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OHIO WOMEN'S HALL OF FAME Fueled by faith, minister blazed trail and kept going



Published: Sun, September 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



At 99, she rises early each day and dresses in a suit, in case anyone needs her.

By JoANNE VIVIANO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Five decades ago, they refused to let her in the pulpit.

So she kept preaching anyway. And the crowds came to her.

In 1956, she was ordained -- the first female Baptist minister in the Mahoning Valley -- despite opposition from her colleagues. And she kept preaching.

In 1962, the Rev. Elizabeth Powell founded her own church: The World Fellowship Interdenominational Church on Dewey Street. Now, at age 99, she still keeps preaching. And there are no signs that she'll leave her pulpit anytime soon.

Gov. Bob Taft announced last week that the Rev. Mrs. Powell will be one of 18 women inducted into the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame at a ceremony next month in Cleveland.

Mrs. Powell said she has lived her life in ministry because "the Lord just put it in my heart to do it."

"I just love people, anybody and everybody," she said. "That's what life is about."

Wouldn't be bowed: Mrs. Powell fought the rigidity of the Baptist church of the 1950s, challenging their refusal to allow women ministers.

Men told her to become Methodist -- a religion that accepted female preachers. She refused.

"Don't let nobody put you down because you're a lady," she said. "... They couldn't put me down."

Mrs. Powell's daughter, Helen Summers, who lives in Florida, speaks of her mother with pride.

"It's a beautiful life she's had, but it was hard. It was a struggle," said Summers, 82. "She shook up the whole Baptist church."

"She opened the door for women to be able to enter and serve in a higher level than they were," Summers added. "I'm also proud of her religious belief in regards to the helping of people ... and the inspiration that she gives to the younger generation that's coming."

Inspired: One of those inspired by Mrs. Powell is Larry McCulloh, 37, who has been a member of her church all his life. He said she is a living example of what she preaches by visiting the sick and lonely and taking food to the hungry.

"Her life has always spoken as loud as anything she said in the pulpit," McCulloh said.

Elizabeth Kimbrough has attended Bible study classes with Mrs. Powell for more than 20 years.

"Church is her heart. ... Trying to save souls for Christ, that's her mission." Kimbrough said. "But not just verbally, by doing. By action, not just talking."

Still active: Mrs. Powell is known for visiting the sick in local hospitals, for taking in neglected children and for her determination. She's also known for rising early each morning and dressing in a suit. She wants to be ready if anyone needs her. And one of her trademark hats is never far away.

On a recent visit at her church, Mrs. Powell wore one of the wide-brimmed hats as she chatted about days long past and days yet to come. She smiles often. She's been blessed, she said.

"Nobody ever thought I'd be where I'm sitting," she said. "But I'm here."

viviano@vindy.com




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