PINE SUMMIT - High atop a hill at the southeastern tip of Lycoming County, just off Church Road, sits Pine Summit United Methodist Church.
The small, well-maintained building with white aluminum siding overlooks a cemetery, tree-lined hills and rolling farmland. It has served its nearby residents since 1847, and continues to do so today.
The land on which the church stands originally was a grant from William Penn to Joseph Lyons. Built in 1847 just a few feet from where it now stands, it first was called Franklin Church and later Lyons Church before becoming Pine Summit UMC, according to Ola Stackhouse, of Millville, the great-great- granddaughter of Lyons.
Doris Long stands outside of the church that she has attended since she was in the third grade. Her late husband, Walter, made the cross that adorns the steeple of Pine Summit United Methodist Church.
The church was moved to its present location during the winter of 1953-54, when a basement and kitchen were added. The bell tower was built in 1961, finished just in time for Stackhouse's wedding.
Average Sunday attendance at the church over the years has been 25 to 30 people, according to Stackhouse, "but if you want to see how that small, little church performs, when we have our annual roasted chicken supper we will serve about 350 people. And the neighbors help pitch in. It's a bonding with the community. They just like helping us out. And in January we have our buckwheat pancake and sausage supper and we serve around 500."
Throughout the years people who have attended services at the church, which is part of the Pine Summit, Eyers Grove and Jerseytown United Methodist Charge, have served as its lifeblood to keep it going. One of them is Doris Long.
Now 85, Long began going to the "church on the hill" when she was in the third grade. Her family's homestead was about a half-mile away, as the crow flies, and she recalls walking from her house to the church as a child. Later, as a young mother, she said, "when my husband was away in the service I would walk up over the hill and carry (Donald) on my back so that he wouldn't get dirty."
Some 80 years later, Long still regularly attends and serves on its social committee.
"I always put on the programs from the time I was married in 1945. I'm in charge of putting on the entertainment," she said.
"I have the kids put on little programs on special days Veterans Day or Memorial Day and I have them dance up the aisles, which some people might not like, but they (the kids) love to do that," she said.
"I like to do it. I would sort of feel hurt if it was taken away, I think," Long said.
Until a couple of years ago before breaking an ankle, one of her highlight events were "old-fashioned picnics" held just beyond the church doors.
Looking up at the top of the church on a recent fall day, Long said, "My husband (Walter) made the beautiful cross that is up there. He formed all of the metal (donated by Girton Manufacturing) that went around the belfry. My mother and two aunts donated the money for the belfry.
"It means so much to me, and today it's shining so much (that) it's almost like God did it today," she added as the stainless-steel cross glistened under a brilliant fall sun. "The cross and the belfry that my whole family was involved in, it's just always been my church. That's my love up there," she said.
The church bell is on loan from the Franklin Township supervisors, according to Stackhouse, having come from the Chestnut Grove one-room schoolhouse.
Long credits the efforts of soldiers, such as her late husband and her brothers Arnold, Nolan and Donald, all of whom served during World War II, for helping keep the church alive.
"My brothers were wonderful in World War II. That's what saved our church - the soldiers. They kept Hitler from coming over here, with God's help. They saved the church because Hitler would have been here," she said.
While still a student at Millville High School, Long was a member of Rocky Mountain Pete and His Hillbilly Ramblers, a country-western band, with whom she played the guitar and harmonica.
After marrying, she maintained an active life working as an LPN at the former Danville State Hospital, working for the U.S. Postal Service, selling automobiles for dealerships in both Bloomsburg and Berwick, working at what now is the PPL Nuclear plant in Berwick, serving as a matron at the Bloomsburg Prison and working at Interstate Auction, where she still works part-time.
She also served as the judge of elections in Pine Township and was the first woman elected to the Millville School Board, during which time she had the honor of handing a diploma to her son upon his graduation.
But in tough times, Pine Summit church always has been Long's refuge.
"It (the church) has been a safe haven. I feel comfortable when I am here.
"When my husband died (June 7, 1977), for about one year I did not come up here when church was going. I'd come in after dark and never turn the lights on so I could go up to the altar and pray. I couldn't stand to hear music because I would cry and that wasn't fair for anybody else. So I'd come in at night, not just once a week but anytime I felt upset," she said.
Another difficult time came in 1989 when cancer forced her to have a radical mastectomy.
"I had everybody praying for me. My whole family was there, about 14 people; that's the only thing that saved me was prayer prayer and garlic. When I found I had it (cancer) I just took massive doses of garlic, the real garlic," she said.
"That was an awful experience, but I just kept praying and I thought 'God is going to take care of me, He's not going to let me die.' Before that, I thought I wanted to die, in '77 (after her husband passed), but I wanted to see the grandkids grow up and the great-grandkids," Long continued.
Children always have held a special place in Doris' heart.
At church, in addition to teaching them biblical lessons and Christian songs, she said she wanted to "entertain and let them have fun."
"I love having little kids around," she said, adding that she still babysits for parents in the community "and I don't charge them anything. They're keeping me young."
"Doris is generally considered to be a strong-willed woman both by those of us who love her and those who have found themselves targeted by her. She has never been one to identify an injustice and then stand quietly aside. Usually, if Aunt Doris becomes upset about something, that something has to do with those who cannot defend themselves children, the elderly, the poor and the physically or mentally challenged. She also is a rescuer of abandoned pets," said her niece, Sharon Avery Stiner, of Bloomsburg.
Perhaps the best tribute to Doris recently was paid by one of the youngsters she occasionally cares for, Clay Whitmoyer, 11, who penned her:
Doris is not really my grandmother but we still think of her as our grandma. She gives us cookies, fudge and pie.
Grandma Doris is always very pretty. She has curly, long, blond hair. She goes to the hairdresser every week. She wears make-up every day. She is very elegant when she goes out with her tight skirts and high heels. She wears an apron in the kitchen.
I like riding my bike to Grandma Doris' house. Her porch is crowded with cats and their dishes. Doris takes in stray cats and doctors them if they are hurt, feeds them and provides shelters for them in the winter.
Grandma Doris' kitchen is warm and smells good; it smells like cookies and coffee. When I go in she welcomes me with a big hug and offers me cookies and soda. It makes me happy to see my pictures on the bulletin board and drawings by other kids on the fridge.
Grandma Doris likes to keep busy. She is very involved in her church. She goes to church every Sunday. She plans church activities, and cooks for funerals and picnics. Doris likes to be with people and everyone is welcome in her house."