My parents named me Pamela Kay Fenner. I was born at the midpoint of the last century and spent my entire childhood in Royal Oak. At first a gregarious child, I became quite shy after skipping 3rd grade and stayed that way until after college. My first pet was a cat named Whiskers. I made one of my better decisions in 7th grade, when I started playing French horn and became a “band kid.” Schoolwork was always easier for me than socializing; I graduated from Kimball High School as one of three salutatorians. I then headed off to Oberlin College, the school Mr. MacDougall, my junior high school counselor, had recommended for me.
While away at college, I gave up on the French horn. I lacked the motivation to practice enough to compete with the Conservatory music majors. I also found third-year college German very difficult; abut half the class had spent time in Germany and were quite fluent. The professor enjoyed modern German literature; I did not. My planned majors in German and chemistry were replaced by history. I did enjoy the Conservatory classes I took.
College was a time of social and personal upheaval. Most serious was the death of my sister Gail, who was two years younger than me, ten days after a car accident. It happened in November of my senior year and forever colors Thanksgiving holidays with a tinge of sadness.
After four years in Ohio, I returned home and went to Wayne State University. There I finished my A.B. in History (granted by Oberlin, but not completed there because I dropped out of student teaching) and did my student teaching (1971), got an M.Ed. in Secondary Social Studies (1972), and went on for my Ph.D. in Education (1975).
In the meantime, I started my career as a high school social studies teacher in Fraser in 1973.
In my early twenties, I did a lot of reading in the areas of self-improvement and metaphysics. One book suggested that if you wanted to change your life, you should select a name compatible with the kind of life you want. I remembered that one of my Oberlin College roommates had adopted a cat and named her “Shawna.” I had loved the name when I first heard it, and decided that I would adopt it for myself. When I was hired by Fraser Public Schools, I introduced myself to my new colleagues as “Shawna.” Having tried it for a while, I decided to keep the name and legally changed it by court order. “Pamela” became my middle name.
I taught in the Fraser school district for a little over fifteen years. A second transfer to the junior high school level exacerbated the chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia I had developed in August 1987, causing me to leave public school teaching in December 1988. I was fortunate that long-term disability was available to me for two years.
Just one year before I became ill, the most significant event in my life occurred. I realized that there was a huge void in my life and at last responded to my dad’s repeated invitations to church on “F*R*A*N*TASTIC SUNDAY,” September 14, 1986. Three weeks later, on October 5, God answered my prayers to reveal Himself to me. I acknowledged that I was (and am) a sinner who needed salvation and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior.
In many ways, I (immediately and gradually) became a different person. God proved Himself strong right away by enabling me to quit smoking “cold turkey.” I had been a two-pack-a-day smoker for over ten years. In fact, I remember smoking on the way to church on the day I was saved. After the service, I was so intensely affected that I thought, “Wow! I really need a cigarette!” Another voice in my head responded, “Why?” I did not smoke on the way to dinner at my parents’ house. There my dad told me that Satan especially likes to attack new Christians and believers who have walked with the Lord for many years. I knew then that God was going to prove His power in my life by removing my smoking habit. He also began to clean up my language, although that process is ongoing. A number of my fellow teachers and my principal at Fraser High School noticed the differences in me during my last year there, and I was able to share the cause with some of them.
Over the years God has changed my values and my thinking on many matters. Serving at my church has become a priority for me. God used what I felt at the time were two of the worst things that had happened to me—being fired from the job I had with my late husband at Fisher Corporation in 1994 and Jim’s decision to stay at Fisher Corporation until retirement rather than take a job he had been offered up north—to shower me with several blessings. He gave me precious time to spend with my father in the three years before he died. God led me to take classes at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, which provided the training I needed to teach Biblical Greek and Hebrew at Birmingham Bible Institute. Through my cousin Mary Jane, He gave me the opportunity to develop skills in managing a business budget, photography, and image editing with a part-time job at Photography @ Wayne State. Finally, He gave me the desire to volunteer at my church, where my sister Melissa was Church Secretary, while Jim was working. All these gifts prepared me for the work I do now at Grace Baptist Church.