By Stephanie Rebman
By Ray Van Dusen
ABERDEEN – Out of six teenagers in the First United Methodist Church’s youth Sunday school class, Elise Mobley was the only girl.
The members of the church’s youth group are all so different from one another, but they had such a tight bond that she fit right in.
The last Sunday school class they all shared together, Elise was joking about an awkward church camp experience the week before which, as usual, left the rest of the class laughing.
“She really wasn’t the class clown. She was the big smile of our youth group; she had a contagious personality,” said Wes Colbert, a youth group member.
Two days later, Elise lost her life in an August 2011 traffic accident on the Highway 45 bypass en route to Houston, where she was days away from beginning her junior year in high school.
“We all met at the Little House the day it happened before going to her family’s house. The following Sunday our class was really somber and nobody knew what to say at first. We all cried and then we all laughed recalling her story from the week before,” Colbert said.
Elise spent her Sundays at FUMC and Wednesday nights at Houston’s First Baptist Church with her friends from Houston High School. The Little House sits on the property on the Methodist church’s western line. Throughout the years, it has housed summer youth workers, afterschool programs and GED classes, in addition to numerous functions for the youth group. However, the building lost its eye-appeal years ago.
“We talked about tearing it down so many times, but every time God showed us the right way to use it,” said Barbara Rowe, who teaches the youth Sunday school class.
Following Elise’s passing, the house’s purpose shifted.
“The house felt like it had gone through its life. After Elise died, everything was changing in a horrible way, but fixing this place up was our chance for a positive change. She wouldn’t have wanted us to be depressed,” Colbert said.
What once was an aged house was transformed into a cottage now called GEM House in the course of nearly a year.
“It’s a brand new house remodeled with a lot of caring. We had to have the properly skilled people to get this done and God sent them all at the right times,” Rowe said.
Everything purchased for the house was bought at cost because each store approached was touched by the church’s efforts to immortalize Elise. George Provias donated the air conditioner, doors, windows and Hardie board siding.
“His father owned Tony’s and struggled to keep it open during the depression so he asked Frank Whitaker to loan him some money to keep the restaurant afloat. Tony never let Frank ever pay for a meal again. Frank was Elise’s great-great grandfather and it is amazing how three generations later, these families are looking out for each other,” Rowe said.
Following the renovation, the house took its new namesake, GEM House, from Gwendolyn Elise Mobley’s initials.
“We’d all change what happened if we could, but under the circumstances we hope this house will somehow help the healing process, especially for her family. There’s a peaceful calm here thanks to the work of a lot of dedicated people,” Rowe said.
Walls draped in soothing blues adorn modern art, and light-colored laminate flooring plays host to sofas waiting for future youth group functions. A painting on one wall states Matthew 7:12 and a painting directly across from it has Elise’s name hidden in the art.
“This house was going to look like this,” said church member Ladye King. “I drew it out and paid attention to the details with the measurements. No stone was unturned because I knew this house had to be perfect.”