Floyd Storie’s final project: the Bowling Chapel Church

Published 12:50 pm Saturday, October 13, 2018

Local businessman Floyd Storie died Wednesday after a year-long battle with throat and lung cancer, but not before he saw a beloved project completed — repairs to the old Bowling Chapel Methodist Church, which for decades has slumbered quietly by the highway in Roan Mountain.

Until a few weeks ago the small church, which Storie attended as a boy, had been left to its own demise. Time and neglect had taken a toll on the building. It had a rusty tin roof, peeling paint on the exterior, and a few missing windows. Now, thanks to Storie and others in the community, the church sports a new roof, new windows, new exterior siding and paint, and foundation repairs.

The Crabtree community was special to Storie. It is where he grew up. The family moved to Crabtree in 1946 when Storie was only five years old. They lived in a small house located below the church on the railroad grade. Floyd and his family walked to the small church for Sunday services, revival meetings, and even Vacation Bible School and Christmas programs. He often talked about when a young boy playing along the old Tweetsie railroad and fishing in the Doe River, which flowed near Railroad Grade.

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According to his sister, Carolyn, Storie last visited the church six weeks ago after the work had begun by his crew at Floyd Storie Roofing.

“Floyd paid for the roof, siding, and windows and furnished the labor,” said Patsy Blackwell, one of the people spearheading the project.

Storie’s employees worked for two months on the church. One of the workers, Johnny Range, said it was a most interesting project, trying to match the materials used to restore it with today’s materials and technique styles.  Another employee, Cirilo Marcelo, said he had much appreciation for Floyd for the work he had provided him and his co-workers and the opportunity to work on projects that had meant so much to the community. “Floyd was good to us and a great boss,” said Cirilo.

The building is owned by Dick and Carolyn Bowling Green. The church was named for the Bowlings, Carolyn’s family, and she and her sister, Shirley and husband, T.J. Shell, did much work in preparation for a homecoming celebration held last Thursday, almost a week before Floyd died and on his birthday.

The homecoming celebration was held at the little church and was planned as a means of thanking Storie, his family, and friends in the community for their time, labor, and resources in helping restore the historic old building, which dates back to 1807. Pictures of the church and past congregations were collected from people in the community and placed on display at the homecoming. Copies were made and given to Storie by Patsy Blackwell, who got the display together.

Music for the occasion was provided by Mountain Rose, a Roan Mountain band, which plays bluegrass music.

An empty rocking chair sat next to the display of photos of Bowling Chapel. The rocking chair was for Storie, just in case he was able to attend. Also on display was a birthday cake sporting a farm scene and a plaque from residents of the community thanking Storie for the work and resources provided by him in the restoration of the church.

Storie, who owned Floyd Storie Roofing, enjoyed farming and music. He was known to help many in the community and contributed to a number of Elizabethton and Carter County projects. He was among those who wished to see the Bonnie Kate Theater restored, and helped spearhead the movement.

Storie spoke fondly of the Crabtree and Roan Mountain communities. He would often share about watching and listening for the Tweetsie train, which huffed and puffed its way up the railroad track, which ran by the Bowling Chapel Church. He knew much of the history of the community and the church.

When the church closed its doors in the 1960s or 1970s, many of its parishioners joined Roan Mountain United Methodist Church. Mrs. Joe Whitehead, now deceased, recalled being a part of the church in her youth and the powerful preaching by some of its pastors, the fervent prayers and songs of praise, dinners on the ground, and Vacation Bible School. In a newspaper interview of several years ago, Mrs. Whitehead shared: “I remember most of the people who attended the church. They were good people, who loved the Lord, and most would have given you the shirt off their back.”

Storie, too, remembered the people in the community, and oftentimes looked back at the little church by the highway and the impact it had on his life. He once told this writer, “I’m not a perfect man, but one day I will be. I always remember where I’ve come from and where I’m going.”