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Five generations of family find home at Florida church

WILDWOOD, FLA. — Yates attributes her mother’s longevity to clean living: “Never smoking, never drinking and she’s always eaten balanced meals, fruits and vegetables mostly,” Yates said.
Yates said her mother was famous in the church for making yellow cake with boiled chocolate icing that oozes down into the cake.
“That was her specialty, and everyone always requested that she make it,” Yates said.
Mills moved to Wildwood from Georgia with her first husband, Chester Strickland, and son, Chester Jr., when Chester was 2. A year later, Marlene was born in the Mills’ house, which was destroyed by the Feb. 2 tornadoes.
Mills and her husband began attending the Wildwood church and were baptized there. Marlene was baptized by then-minister Orvel Boyd when she was 9 years old.
“It was like a big family. All the big people there were considered like cousins or aunts and uncles. We even called them aunt and uncle,” Yates said, describing the church of her childhood. “Although they were not blood related, they were like a big family.”
In 1956, Yates and Louis Carpenter were married in the church. The couple moved to Winter Garden, where Teena grew up.
Marlene returned to her hometown from North Carolina following the death of her second husband, Carroll Yates, so she could care for her aging mother and terminally ill brother.
Teena and Mike McKay moved to Wildwood in 1989. Their son Andy, now 27 and the father of two, was 12.
Although she had grown up in Winter Garden, Teena McKay said attending the Wildwood church was “like coming back home.”
“There’s just something that feels like home,” Teena said.
Teena and Mike teach Sunday school and Mike teaches on Wednesday nights.
He recently was appointed a deacon at the church.
Asked what the church means to her, Teena McKay replied, “Everything. That’s the only way I know to say what this church means to me.”
Yates said, “First and foremost, it means my salvation. The fact that it is family, not just blood kin, but a spiritual family as well. It’s like coming home.”
There are good reasons for that feeling of homecoming and being among extended family. She and Gloria Slauter, now Gloria Murphy, are best friends again.
“We go to Ocala together and eat sushi,” Yates said. “It’s hard to find people who like sushi.”
Yates and Charlie Boddy, the minister at Wildwood, and his wife, Mackie, were in the same graduating class at Christian Home and Bible School in Mount Dora.
Her granddaughters, Katie and Erin, are students at that school now and Teena McKay works there.
Marlene said that when she is in the church surrounded by her family and friends, “It’s really a great feeling. There’s just so many things wrong in the world. This thing’s right.”

Filed under: People Staff Reports

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