Donor thankful for Glenmary's work, priests' friendship
When Tom Reidmiller created a Glenmary gift annuity, it was just one more way he could contribute to an organization he loved. For many years, Tom has supported Glenmary priests, inviting them into his home, selling them cars and serving as the executor for one Glenmary priest's estate.
"I am very thankful for Glenmary," Tom said. "They have been a big part of my life, and I am thankful that they go into areas where they do not have priests and build up the church."
Now, he knows that his gift will continue Glenmary's work and bring a Catholic presence to underserved counties in rural America.
Tom first connected with Glenmary in 1976, when he moved to Bryson City, N.C. The Pennsylvania native moved to North Carolina after attending Marshall University in West Virginia. He lived in Charlotte for a few years and moved to Bryson City when he bought the local Ford dealership.
Bryson City was a rural community near the Cherokee reservation. It was part of a cluster of Glenmary missions, including Sylva and Cherokee, in the Charlotte Diocese. At the time, the mission parishes were small and all of the parishioners from the three parishes knew each other. Only about six children participated in religious education classes, and three of them were his daughters.
"It was hard to get lost in the crowd around here," Tom said. "We were very close as a parish. The priests were very involved in people's lives and in the community. We would have picnics and church activities, and most everyone attended."
That closeness is representative of the community. People have a tendency to help each other out, Tom said. His church, St. Joseph in Bryson City, has a thrift store that operates more as a charity than as a profitable business. If a family is in need or loses their home in a fire, the thrift store volunteers find out what the family needs and let them pick out items from the store.
For most of his life, Tom lived close to the St. Joseph rectory. As a result, the Glenmary priests were always at his house, eating dinner and visiting. Tom became friends with the priests. Father Don Levernier, who spent many years in the area, continued to visit Tom after he moved to a new mission.
Father Don and Father Tom Field were both active in the community, Tom said. They worked with other ministers in the community and planned joint events.
In Bryson City and Cherokee, Father Tom Field worked in a center for victims of domestic violence, served Meals on Wheels, helped at the local food pantry and did other outreach ministry.
Father Frank Gardner was older when he arrived in Bryson City, but he helped establish the thrift store, Tom said. When Father Frank died in the mission, the Glenmary president at the time asked Tom to serve as Father Frank's executor. He knew about Tom's background in finance and that he had served as an executor for many people in the parish.
Serving as Father Frank's executor was a labor intensive task, considering Father Frank lived in many parts of the country and had assets in most locations he served.
"I had to round up all of Father Frank's assets and remit them back to the home office," Tom said. "It took at least six months to track everything down and to settle the estate, because I had to work with each state and follow each of their laws about removing assets following a death."
Glenmary turned the Bryson City mission over to the Charlotte Diocese in 2000. Now, diocesan priests serve the area, but the parishes still have the Glenmary spirit, Tom said. The congregations are small but tight-knit.
Tom continues to follow the work of Glenmary, reading articles about the priests and brothers in Glenmary Challenge. He said he is invested in the success of the organization, and now that he is retired, he wants to support Glenmary while he can still see the effects of his gift.
"I am fortunate enough to have money to give, and I am very appreciative that Glenmary staffed the church in Bryson City," Tom said. "I wanted to give as a token of my thanks for the good work they have done, and I wanted to give to Glenmary now rather than wait until I die and leave it in my will."