, I was so happy that one of the great thrills of his life had been to meet with Charles R. Fillmore on that trip.

None of us will ever know all of the kindnesses that Charles R. Fillmore has extended to countless Unity students, near and far, over the years. But one of the great satisfactions of my long-time work in and for the Unity movement has been that of his making the effort to encourage a pioneering Unity group and its leaders just when they needed it most in the heart of Texas. His actions were an embodiment of all that Unity teaches.

What a precious memory.

(Excerpt from New Thought Magazine - Summer 2003)

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