Saint Raphael’s Church Digs into Its History


As the oldest church on Fort Myers Beach, Saint Raphael’s Episcopal Church possesses much history. For years this history has been stored in boxes, bins, and photo albums. It has been stuffed into drawers, closets, file cabinets and picture frames. It is fascinating, yet everywhere and not organized in any way that would make perusing it all easy. Those days are over.

A group of women associated with Saint Raphael’s, dubbing themselves The Ladies of Bygone Days, gathered for the first time this past Saturday, July 29, and began the process of sifting through it all. All history lovers, the group includes Judy Haataja, Ellie Bunting, Grace Workman, Deborah Wallace, Virginia Harper, Julie Bell and Laurie Nienhaus.

This first gathering proved an enjoyable trip down memory lane that made staying on task a challenge. In the end, however, the contents of most boxes and bins saw daylight for the first time in years and were sorted into their initial piles. Virginia Harper said, “This is close to 75 years of history – and it’s not just the history of the church. This is part of Fort Myers Beach history! It’s important.”

Discussions are underway for the ultimate plan for this project. It is most likely that a digital history will be added to the church’s website at A movable display for the public that might sit in Saint Raphael’s Parish Hall is also a possibility. The group is set to meet again on Saturday, August 19 from 1-3pm in the conference room of the Parish Hall.

Saint Raphael’s was built in the late 1950’s, entirely by islanders and using island materials. Known as the best kept secret on Fort Myers Beach, the church is located at 5601 Williams Drive. Sunday services begin at 10 am.

-Submitted by St. Raphael’s Episcopal Church