Billy Graham Center
Collection 74 - Marion Stam Sunden. T80 Transcript
Click here to listen to an audio file of of the unrestricted portion this interview (25 minutes)
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Marion Stam Sunden (CN 74, T80) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. Foreign terms are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. Foreign terms or phrases which may be unfamiliar appear in italics.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Bob Shuster, Katherine Graber and Paul Bartow was completed in February 2014.
Collection 74, T80. Interview of Marion Stam Sunden by Bob Shusteron July 1, 2013.
[Note: Mrs. Sunden’s husband, David, was also in the room and participated in the interview.]
SUNDEN: Another one.
SHUSTER: This is an interview of Marion Stam Sunden by Bob Shuster. For the archives of the Billy Graham Center. It took place on July 1, 2013 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the Sunden home. So is this actually Lancaster, PA, or is it Willow...?
SHUSTER: Willow Street, PA.
SUNDEN: Yes. Right.
SHUSTER: A suburb of Lancaster. Yes. Well, why don’t we just start with some basic personal information. When and where were you born?
SUNDEN: I was born in Patterson, New Jersey in 1929.
SHUSTER: And can you describe your family background a little bit? The Stam family background?
SUNDEN: Well, it was...what shall I say, a very godly atmosphere. I remember that from being a very tiny little child. That we always read the Word of God at dinner time every night. And very loving parents.
SHUSTER: What were their names?
SUNDEN: My mother was Betty and my father was Henry. And a lot of people didn’t know Henry because he was very quiet. All the other Stam brothers were much more prominent. He was a business man in Patterson, a real estate appraiser. And...that was it.
SHUSTER: Now, so when you were about five years old was the time when your aunt and uncle, John and Betty Stam, were killed in China? Is that correct?
SUNDEN: 1934. Correct.
SHUSTER: Do you recall anything about that? The impression that it made on your or on your family? How you got the news?
SUNDEN: Yes. Yes, I do. I can remember, just being five, you know you can just hear whispering around the house. But I remember hearing it on the radio. And I remember it being a very somber time in the family. That’s about it. I remember John playing blocks on the floor when I was three, probably. He came by, and he was very happy kind of guy. And getting right down on the floor with these little children and played blocks. That’s what I remember.
SHUSTER: Now you graduated from Wheaton in what year?
SHUSTER: 1951. So you were there after Ruth and Billy Graham had been students?
SUNDEN: Yes. But I felt like I knew them.
SHUSTER: And why was that?
SUNDEN: [Laughs] That was because my sister married Lloyd Fesmire. And he and my sister were roommates of Billy and Ruth.
SHUSTER: Her man that she married, Lloyd Fesmire, was Billy’s roommate?
SUNDEN: And Ruth with Helen.
SHUSTER: So what did...how did Mary describe Ruth as a roommate?
SUNDEN: She was kind of like Billy. They were their own person. They were different than other people.
SHUSTER: In what way?
SUNDEN: You know, being so young, I don’t know how to describe that. I don’t know. It was almost as if they were destined for something larger. And she was just different than other people. Of course from her background and her experiences, that’s what I recall as a little.... You kind of stood back in awe at them.
SHUSTER: You mean Ruth’s background? Her growing up in China and going to school in Korea?
SUNDEN: Yes. Right.
SHUSTER: Had you actually met her when you were a little girl?
SUNDEN: No. Not until maybe.... You know I had trouble finding if it was the picture I remember or the person I remember [both laugh]. Let’s say no.
SHUSTER: Was your sister Mary part of their wedding party?
SUNDEN: Was my?
SUNDEN: I don’t think so. No.
SHUSTER: Do you recall anything else that Mary had said about Billy or Ruth as classmates?
SUNDEN: I remember more Lloyd talking about Billy (Lloyd Fesmire talking about Billy). That year they lived in the Hansen House?
SUNDEN: Once again, he was just destined for something larger. And he was...[laughs] not the...can I say not the neatest person?
SHUSTER: [Laughs] That’s fine.
SUNDEN: [Laughs] (This goes out to the world, you know.) But just that these guys would just talk about him all the time.
SHUSTER: And what would they say? What would they talk about?
