Skip to main content

Catherine Ponder's Ponderings: Rosemary Fillmore Rhea

Rosemary Fillmore Rhea
table of contentsback to books

A Visit With Dr. Catherine Ponder about Rosemary Fillmore Rhea

Rosemary Fillmore Rhea
Rosemary Fillmore Rhea

I had the good fortune to get acquainted with Rosemary Fillmore Rhea when she came to Birmingham, Alabama during the 1950s. She was the Guest of Honor at a Communications Luncheon being held in her honor. Rosemary was kind enough to also speak for Unity Church of Birmingham's midweek service. We were thrilled to have the granddaughter of the founders of the Unity Movement guest us with her presence in this way. She was dressed fashionably and appropriately for the Communications Luncheon to which she invited me to be her guest.

A friend of mine from the church invited us to join her at "The Club," a private club of renown in the city, especially known for its spectacular view overlooking the city. Later my son and I took her to dinner at an old Southern mansion which housed a restaurant across the park from our Unity Church. She said its decor filled with Southern antiques and Old South atmosphere reminded her of that depicted in the well known film, Gone with the Wind.

As a third generation Fillmore, she was the daughter of Rickert Fillmore. As the son of the founders, Rick Fillmore had been the architect for Unity Village. All that he had envisioned first on his drawing boards years ago has gradually come to pass for the Village. As father and daughter they traveled the world together. She later attended the Pasadena Playhouse on the West Coast, but ultimately used her creative talents in the communications work of the Unity Movement for many years.

Rosemary has been an adventurer and world traveler, including a major trip for the People-to-People organization in 1962 behind the iron curtain to Communist China and Russia, with side trips to Iran, Japan, India, and Egypt. She also met world leaders in India, Jordan, and Thailand. "I wanted to listen to strange voices and feel other rhythms. I was always the one who wanted to see what was out there," Rosemary recently wrote in her memoir.

Rosemary was a broadcast pioneer. She began one of the first live TV programs in Kansas City in the 1950s, featuring Daily Word inspirational readings. In the 1960s and 1970s, Rosemary produced "The Word from Unity." These were inspirational spots that once ran on more than 1,000 television and radio stations and featured dozens of Hollywood celebrities.

During the period of her life in which I got to know her, she was married to a Lee's Summit, Missouri realtor. Upon one of my extended visits to Unity School, she invited me to their farmhouse for lunch with her guests from the School. Her husband stopped by briefly to welcome her guests and thank me for what he considered my Deep South hospitality to his wife. Not only was Rosemary blessed with a charming husband but also with a son and daughter by that marriage.

Years later I spent another summer at Unity School doing research in their excellent library for one of my forthcoming books. Rosemary was still working there. By this time she was married to one of Unity's most popular and beloved ministers, Rev. Ralph Rhea. He had served as minister of Unity Village Chapel for a number of years. He was also well known throughout the Unity Movement as a "field lecturer" representing Unity School and its beliefs as he spoke at various Unity churches around the country.

On that particular visit, Rosemary and I had lunch at the famous Stephenson's restaurant nearby. It was located in an apple orchard and specialized in its apple-oriented products, as well as its good food and an atmosphere befitting an apple orchard. When we returned to Unity School, her husband was impatiently awaiting her appearance. He said, "Where have you been? I've been waiting for you." I thought, "That Rosemary certainly has been blessed in the husband-department."

In more recent years she has spent her summers at Unity Village and her winters in Jamaica helping out at Unity Faith Center, or Kindergarten and Preparatory School in Montego Bay.

She recently wrote her Memoir entitled That's Just How My Spirit Travels. That title alone succinctly describes a free-spirited Rosemary who hears her own drummer and follows it. Her Memoir describes her "kinfolks" and fills in many blanks about her own background and that of her famous family.

The last time I saw Rosemary was at a party I gave at a Unity Convention. As my now adult son and I visited with her again, I was reminded of the grace and class with which she conducted herself. No wonder she continues to be a popular guest speaker for special events in Unity Churches around the country. Knowing Rev. Rosemary Fillmore Rhea and observing her progress over the last fifty years has indeed been a pleasure.

NOTE: Her book is available through Unity School's Book Department, in Unity Churches and through DeVorss & Co.

(Excerpt from New Thought Magazine - Summer 2005)

© Catherine Ponder. All rights reserved.
No usage or posting of any kind is permitted without prior written permission from Catherine Ponder.
Used with permission.