Richard B. Webb, an architect, designed the original Montauk Community Church and was a founding member when it opened in 1929. So it was fitting that almost 40 years later, when a new wing was added for offices and Sunday school classrooms, Richard Webb was the architect once again.
He had moved to Montauk in 1926 to work for the developer Carl Fisher after graduating from architecture school in Pennsylvania. He met his future wife, Emma, in Montauk, where she had a job as Fisher’s secretary. In addition to being a devoted member of the Community Church, Mr. Webb was involved in many local organizations, also helping to establish the Montauk Library and applying his architectural talents to such projects as the Montauk Medical Center and East Hampton Town Hall as well as many private homes.
Howard Friend was only 25 years old in 1965 when he arrived in Montauk from his home in Philadelphia, having graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary. His wife, Betsy, was pregnant with their first child. By chance he had heard of a job opening at the Montauk Community Church, whose search committee warned him, “’If Richard Webb likes you, you’re in. If he doesn’t, you’re out.’”
“’So at a forthcoming church dinner, I sat Betsy next to Mr. Webb, and told her to charm him,’” the reverend recounted in a 2015 interview in the East Hampton Press. “’It must have worked, because he hired me soon after.’”
Much as he liked Montauk, Montaukers and the ocean view from the recently completed manse (designed, of course, by Richard Webb), Reverend Friend only stayed in town until 1970, when he and his growing family returned to Pennsylvania so that he could attend graduate school. In only five years, however, he and Betsy had founded a vibrant youth group and nursery school and made many friends, and the reverend had learned how to surf. They continued to visit Montauk in the summer for years, and Reverend Friend gave a sermon at the Community Church in 2015 on the 50-year anniversary of his first time preaching there.
Richard B. Webb had died by then, in 1988 and just two days before what would have been his 86th birthday. His funeral service was held – of course – at the Community Church, where he had served over 60 years as “an elder, clerk of session, deacon, stewardship chairman, Sunday school superintendent and teacher, and on several other committees,” his obituary said. His ashes were laid to rest at Fort Hill Cemetery, on whose advisory board he had served — and Reverend Friend was an officiant at his funeral.
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