SUNDEN: Billy Graham! You know, and his preaching. And his desire to preach. And I don’t think that he was the greatest student either, that was...that was part of the talk.
SHUSTER: How do you mean?
SUNDEN: I don’t think that he liked to study too much. He wanted to preach. [Laughs] And that’s sort of what I remember. And of course you know I was an early teenager just listening to this kind of conversation. And then he did visit our home in 1935.
SHUSTER: In 1935?
SUNDEN: Well, I was trying to figure that out. Would I be twelve then? I don’t know, I was just in junior high. And he stopped by with one of those quartets that he traveled with. And stayed at our home.
SHUSTER: Well, I know he made a trip out to.... This is while he was still a student at Wheaton?
SUNDEN: I believe so.
SHUSTER: Because it was ‘43 or ‘44 he made a trip out to the coast. And in ‘35 he was still in high school.
SUNDEN: Well then it’s got to be later than that and I was older than that. I was a teenager.
SHUSTER: But he stopped at your home...?
SUNDEN: ...stayed at our home over night.
SHUSTER: What do you recall about that?
SUNDEN: We all went swimming, that’s what I remember [Shuster laughs]. We all went swimming together and....
SHUSTER: This was down in Cape May or Atlantic City?
SUNDEN: No, no this was in Hopkins Lake, New Jersey. This is where we lived. And of course Lloyd was engaged to my sister Helen. So I was trying to think whether Lloyd was in that quartet or not. All I remember was big tall Billy asking my father “Please don’t take a picture of me in my bathing suit because they tell me I look like a flag pole.” [Shuster laughs]. I remember that. And I remember he had wax in one of his ears that he was trying to get out. And there was a lot of time spent with him dancing around and my mother pushing...
DAVID SUNDEN: Syringe.
SUNDEN: ...a syringe into the ear.
SHUSTER: Oh wow. Was that from the swimming?
SUNDEN: No, I think that had accumulated over time. But...and then of course I remember seeing him at the crusades and hearing about him of course.
SHUSTER: Sure. By that time when he visited at your home, did he make any impression on you as a person?
SUNDEN: Yes. Because I knew who he was. Big tall guy, you know, that you kind of noticed when he was in your presence.
SUNDEN: Especially with the accent and so on. Whatever that was, [laughs] Southern or....
SHUSTER: Do you recall where you...your sister Mary and Ruth were roommates?
SUNDEN: That was my sister Helen.
SHUSTER: I’m sorry. Your sister Helen. I’m sorry. Do you recall where they were roommates at? I know that Ruth for a time was on...let’s see... Washington Street. She stayed at various places. Do you....?
SUNDEN: Yeah, I’m trying to think of which place it was. I can visual...huh?
DAVID SUNDEN: Behind Pierce [Chapel]?
SUNDEN: No, no where Ruth and Helen were together.
SHUSTER: They were boarding in someone’s home I guess?
SUNDEN: Yes. They were not in the college units or anything. Yeah. And Ruth liked back rubs, I...I remember that too. Because my sister would say “This is the way Ruth likes it.” [laughs] when she would do it for me.
SHUSTER: Anything else you recall about Helen’s memory of...?
SUNDEN: No. I should have asked her. She just passed away a couple months ago or I would have asked her some more questions.
SHUSTER: Now you came to Wheaton then in ‘47?
SHUSTER: ‘47. And that’s where you and David met. How did that come about?
SUNDEN: It was one of the first weeks that we were ...the first Sunday there I think.
DAVID SUNDEN: Uh-huh.
SUNDEN: David roomed with Lloyd Fesmire’s brother.
SHUSTER: Wow. Another connection.
SUNDEN: Another connection.
SHUSTER: And of course David was a man of the world and a Navy veteran.
SUNDEN: [Laughs] I was this lowly freshman. And Lloyd introduced us.
DAVID SUNDEN: Uh-huh.
SUNDEN: And you and Warren asked my...I had a twin sister. And you and Warren asked us out on a date.
SHUSTER: What’s your twin sister’s name?
SUNDEN: Betty, married to the Barlaski [?] that you met out at...out here [outside of the Sunden’s home in Pennsylvania]. And we went to the Tabernacle. To the Tab. Sunday night. That was the first date.
SHUSTER: Of course Graham had long since left as pastor there.
