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At the St. Francis Episcopal Church's Antique Show and Sale opening night gala are committee members, from left, Wendy Pratt, show co-chair; Darryl Tillman, opening night gala chair; Jamie Bellows, show co-chair, Albertine Bellows, former chair for 22 years, and The Very Rev. Paula Vukmanic, rector.

While playing a game of bridge 52 years ago, four St. Francis Episcopal Church women had an epiphany that has been a grand slam for the church ever since.

During the game, one of the players—antique dealer Kathryn Hall—told the women about her participation in a charity antique show back east. Prompted by her story, Nettie Mae Rucker suggested the church’s women’s group produce a similar show at their Palos Verdes Estates church. Two years later—in 1968—the show made its debut.

“The first year we made $4,000,” Nettie Mae was quoted as saying in a May 25, 1988, article in the Daily Breeze, “and we were so thrilled we couldn’t believe it.”

Since then, the annual St. Francis Antiques Show and Sale has raised more than $500,000 to support the parish’s mission and outreach ministries. Operated and staffed by church volunteers, the show is the longest-running charity antiques show in California and plans are already underway for next year’s show.

Palos Verdes Estates resident Albertine Bellows has chaired the show for 22 of the 50 years. Nowadays, she still attends, but this year, her son Jamie Bellows co-chaired it with Wendy Pratt. A recent bride, Pratt and her husband, Tom Shuart, postponed their honeymoon to Maui until a week after the show, to allow her to fulfill her co-chair duties.

“This is our golden jubilee show,” said Albertine Bellows, “and we have been forced to turn away dealers wanting to participate because of the show’s great reputation.”

The three-day event featured top dealers from as far as Northern California and Utah with 18th, 19, and early 20th century furniture, silver, prints, jewelry, china, rugs, Asian antiques, vintage Americana and more. In addition there was a very attractive garden gazebo packed with plants, patio luncheons, English afternoon tea and evening wine and cheese, in addition to the Harvest Cupboard with homemade baked goods.

The Very Rev. Paula Vukmanic, the church’s head rector, also was on hand to greet guests and vendors at the opening night gala.

“I am very proud of the hard work that members of The Episcopal Church Women of St. Francis Parish do to present this show,” said Vukmanic, who has been with the church for eight years.

Darryl Tillman chaired the opening night gala, which attracted more than 300 people. He honed his organization skills prior to retirement by teaching a freshman class, “Introduction to Higher Education,” at California State University, Los Angeles. “Our goal was to increase the chances for freshmen to graduate successfully in four years,” he said.

Proceeds from the show and sale benefit such diverse causes as a breakfast and clothing program for the homeless; an after school program for children in Watts; support of Camp Stevens camperships for underprivileged children and helping Syrian girls with education expenses.

The show’s major sponsors, known as “Saints,” included Albertine Bellows, Lynn and Park Densmore, Anna Eakins, Mark Hamilton and Elaine and Lloyd Mistele.

For information on St. Francis Episcopal Church visit stfrancispalosverdes.org.

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