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Donzel and Emma Wease--
'Circuit Rider' and "Mama of Many'
by Maricia Mlynek

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Remember years ago, when people used CB radios as a form of communication, and each user had their own unique “handle.”

Rev. Donzel Wease was known as “Circuit Rider” and his wife Emma was known as “Mama of Many.”

Donzel was born in 1924, the son of Dennis and Ruth Wease of Cherry Fork. He has two sisters, Oleeta Doty and the late Estelle Wease.

Through his elementary years, Donzel attended Grantsville Graded School, except for part of a year in Klipstine.

In 1943, five days before he was to graduate from Calhoun County High School, a tragedy struck. His family’s home burnt, killing his mother and sister, and hospitalizing his father, who was in critical condition.

After his father recovered, Donzel graduated from Coin Electric School in Chicago and received his diploma. During World War II, he worked in a shipyard in Norfolk, Va., as an electrician.

Emma was born on Pine Creek Road in 1930, the daughter of Cleo and Phelma Hathaway Gainer. She has five siblings, Delma Whytsell, Wanza Marsh, Greta Marks, Delbert Lee “Bo” Gainer and Jennings “Buck” Gainer, all now deceased.

Emma attended Pine Creek School and graduated from CCHS in 1948. She recalls working every acre of her family’s farm. She was a “farm boy.”

In May of 1948, a revival was held at St. Paul Church. Donzel would ride with his preacher from Five Forks and be in charge of devotions. On the ride home, Donzel asked his friend the preacher, “Who is the song leader at revival?”

The preacher dismissed his question, but after the third night of revival, Donzel asked again who was the song leader, and the preacher told him it was Cleo Gainer’s daughter.

Donzel said that he knew Cleo’s three daughters. The pastor responded by saying that Cleo had four daughters. After revival was over, he didn’t see Emma.

In June, Donzel, as president of the 4-H leaders, and Emma, as cook, reconnected at 4-H camp. After courting for awhile, they purchased a marriage license in Harrisville.

Although Emma’s father wanted them to wait until after her youngest brother graduated from high school to get married, they eloped on Dec. 12, 1948. They were married three weeks before they told anyone.

Donzel and Emma Wease in 1949.

Donzel said he tried several jobs, but nothing ever worked out. He was never satisfied and felt he should be happy in his work. Deep in his heart, he was being called to the ministry.

Donzel began preaching for the United Methodist Church during their first year of marriage. His first assignment was in Roane County, which included four churches.

Since they were newlyweds, the churches gave them gifts to help them get started. One of their most memorable contributions was a live chicken.

Donzel began his studies for the ministry at Wesleyan College, and continued at Salem College for two years. He graduated with a bachelor of divinity degree from Wesleyan. It took eight years to complete his degree.

Donzel gives a lot of credit to his wife for his schooling. He would work through the day, and while driving to church services, Emma would tell him what she had studied. Donzel said that she earned a “PHT (putting hubby through)” degree.

Because of Donzel’s job, the couple lived in 17 counties throughout West Virginia. When asked about the churches that he preached at, they said, “People were rich in some and poor in others, but they are all special to us.”

Emma said that while their children, Jane, Dennis, Donzel, Dana and Ruth, were growing up, neighborhood kids seemed to flock to their house, which made her a “mama of many.”

They take great pride in their five children, nine grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

While Donzel was busy with visitation and church duties, Emma went above and beyond her motherly duties and taught son Dana how to throw a football.

After 42 years of speaking God’s word, Donzel retired in 1991. They moved back to Pine Creek and built a home on six acres of land that Emma’s father gave to them. They enjoy feeding the birds and watching the deer out their front window.

Even though the couple have battled illnesses, they try to help out at their church.

Rev. Donzel and Emma Wease

Circuit Rider and Mama of Many have touched more people than the radio waves of yesteryear.


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