SUNDEN: Yes. Of course that is what it was famous for.
SHUSTER: And was that when it was meeting in Pierce Chapel?
SUNDEN: No, it was downtown.
DAVID SUNDEN: I think that was when it was meeting in Pierce Chapel.
SUNDEN: Was it Pierce Chapel?
SHUSTER: Because there was a fire at the Masonic Lodge on January 1st, 1948 and after that they couldn’t hold church. They were a year rebuilding so they co
SUNDEN: But this was ‘47.
SHUSTER: ‘47, oh well, then it’s certainly....
DAVID SUNDEN: I think it was the Vespers at Pierce Chapel...
SUNDEN: No, Dave, I thought it was....
DAVID SUNDEN: ...Sunday night.
SUNDEN: I thought....
DAVID SUNDEN: Okay.
SHUSTER: You got together on your first date and it was love at first sight?
SUNDEN: Oh, I don’t think it was either of us claim . . . he couldn’t tell who was who between me and my twin sister [laughs].
DAVID SUNDEN: Tell them what happened on the first date.
SUNDEN: In fact we changed...no, it wasn’t on the first date. Another date, we switched on them. And they didn’t know it.
SHUSTER: Did you do that often on dates? I heard that twins sometimes do that.
SUNDEN: Well this...our girlfriends encouraged us to do that. Or even to just go on a date...you know, he’d ask me out and she would go instead of me. Now and then, just for fun [laughs].
SHUSTER: And what are your memories of Wheaton? What stands out from your years there?
SUNDEN: Mostly Christian Council, Marge Glover [executive director of the Christian Service Council]. Those years we went out every weekend. We played trumpets, my sister and I. We were the twin trumpeters. So we were every weekend in a different church.
SHUSTER: Wow. Was this just in Illinois or did you go up...?
SUNDEN: Well as far as you could go and get back in time to go to classes on Monday morning. But we spent three summers traveling for Wheaton to the west coast, to the east coast, and I don’t remember where the other one was. Bud Schaefer was on our team. (Remember Bud Schaefer?) Art Brown?
SHUSTER: I don’t know Art Brown, no.
SUNDEN: And he was pastor of Western Springs Baptist Church until just recently. And Dave Sunden. The first year Bill Hoyt, Dave Sunden in Beloit, Don Menhooser [?] we lost track of him.
DAVID SUNDEN: David Franz.
SUNDEN: David Franz. So....
SHUSTER: Oh yes. Who, of course, went to Gordon College.
SUNDEN: Yes. Right.
SHUSTER: Yes I knew him years later.
SUNDEN: So that was probably my biggest memory of Wheaton. Even though all the college activity kind of awe struck me. Now, you can’t come from a sheltered Baptist background...even though I did not go to Christian schools, I went to public schools. But what impressed me about Wheaton was all of the differences in Christians.
SHUSTER: The variety.
SUNDEN: The variety that I had never experienced before.
SHUSTER: Do any of the administrators or faculty stand out in your mind?
SUNDEN: Mrs. [Ruth Berg] Leedy.
SHUSTER: Who was she?
SUNDEN: She was the head of the physical education department and that was my major. She was a top notch lady.
SHUSTER: What made her top notch?
SUNDEN: She had such wonderful insights. And spiritual leadership. Every Thursday, we had what we called the Coffee Klatch where all the majors had to gather in the basement of.... What’s the name of...?
DAVID SUNDEN: Coray?
SHUSTER: Williston? Coray gym?
SUNDEN: No, the old building where the Stupe used to be? The first Stupe.
SHUSTER: Oh, now it’s called Adams Hall. It used to be called the Gymnasium.
SUNDEN: Okay, the women’s physical ed department was headquartered in the basement. And every Thursday, we met. And she would just give us good advice on so many different things. Especially that physical education was only a means to an end . It wasn’t an end in itself. You were out there to deliver the message by who you are and be a young lady. Don’t try to be a jock. She was great. Yeah.
SHUSTER: What did she look like? What was her physical appearance?
SUNDEN: She was short. You would never pick her out in a crowd.
SHUSTER: Was she also a coach?
SUNDEN: Not when I was there. She had enough to do just to head up the department.
SHUSTER: Is there anything else you wanted to add about your Wheaton years?
