The Wismar sisters, Barbara Wismar Bellamy, Carol Carpenter, the Rev. Judy Wismar Claycomb and Gretchen Wismar Ludwig, have been coming to Lakeside Chautauqua since the 1960s, when their mother came for the Women’s School of Mission.
During the Women’s School of Mission, their mother would attend classes with her friends. The four sisters, along with their brothers, Dan and Steve, would swim, play shuffleboard and miniature golf.
As teenagers, the sisters returned to Lakeside for the Girl’s School of Mission, High School Institute and “Metro,” a weekend camp that brought youth together from Cleveland’s inner-city and the suburbs.
The Rev. Claycomb reminisced on her two favorite memories, first “metro camp [where] racial and cultural barriers were intentionally bridged … and secondly, when I was ordained here in Hoover Auditorium in 1983 [as a deacon] and 1987 [as an elder].”
In 2009, the Rev. Claycomb was appointed to the East Ohio Conference Cabinet as Superintendent of 78 United Methodist Churches in the Firelands District, including the Lakeside United Methodist Church.
As the years have gone by, the four sisters have moved to different parts of the U.S., including Northern California, Philadelphia, Pa., Kent, Ohio and Sandusky, Ohio. The distance has made it harder for the sisters to catch up.
“We are a very close family, and I am always bragging to people, telling them how close we are, but I realized we never spend any time together,” said the Rev. Claycomb.
Three years ago, the Rev. Claycomb decided to invite her three sisters back to Lakeside to spend a week at her cottage on Peach Avenue for relaxation and much needed sister time.
“Judy sent us an email in the spring sometime that said, ‘I want to spend more time with the three of you, and I am proposing a sister’s week this summer at the cottage in Lakeside,’” said Bellamy, the oldest Wismar sister.
As a result, the Wismars’ ‘sister retreat’ was started.
“Now, Judy is a District Superintendent and has a cottage here,” said Carpenter, the second oldest Wismar sister. “So she decided that even though we’re spread out across the nation, we should still have a time and place to get together and be sisters again, away from other family and children commitments.”
Their annual ‘sister retreat’ has given the four siblings the opportunity to catch up and have a week of relaxation on Lake Erie.
“We had never been four adults together without children, because once I turned 18, Barb’s first son was born, so we always had kids underfoot,” said Ludwig, the youngest Wismar sister.
During the ‘sister retreat,’ the Wismars enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles, catching up with each other and visiting the lake.
“We really credit our mother for bringing us here in our young days. Sometimes dad came, but it was mostly mom,” said Ludwig. “Before she died, she wistfully asked several times that we make sure to get together after she was gone, and we all laughed about it like, ‘Oh yeah, sure, we’re only doing this because you’re around mom.’ We not only honored what we wanted, but also what she wanted.”
Catching up and spending time with one another is something the Wismar sisters treasure.
“When you get married and have children, your time is always so filled with caring for your children,” said Bellamy. “We all love so much being mothers and sharing our children with each other, but it’s just so wonderful to have time to talk without it being all about kids or interrupted by our kids.”
This year, the sisters chose to come to Lakeside the week when Bishop Peter Storey served as Chaplain of the Week. The Rev. Claycomb met Bishop Storey years ago when he spoke at the East Ohio Annual Conference. The sisters enjoyed attending Chaplain’s Hour and hearing Bishop Storey speak.
“That’s just been such an inspirational way for us to start our day every morning,” said Carpenter.
The sisters have spent many days at Lakeside and believe that there is more to Lakeside than the programming offered. Lakeside is also about the relationships occurring within the community.
“The lasting value [of Lakeside] and what I come for is the relationships, not just with our family, but with people on the street, people in worship, across generations,” said the Rev. Claycomb.
The four sisters plan to have more ‘sister retreats’ in Lakeside.
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