Major Jean Frese receives William Booth Award
By: Major Frank Duracher
A fitting presentation of the William Booth Award occurred midway through the 2021 Singing On The Mountain event at the Waynesville, North Carolina Corps. Major Jean Frese, surrounded by her family and nearly 300 music-loving friends, received the certificate and Booth statuette after an introduction and interview by Commissioner Barbara Howell.
Major Frese served in the Mountain Mission for six years as a young lieutenant under the direction of the legendary Major Cecil Brown. It was Brown who founded the Mountain Mission in the 1930s and in 1936 held the first Singing On The Mountain.
Major Frese hailed from Pittsburgh, but when visiting North Carolina, she was asked by Brown to work there as her assistant — an unlikely change of culture and life-ambition. That was 1941, and she became among the first of a long line of lieutenants assigned to Brown until the early 1950s. Ironically, she says that, to her knowledge, she is the also the last surviving lieutenant of that distinguished roster.
Much of Major Frese’s career is grafted into the history of the Mountain Mission, and she credits Major Brown’s tutelage for her preparation of a selfless ministry — a practice she would utilize in various appointments in the Southern Territory — including these same western North Carolina mountains years later.
In making the presentation of one of the highest honors bestowed to any individual in The Salvation Army, Commissioner Barbara Howell extolled Major Frese for her faithful service to the people of the Mountain Mission — even in the years following her retirement in 1991, where she’s lived in her home less than a hundred steps from her beloved Shelton Laurel Corps.
While with Major Brown, Lieutenant Frese was expected to perform the same duties, including traveling by horseback to distant outposts to spread the Gospel.
“We honor you for your faithful service to the people of these mountains,” Commissioner Howell said. “You found the people, met their needs, and have ministered to them. Today our territory wants to bestow to you the William Booth Award, given for outstanding service to the community — unselfishly of your own treasure, energy, and faithful ministry.
“You have evidenced deep concern for others as modeled by our Founder, William Booth, toward the betterment and salvation of humanity.”
The audience delighted in hearing some of Major Frese’s memories, a few most amusing: “I had to ride a horse just to get to each of the missions. One Sunday morning I was going to one of the outposts, and I noticed my horse’s ears were twitching. That made me look behind and I saw I was being followed. I said to him, ‘What’s the matter — did I get too close to your (moonshine) still?”
After the crowd roared with laughter, Major Frese said, “The Lord has blessed me working in these mountains and to live among these people, and to serve them.”