SUNDEN: Music. I sang in the Women’s Glee Club for a couple years.
SHUSTER: Oh what was that like?
SUNDEN: Under Minon Bowman MacKenzie. That was very interesting. Did a lot of traveling. And I had sung in choirs before that. All through high school and the New Jersey state chorus. So it was more choir, but it was interesting.
SHUSTER: What made it interesting?
SUNDEN: Just that you came together with all these hand picked voices. You know, when you were in high school in that kind of thing, it was whoever wanted to sing could sing. But...and hard work. Very intense with Mrs. MacKenzie as the leader.
SHUSTER: So much more emphasis on perfecting the sound and...?
SUNDEN: I would say so. Oh yes. Right. Yep. She was...she’s gone now, isn’t she, many years. Right. Yeah.
SHUSTER: And so you graduated from Wheaton in ‘51, I think you said?
SHUSTER: And when did you and David marry?
SUNDEN: Two weeks after I graduated. And we went on a honeymoon to Winona Lake [Indiana].
SHUSTER: Oh! Was that for a conference going on?
SUNDEN: Youth for Christ. Right. Yeah. And then we came back and lived in Beverly Shea’s home.
SHUSTER: That’s right.
SUNDEN: Until we came east.
SHUSTER: What are your memories of the Village Church congregation?
SUNDEN: Wonderful people. We went back and met some of them. They had their, what was it the 100th?
DAVID SUNDEN: Seventy-fifth.
SUNDEN: Seventy fifth. We went back in October for Songs in the Night to reunion [sic] and met some of the same church people that we knew way back. Still keep in touch with some of them. Christmas time and so on. Great ministry. We did the youth work, and he did the choir.
SHUSTER: And what have been some of your own ministry activities since graduation at Wheaton?
SUNDEN: Well, I went into politics when we first moved into New Jersey and the children were raised (we have three children, two of whom went to Wheaton). And I went into Republican politics as a counsel woman in my town. Ran on five elections. And finally got beaten by the independents. The Democrats couldn’t beat us so that was all they became independents [laughs].
SHUSTER: [To David Sunden] And you were also on the council at the time?
DAVID SUNDEN: Prior to her.
SHUSTER: Oh, okay. So you weren’t on the council together ever.
DAVID SUNDEN: No. She rose to become deputy mayor of the town. [all laugh].
SHUSTER: And this...and when...how long was that political...?
SUNDEN: Fifteen years. I ran five elections and it was...two year...three year terms. Three year terms, right. Very interesting. And I also went into ambulance corps work. I was an EMT [Emergency Medical Technician] for twenty-eight years.
SHUSTER: With what hospital? Or was it...?
SUNDEN: Well we mainly worked with Pascack Valley hospital but we went to all our area hospitals. Ridgewood Valley Hospital, Hackensack Medical Center. I was on call all the time.
SHUSTER: So as an EMT, you would give emergency first aid and stabilize people in order to take them to the hospital.
SUNDEN: Ride a rig. Exactly.
SHUSTER: What are your reflections on that experience?
SUNDEN: You never knew what you were going to run into, so you were always on the edge; every time the pager (you would wear a pager on your belt) went off, “Oh what is this going to be?” It kept you just on the edge all the time.
SHUSTER: Were there days when you were on call or were you always on call?
SUNDEN: I was part of a day crew. We had twelve people. And the first three people that arrived on the scene took off with the rig. And then I was on one weekend a month when you were required to be there.
SHUSTER: And then of course you said of course you were fifteen years in politics. What was it like being a Christian involved in politics? How did your faith affect your politics?
SUNDEN: It was most interesting. Then it was all men on the council with me. And they knew where I stood. And they were quite, oh I should say respectful of that. This was quite a few years ago. And I suppose they put it together with being a woman. You know, “She’s religious” I think that’s what they would say. But....
SHUSTER: So they wouldn’t cuss in front of you?
SUNDEN: What did you say?
SHUSTER: They wouldn’t cuss in front of you?
