Ronnie Claire Edwards, best known for her role as Cora Beth Godsey on the 1970s TV series The Waltons, is an actress, author, playwright and fashion designer.
Five years ago, she left her Los Angeles home and moved to Dallas, where she bought the vacated St. Joseph Catholic Church and academy on Swiss Avenue and turned the church into her home.
Built for a German Catholic congregation and designed by noted architect Frank J. Woerner, the church was erected in 1910. The academy next door, designed by the famous San Antonio architect Frederick B. Gaensien, was constructed five years earlier and housed an order of nuns who taught in the school. Both buildings are now city-designated landmarks, a result of Edwards’ efforts.
“I always wanted to live in an old church or an old theater,” said Edwards, “but theaters are frightening. They are dark and always have a cat.” She chose the church, instead, and she lives there with, not a cat, but her Toy Fox Terrier, Buck.
Sensitive to the original integrity of the building, she has sectioned off a part of the church for the bath and turned the sacristy into the kitchen; for the most part, the church remains unaltered.
In her church home, the altar now shows off a grand piano and a whimsical collection of evening shoes and boots. Wooden pews have been replaced by upholstered sofas and chairs, and velvet tents hang as closets for her clothes.
“There are oddities everywhere," Edwards said. Always fascinated by the Curiosity Cabinets in Europe, she admits that she loves the offbeat and bazaar. Still, with the sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows and the quiet sense of the room, there is no doubt that you are in a church.
Why choose Dallas as her home? Because she is a resident of the Southwest at heart, believes Dallas is a sophisticated city, and her home is now closer to Oklahoma, where she still has family.
Her love of the Southwest is reflected in her line of designer coats and jewelry. Her stunning coats are made from antique buggy blankets and sold under the labels "Flora Dora Fillies" and "Stolen by Gypsies." The line may be viewed here. The jewelry line, "Save Your Tears, He's Not Worth It," is fashioned from European rock crystals and brothel coins found in old mining towns and once exchanged for romantic favors.
Since families across America went to bed saying, “Goodnight, John Boy” during the Waltons’ TV era, I wanted to know if she still sees other cast members from the show. She attended the Waltons’ 40th reunion last September at the Wilshire Ebell Theater in Los Angeles, where she was able to catch up with the cast. The reunion was attended by 1,500 guests from all over the U.S. and Europe. The TV show, which still airs around the world in reruns, was well-written and a pleasant, good experience, she said.
Although she is no longer acting, Edwards is writing. She is the author of The Knife Thrower's Assistant and a new book, Mr. Godsey Asked Me To Marry Him And I Said, “Yes!” Edwards is also a playwright and two of her plays, "Wedding Belles" and "The Mystery of Miz Arnette," premiered at the Bath House Cultural Center. Her musical, "Idols of the King," based on the life of Elvis Presley, will open at Theater III on Feb. 28.
Shiela Huffman is a columnist for Lakewood BubbleLife. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.