BEAVERTOWN – Some called Cathy Whitehead a “Daytime Believer” in April 2015 when she bought the former Beaver Lutheran Church in Beavertown that the late Monkees singer Davy Jones planned to turn into a community center and museum.
It was the dream of the life-long Jones fan to convert the former church, built in 1879, into a memorial for the Monkees lead singer, who lived in Snyder County for more than 20 years when he was not on tour.
That dream turned into a nightmare about 2 a.m. Tuesday when fire destroyed the structure and the Jones memorabilia inside.
Whitehead and friend Tommy Renino, who escaped with the clothes on their backs, may be down but far from out.
“I plan to stay,” the former New Jersey resident said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve made Pennsylvania my home.”
She wants to build something on the site of the old church.
“I want to do something,” she said. “I don’t know what.”
Whatever it is, there will be space for Jones memorabilia she said she hopes to start collecting again.
Whitehead had renovated the upstairs into living quarters for herself and Renino, whose late brother Jerry was tour musical director of the Monkees.
She had moved in last December and he moved in just a few weeks ago, she said.
They were starting work on the first floor to convert it into a recording studio and musical venue as a memorial to Jones, who died in 2012 at the age of 66.
Renino put this account of the fire on Facebook:
“It was about 2 a.m. I was lying in bed looking at my phone. I saw smoke in front of my face. I got up and turned on the light. I saw smoke coming out of the floor.
“I yelled to Cathy to wake up. Fire! I went to the front door and opened it up. I was immediately driven back by smoke and I had to close it right away.
“I got 911 on the phone. I told Cathy we couldn’t go out the front. She told me that we could go out the back way. And that’s pretty much it. We left down the back stairs.
“By the time we got to the front of the church we saw that it was enveloped in flames. It went up within minutes. I couldn’t believe it… Had I not been awake we would not be here now.”
They watched the bell tower become engulfed in flames and collapse, Whitehead said. Her car parked nearby was destroyed, too, she said.
Peter Tork, who became famous as the keyboardist and bass guitarist for the Monkees, asked on his webpage to spread the word about the fire among Monkees’ fans.
“Let’s support this dear woman who was working so hard to keep Davy’s dream alive,” he wrote.
A GoFundme page has been established.
The Red Cross is assisting the two, and Whitehead said there was insurance on the building she bought for $50,000.
The cause of the fire has not been determined, but investigators say it does not appear to be suspicious. It started in the first-floor room in which there is a hot water heater, Whitehead said.
While devastated by the fire, she said, she cannot wait to get into the ruins to see what, if anything, can be salvaged. She expects to find the bell.
On her first trip to Beavertown in 2005, he told her to ring the bell for good luck, Whitehead said.
Jones’ daughters in December had donated carloads of memorabilia, including a cabinet containing statues of his horses, she said.
Jones, who had a 15.5-acre horse farm nearby that included a track and pond he built, had started to refurbish the old church by putting in new windows to keep out the pigeons.
Whitehead said she became an fan of Jones when she was 10, and as a youngster wrote asking him to call her. She has seen more than 100 shows of the Monkees, she said.
She became acquainted with Jones after women selling his merchandise at shows in Michigan, where she formerly lived, asked her to fill in on the East Coast because it was close to her home, she said.
“I worked with him for a few years,” Whitehead said. “I became friends with him.”