SUNDEN: If they did, they would always say “Excuse me, Marion.” And I never told them they shouldn’t cuss. But somehow they knew it. And they knew that I didn’t take alcohol. And when we always had a re-organization meeting on New Years Day it was called the Sine Die. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that. Do you know what that...? It means re-organization. And they were most of them hung over from all their parties the night before. And I came in one morning [laughs] and sitting right in front of my microphone and name was a can of beer. Billy beer. [Both laugh].
SHUSTER: That must have been ‘76 to ‘80.
SUNDEN: [Laughs] I guess. And I remember I thought “Well, I just got to make light of this.” And I said “Too bad I didn’t have that two hours ago. I washed my hair I would have used it.” I still have that can of Billy Beer up in my closet.
SHUSTER: That’s probably a collectible now, I guess.
SHUSTER: Anything else you wanted to say about your time in politics?
SUNDEN: I think more Christians need to go into that arena and stay....
SHUSTER: Did you find it difficult to be...hold onto your faith and also be active in politics?
DAVID SUNDEN: What about your stand on that issue with the police?
SUNDEN: Oh that stand on an issue. Yes. We were going to replace chief of police
[Portion of recording a little less than a minute closed until 2023 and not transcribed]
SHUSTER: Anything else that you wanted to add? You mentioned Jack Wyrtzen too. Did you work with him?
SUNDEN: My sister and I, the twin trumpeters, for a brief time were on his program when it first came....
SHUSTER: Oh. Word of Life.
SUNDEN: Word of Life. Uh-huh. It’s very hazy memories, but I remember we had to go to New York and ride the subway. And....
SHUSTER: So you were a teenager then?
SUNDEN: No, no. We were married. It was when we first came back from Wheaton.
DAVID SUNDEN: Uh-huh.
SUNDEN: Right. But just knowing Jack Wyrtzen and his ministry and so on.
SHUSTER: So how would you describe Jack Wyrtzen?
SUNDEN: A ball of fire [laughs]. We went off to his Word of Life camp a few times. And in control. I don’t...you know....
DAVID SUNDEN: We went to his Saturday night rallies too in New York.
SHUSTER: And they were in Madison Square Garden.
DAVID SUNDEN: Uh-huh.
SUNDEN: Yeah. Knew what he was doing as an evangelist. You know he really....was a good effective evangelist.
SHUSTER: You say he was in charge. So he was very strong...?
SUNDEN: Yes that’s my impression. Very strong. His son was down here last year, wasn’t he? The son who plays the musical? Travels around with somebody. I don’t remember.
DAVID SUNDEN: David, I think it was. David Wyrtzen.
SUNDEN: Who was it?
DAVID SUNDEN: David. I think it was David Wyrtzen.
SUNDEN: Is it? I don’t even know his name.
SHUSTER: Anything else that you wanted to add about...?
SUNDEN: I don’t know. Just thank the Lord for a very interesting life. And for Wheaton. And the Billy Graham Center, we’ve visited it a number of times. Especially last time when you gave us time to do that after the tour. It was....
DAVID SUNDEN: Your leadership roles here? In Bible studies and counseling and things like that?
SUNDEN: Just a hangover from things that you do in your other life. You come here and get in the elevator. And somebody’s got EMT and you say, “Oh, I used to do that.” “Oh, you want to do that? We need people real bad.” No thank you [laughs] twenty eight years was enough.
SHUSTER: This is here, you’re talking about the assisted living...retirement...
SUNDEN: Willow Valley. Right. But they do have a local ambulance corps which of course gets a lot of visit...a lot of business in a place like that.
DAVID SUNDEN: Your local council leadership?
SUNDEN: Well, yes. When I first came, they also got wind of the fact that I had done council work. So I went on the council here when I first moved here where they have a council.
SHUSTER: Is this just the council of the town or the...
SUNDEN: No, they did ask me to run on the town council here on the town, but I quickly turned that down. But we have had the comptroller of the state of Pennsylvania living two houses away.
SHUSTER: He was retired?
SUNDEN: No, he was still working and he moved here and when he did retire and end his job there. He went on the town council and is on it now.
DAVID SUNDEN: Uh-huh.
SHUSTER: Well, again, I want to thank you very much for sharing your memories.
SHUSTER: It’s...it is a valuable addition to the archives, and I appreciate it.
SUNDEN: And do you have room for any of this?
SHUSTER: Let me turn off the...
END OF TAPE
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