James Dean’s Church, Back Creek Friends Meeting

The James Dean

1998 Memorial Service,

held every September 30

at Back Creek Friends Meeting

Fairmount, Indiana

Sketch by Robert W. Richards of New York City.

The James Dean Memorial Service is held each year at 1:00 p.m. in Back Creek Friends Meeting, on September 30, the anniversary of Jimmy’s death. Tom Burghuis of Michigan has assumed informal leadership since we lost Adeline Nall. In 1998, when this section was put on-line here, Tom sat on the stage with Phil Ziegler and Bob Pulley. The other speakers came up from the pews.

    One of the new windows has this commemorative plaque. Another has a plaque for James Dean:

(Thanks to Mattie Sellers who made these window dedication plaque photos for you.)

The following is only an introduction. The service is covered more fully on the Memorial Service page, telling what each speaker shared.

I had long wanted to see what a Friends Meeting is like inside. The church is painted a warm eggshell. The new carpet is teal blue; the pews are pale maple, (I’m guessing.) The eight frosted windows let in bright light for a sunny, upbeat afternoon. Three potted chrysanthemums and a small vase of mums comprised the decoration. The crosses on the pulpit were simple crossed lines, in contrast to the unusual cross I wrote about at Adeline Nall’s funeral. There are no kneelers. The traditional hymn book racks face each seat. The hymns in the book seemed uplifting and optimistic, in my short perusal. The congregation was very kind to let us use this building while construction is going on. The women I met were gracious and friendly.

Mattie Sellers played beautiful organ music before and during the service. Her song list included

  • Bells Are Ringing, in chimes, adapted from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
  • Hymn of Joy (from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony)
  • Amazing Grace
  • Londonderry Aire (which I thought was Danny Boy….)
  • Love Me Tender
  • Somewhere My Love
  • Goin’ Home (from the New World Symphony, and played at Jimmy’s funeral)
  • Blest Be The Tie That Binds (postlude)

Mattie used to begin with "The Little Brown Church In The Vale" but has stopped because the church no longer looks like that. Phil Ziegler likes "The Missouri Waltz", because it was popular when he and Jimmy were in high school, but Mattie hadn’t brought the sheet music this year.

Mattie is quite willing to visit with the Dean fans. Don’t be shy about engaging her in conversation. (Well, okay, wait til she is through playing….) Mattie is the regular organist; she succeeded Ortense Winslow.

I estimated 160 seats and standees, and everyone could hear every word. The sound system is the best I’ve ever encountered. Mattie later wrote us that the sound system is a gift from Jim Curran, a Dean fan from Massachusetts!

Tom thanked Mattie Sellers and Martha Howell and the other Friends for their hospitality. He reminded us of the opportunity to make an offering as we left the service. Unfortunately, as we exited, the plate was hidden by the crowd. (Update: We lost Martha Howell in July of 2010. She was a wonderful member at Back Creek.)

The speakers were, in order, Tom Burghuis, Pam Schwetz (many of my name spellings are guesses,) a poem by ten-year-old Susan Bricker (read by Tom), Kenneth Kendall, Bob Pulley, Phil Ziegler, Mark Kinnaman, and Nicky Bazooka. I wrote down all I had notes for, on theexpanded Memorial Service page

There are a few points I want to emphasize right now. Phil Ziegler spoke out passionately about people who defame James Dean for profit, to sell books. He is angry about this trash, and I know I am. Have we turned the other cheek for too long, I wonder? Food for thought.

Tom Burghuis could barely get the words out about this being our first year without Adeline. He said

"she’s up there in Heaven with Mildred and Winton and Marcus and Ortense. In my mind she’s with us today. May we never forget her."

Nicky also said Adeline was with us in the chapel.

We heard a moving solo from Christina Dulworth. She knew all the verses of Whispering Hope. Mattie accompanied her. It was a beautiful interlude. (Phil Ziegler leads us in hoping this will become an annual tradition.)

Here is the new addition. Thanks to Button Knight for explaining much about the building to me.   

If you missed finding the plate as you left the service, or if you weren’t able to be there, you could send a donation to

Back Creek Friends Treasurer

2520 East 750 South

Fairmount IN 46928

The telephone there is (765) 948-5640. It has an answering machine.

Read the welcomegiven us at the service by the Friends, and Susan Bricker’s poem. (5 Oct. ’97)


If you came here from the Deaners.net James Dean festival page, this is the link back to the spot where you left it.

My Back Creek information is so outdated that you can be up-to-the-minute by going to their own Back Creek Friends Meeting website!!!!

Otherwise you will want to read the Deaners.net index table

  This page is speech friendly, for anyone vision-impaired.

This page put on line by your editor, Sandra Weinhardt, email editor@tentativetimes.net

   folks have dropped in on the church page since 4 October 1997.