Bethany Lutheran Church bestowed the honor of pastor emeritus on the Rev. Carl Alexy Sunday.
Alexy, a retired pastor, served Bethany for 23 years and was honored for his work in the church as well as the community. The church's hall also has been designated Alexy Hall as a tribute to him.
Pastor Paula Schmidt said the honor is a way for the church to enhance its heritage and recognize Alexy's contributions.
(Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec) Carl Alexy and his wife, Dawn, are shown in the hall at Bethany Lutheran Church that has been renamed Alexy Hall. The church also bestowed the honor of pastor emeritus on Alexy during a service held Sunday. He served the church for 23 years.
Alexy said he was surprised to receive the honor, especially since it has been 19 years since he served the church as pastor. After leaving Bethany, he served Grace Lutheran Church in Bellwood for 10 years before retiring.
Originally from Philadelphia, he has served four churches, including two down East before coming to Altoona in 1971.
"Bethany is where I learned to grow as a pastor and where all my children grew up," Alexy said.
His son was 2 months old and his daughters were 3 and 5 when he and his wife, Dawn, came to Altoona.
"The people were always very kind and considerate of them," he said.
In the same way, Alexy was good to the children of the church and enjoyed having fun with them.
He remembers a time when the church underwent a major renovation with artist John Rita painting a mural of the Second Coming in the sanctuary and trumpe l'oeil imagery of woodwork and windows throughout the building. With scaffolding in place for Rita's work, Alexy decided to hold a confirmation class on it.
"This is a once in a lifetime chance," he said he told the students. "You'll never get this close to the dome again."
One of the men who remembers growing up in the church is Altoona resident Dennis Fasekas, vice president of the church council.
"It's hard to put into words how great a man he is," he said.
Fasekas, whose family was involved in the Boy Scout program at Bethany, remembers how he attended many Scout meetings at the church before they were members.
Yet, when Fasekas' mother was in the hospital, Alexy came to visit her.
The Sunday they did join the church, a youth in the congregation had a balloon that popped as the ceremony ended.
Alexy was quick to respond to the interruption.
"He said, 'That's a one-gun salute for joining the church,'" Fasekas recalled.
When he was a young adult, Fasekas joined a Sunday school class Alexy had dubbed the WABS. The initials stood for Wacky Alexy's Bible Study, he said.
But Alexy has a more serious side, too.
"You can talk to him about anything," Fasekas said. "He is easygoing and understanding."
Susan Taneyhill, also a member of the council, remembers his work with the younger generation.
"He had a great relationship with youth of all ages," she said. "He was their friend, yet they respected them."
But she believes his greatest asset is his ability to relate to special needs children.
She said they couldn't wait to greet him when they saw him and that he set up a Sunday school class for them.
The room where he taught them is inside Alexy Hall and is being converted into a library. An adult Sunday school class continues to meet in a portion of the hall, and it is the designated site for church meetings. It also includes a lounge and kitchenette where bridal or baby showers have been held.
Taneyhill of Hollidaysburg said although Alexy retired from a Lutheran church in Bellwood, the 23 years he spent at Bethany was an incredible amount of time for a minister to devote to one church.
"He was one of the longest serving ministers at Bethany," she said.
Rhonda Barry, council secretary, also recalled Alexy's relationship with the special needs kids.
"He just had a way with them," she said. "He knew how to teach and guide them."
Barry of Altoona said Alexy also taught special needs students at Gethsemane United Methodist Church in Juniata as part of the released time classes sponsored by the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona.
Barry served on council for a time when Alexy was pastor and sang in the choir with him.
"He sang tenor and did a fantastic job," she said.
And at the Christmas Eve services, he told a story rather than deliver a sermon. It was a service that Barry always looked forward to attending.
"I've been down the road with several good Lutheran pastors. Pastor Alexy is one of them," she said.