Celebrating Our Members

Leslie Pohl-Kosbau and Stan Jewett

Leslie-and-Stan-Photo WebSeventh in our series of interviews with members of our congregation, we feature long-time members, childhood Religious Education (RE) alums and original Mosaic contributors Leslie Pohl-Kosbau and Stan Jewett.


Leslie’s parents brought her to First Unitarian as an infant and she grew up in the excellent Children’s RE tradition and sang in the Children’s Choir. She worked on the owl and rabbit in the tree tiles of the Mosaic. She knew Stan who was also in the RE program, and remembers times spent with Demi Angell and Janet Dafoe, among others. Leslie’s mother accompanied the Children’s Choir, which sang every Sunday in the Children’s Chapel.


After college and as a young adult, Leslie recalled, “I checked back in by going to worship services to see if First Church was still right for me.” She joined the Church as an official member just after her first child was born. “It was a good place for my children, as they were nourished by the same regard for the sense of wonder and freedom to seek their truth that I had experienced as a child.”


Leslie has served our congregation in numerous ways. She was a Board of Trustees member and Vice Moderator, Chair of the Religious Education Committee, a Nominating Committee member, and Co-chair of the UUA Outreach Group. Leslie was also the Adult Programs Chair, and then the staff person for five years in the 1980’s-90’s. In 1991, Leslie started and led the Community for Earth Group. Currently, Leslie is the Chair of the Mosaic Restoration Committee, and serves on the Art Wall, Archives, and UUA Outreach groups. “I have found that First Unitarian Church has many talented leaders and people willing to help each other.”

Leslie has also served our larger UU faith movement. She represented First Unitarian at more than 15 General Assemblies (GAs), and worked with the Mt. Hood Cluster of UU Congregations on the two that were held in Portland. In the early 1990s, she chaired the UU denomination’s Seventh Principle Project, which became the Unitarian Universalist Ministry for Earth in 2005. If this wasn’t enough, Leslie found time to serve as the president of the UU Pacific Northwest District’s governing board.

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Tess Beistel

Tess Photo

Sixth in our series of interviews with members of our congregation, we feature Peace Action Group stalwart Tess Beistel.

“In some ways, I literally fell into the Unitarian Church,” member Tess Beistel declared as we began our interview. This Peace Action Group stalwart was raised by a mother who was agnostic and a father who practiced the faith of his father, a Lutheran minister. As a child, Tess hadn’t been able to believe in her father’s faith, but had not found her own path. As a young woman in San Francisco, Tess accompanied her father to church one Sunday as a way of honoring his tradition. Because she was unsure about it, she sat in the back row. “Two sentences into the sermon,” she realized that she just couldn’t continue and slipped out the door. Immediately in front of her was an odd and intriguing building complex that just called for her to investigate. A combination of what looked like an old stone English countryside church and a modern concrete structure, Tess walked into her first UU church and sat down. The sermon was in progress, she liked what she heard and has been a UU ever since.

Tess landed in Portland twenty-two years ago and, after exploring a few UU churches, settled into life at First Unitarian early on. Her service to the church has included its governance through the Membership Committee and serving on the Board of Trustees. Her spiritual life is nurtured in the Women’s Circle. And, her commitment to social justice finds expression in the Peace Action Group, to which she gives a great deal of time and energy.

According to Tess, the Peace Action Group is a “steady force for examining the effects of war in our world.” She feels strongly that “a military response to conflict is too easy a thing to do;” that our country needs to broaden and strengthen non-military ways to resolve conflict; and that our national budget should reflect that commitment. The Peace Action Group works to spread the message and support programs and activities that promote peaceful initiatives. The committee is comprised of dedicated and hard working members of long standing who meet in a retreat each summer to chart the course for the coming year. They generally guide the committee and make decisions by consensus.

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Mary Bothwell

Mary5Fifth in our series of interviews with members of our congregation, we feature long-time member Mary Bothwell.

In 1958, after four years in American Samoa and three years in Chicago, Mary, husband Robert, and young daughters, Elizabeth 9 and Anne 3, moved to Portland where Robert became development director at Reed College. They moved into a home in Eastmoreland where Mary lived until she moved to Willamette View retirement community four years ago.

Mary and her family started attending First Unitarian in 1958. Many people at Reed were Unitarians, making it easy to get connected right away. After learning that you had to be a member to vote, Mary and Robert joined the church in January 1960.  

Mary served our congregation in “just about everything except board moderator,” including board member, RE teacher, RE committee member, and on the Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell’s search committee. After Marilyn came as the senior minister and launched her social justice programs, Mary became heavily involved in the Racial Justice committee and helped form the offspring Racial Justice Book Group with Florence Rawson. She also served as president of the Alliance and is still active today. Mary authored the First Unitarian Church entry in the Oregon Encyclopedia and directed and produced an oral history of the church, “In Our Voices.”

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Theo Harper

01 Theo1Fourth in our series of interviews with members of our congregation, we feature member Theo Harper.

Landing in Portland from Salt Lake City over thirty years ago, Theo Harper and his young family were searching for a church home. A rich music program in which they could sing was important, but so was finding a community that would teach their children the types of religious beliefs that they held. They found one church that seemed to fit the bill, but then the minister died in a plane crash. A second one had an outstanding music program, but required that you physically sign the rather narrow and strict doctrine of the church before even singing in the choir. No church try-outs there!  First Unitarian Church of Portland is fortunate that our combination of outstanding music and open-minded members, some of them friends of the Harper family, brought them to our door.

On the first day they attended, the speaker was the national leader of NOW, who enumerated the importance of defeating Ronald Reagan for his second term because of the impact of potential Supreme Court nominations. Theo reports that he and his wife looked at each other and both said, “YES!” Then, Theo auditioned for the choir and has been sharing his powerful voice here ever since. 

A soloist many times through the years, Theo recently led the Sunday Soul audiences in a wonderful rendition of “God’s Gonna Trouble the Water” with his deep inspiring voice  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGAUn4F53-I&feature=youtu.be - t=43m07s. Singing has been a part of his life since starting in his church choir at the young age of 5 and continuing through school choirs, theatrical productions, and even fronting for a rock band. Theo enjoys the weekly rehearsals and practice at home that result in the excellent quality of our UU choirs’ sound, “as musicians we seek balance and our choir director works to listen to our voices and to put them together to create one sound.” Theo was part of the choir’s Ireland tour last summer and noted that they memorized the music for the tour and that it “took on a whole new level.”

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Ann Eames and Sue Palmiter

Ann and Sue

Third in our series of interviews with members of our congregation, we feature Lay Ministers Ann Eames and Sue Palmiter. Lay Ministers are church members who support the pastoral work of our called ministers by offering one-to-one caring and support to fellow church members in times of need. For the last three years, Ann served as the convener of our lay minister program and Sue stepped into that role this January.  

The convener of our lay ministry program works with Rev. Tom Disrud to oversee and assist lay ministers in their work. This includes leading monthly meetings, coordinating monthly on-call duty assignments and minister/congregant pairings, and providing support to other lay ministry outreach programs. Ann and Sue wish to recognize and thank the conveners who preceded them since the program’s inception in the early 1990’s: Melissa Buchan who started the program and served as first convener; Lee Davis who served as convener for eleven years; and Mary Andrews who served as convener for seven years.

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