Then & Now: Gamble Family

Dolores and I first met Fr. Seamus at St. Cornelius Church. He had just been assigned to that parish. We enjoyed his homily, and after church we met and shook hands. We lived in Bellflower at the time. We then moved to Anaheim in 1974. At that time, San Antonio Church was just a vacant lot that was donated by the Yorba family. We had our first fiesta, now an annual event, in the dirt lot.   Dolores and I counted money in an RV someone had donated for that purpose. We were trying to gather funds to finance the building of the church through pledges and donations, and also had a dance/social event. Before the church was built, Mass was held at El Rancho School and was quite full. We attended since it started. Fr. Seamus moved from St. Cornelius, to St. Norbert’s, then came over with Deacon Doug Cook to San Antonio while Mass was held at El Rancho School. My wife and I counted the collection at the first Mass held at El Rancho School, and I continued for 39 years, even after she passed away. My daughter, Kathy, helped put envelopes in numerical order for donation tracking for tax purposes and continued until she was married at the church by Fr. Seamus. Fr. Seamus has continued to be part of several family religious celebrations.

The church was built in 1980 by Berry Construction. My son, Dennis, was a carpenter that worked for the contractor and helped install the laminated beams in the center of the church. The beams were covered with a paper covering and were set on fire by an arsonist over the weekend and scorched. The beams had to be cleaned by sandblasting. Fr. Seamus visited the site every day and met Dennis because he knew everyone in the family. Some of the other carpenters kidded Dennis about talking with Fr Seamus and joked about Fr. Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live, since that was the only contact most of them had ever had with a priest! Fr. Seamus also knew my background in air conditioning, and I consulted with the architect about some of the air conditioning issues. At times, I helped with maintenance on the air conditioning system and was sometimes called in for help.

My wife and I attended the first Mass in the new church, and I also served as one of the first Eucharistic Ministers as well as helped at several funerals. As the area became more populated, the church grew.   Additional buildings were built over time.   Eventually, the hall was built in honor of Fr. Seamus.

Since its inception, San Antonio has always been “home” to us. When my son Gerry moved to Yorba Linda, his family registered in the parish, and his daughters received their first communion or were baptized here. Gerry helped with taking communion to the homebound. Several relatives, some away from the church for some years, were buried from here.

My wife and Fr. Seamus often talked about Ireland and joked a lot. My wife and I even traveled to Ireland and met Fr. Seamus’ sisters. We also met his brother while at a church in San Pedro. Dolores often invited him for dinner in which he left with additional meals. While Dolores was sick, Fr. Seamus, at times, brought over chicken dinner for her, a special treat for us. My wife passed away from cancer in 2008. Fr. Seamus gave her the last rights and helped our family tremendously through this difficult time, and my son Kevin and his wife traveled more than 20 miles weekly for several months afterward to go to church with me here, again “home.”

San Antonio is very unique. I was able to meet many priests and exceptional people. San Antonio is extraordinary due to the contributions by Fr. Seamus, the wonderful parishioners, and all others that contributed to our functions that helped build the parish. I continue to attend San Antonio and am still good friends and keep in touch with Fr. Seamus.