“The heart of Epworth” retires


Ann Willis has retired as Director of Group Reservations at Epworth By The Sea. 

Written and submitted by Ann Pierce, Epworth By The Sea

Ann Willis has retired as Director of Group Reservations at Epworth By The Sea. For almost 37 years, she watched the Conference Center experience dramatic growth and development, all the while remaining true to the original purpose set forth by the Epworth Pioneers more than 65 years ago.

“To provide a Christian place for worship, study and fellowship has been the single-minded rational we used in making every decision,” said Mrs. Willis. “My job has been a ministry in the truest sense.”

Hired by the Rev. Vernard Robertson in 1979, she has worked with six appointed clergy members: the Revs. Robertson, Tom Johnson, Charlie Culbreth, Jim Rush, Charles Adams and Wayne Racz.  

Her connection with Epworth began long before when her parents, the Rev. and Mrs. Oscar Bell sent Ann and her brother to summer camps and brought her to countless retreats and gatherings.   

“In the beginning I worked the front desk and handled all the reservations. Because of limited space, I had to go in the storage closet to talk on the phone to make reservations. In those days, you did whatever was necessary whether making beds, serving food or arranging meeting rooms in addition to making reservations,” she continued. “I have seen amazing things happen, dreams become reality, goals met, and aspirations realized.

“My most precious memories involve the wonderful people I have worked with, met, and served from all over the world and the lasting relationships formed. My first group was a senior citizens group from a Jonesboro UM Church. When they left, I stood there waving goodbye and crying. During Pastors’ School, I realized I had made reservations for three generations of ministers from the same family.”

Rearing their children in the shadow of live oaks and cedars, Joel and Ann Willis sent Ashley and Joel, Jr. to years of summer camps. “Nothing was more exciting that watching our granddaughter Ella grow spiritually during her first camp last summer,” she continued. “We expect to send all five of our grandchildren to camp, making this our fourth generation to be blessed by Epworth By The Sea.” 

Cherishing every memory and milestone, Mrs. Willis says, “I’m just going down the street but my heart will be at Epworth forever. God has blessed me, my family and certainly the millions of people who have found the Lord and renewed their spirits at Epworth By The Sea.”

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