Core Staff

  • Blakney

    Stephen Blakney

    Having been raised in a Baptist family, when I came to South Church in 1981, I was totally in shock that a church could be so welcoming and accepting. We (Susan and I) were married here in 1982, since that time we have raised our sons here and have become entrenched in the Community that makes up South Church.
    One thing to be made clear right away; I am a rabid Red Sox fan. Now that is out of the way, here is some mundane information about myself. I have a dual undergraduate degree from Franklin Pierce University in Accounting and Management and MBA from Plymouth State University with a certificate in Human Resources. I have worked in high tech, engineering, health care, ski resort and several years as an auditor for the State of NH.
    My experience at South Church includes two separate terms on the BOT, including Chair, Nominating Committee, Auction Committee, Fund Raising Committee, ABC Committee in all of its variations thru the years, Endowment Committee and now the Search Committee. I look forward to helping bring the next minister to our congregation.
  • Murdach

    Charlie Murdach

    Charlie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended Starr King UU Church in his hometown of Hayward, CA with the Rev. Mark Bellitini (the editor of our gray hymnal).  He relocated to the Seacoast in 2005 and has been a member of South Church for 9 years. 

    Charlie has been a member of the Worship Associates, The Pocket Garden Tour Committee, the Security Committee and has volunteered in various capacities for Sparks, Purple Flames, Coming of Age, OWL, and Senior Youth.

    Charlie enjoys coaching soccer, supporting PHS band, volunteering for Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA and the Order of the Arrow.  He is proud to be an Eagle Scout.

    Charlie is a NH licensed Athletic Trainer and has worked in a variety of settings from owning a private practice, clinical sports medicine and coaching, High School, professional football, research, and hospital laboratories. He is a Massage Therapist, Feldenkrais Practitioner, Anat Baniel Method Practitioner, and Hanna Somatic Educator.  His favorite job has been as a stay at home dad for the last 7 years.  He recently started working at Lowes part time for adult conversation and begin the slide back into the workforce. 

    He lives in Greenland with his wife Erin, three kids (Max-15, Madigan-11, and McKinley-9), three cats, a dog, lots of wild rabbits and whistle pigs, and a garden that always needs weeding. 
  • Lore

    Jesse Lore

    Jesse is a life-long Unitarian Universalist, who grew up in the Manchester, NH Church and who became a member of South Church in 2013. He has served as a youth mentor, an RE volunteer, and went on the 2017 service trip to Nicaragua with South Church and the UU College of Social Justice. Jesse has been going to UU conferences at Star Island for over 20 years, and met his wife, Melissa at a Young Adults Conference on Star, where they were later married. Jesse and Melissa were also members of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Brooklyn, where they lived for several years when their children were young. Jesse lives in Portsmouth, and works for a company that makes, modifies, and sells vehicles for people with disabilities. He and his family have a kid-friendly hip-hop group called Rock Street, that has an album and has performed around the Seacoast. His daughter Ruby is 10, son Jackson is 9, and their big fluffy dog Bandit accompanies them on camping trips in the White Mountains and kayaking trips on the Seacoast.
  • OTraynor

    Alice O'Traynor

    Alice O’Traynor helped run three businesses – one of which she founded – before returning home to Portsmouth in 2016.
    After college (Catholic University, International Law and Relations), she worked a few years at the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, DC; then, after her two children began school, she joined the DC offices of a large British software company.  In a few years, she was named CEO of a new US-based Industrial Division focused on process improvement.  She grew that division in five years from 3 engineers to a staff of 72.
    Her first marriage ended in divorce, and in 1987 she re-united with her Portsmouth High School sweetheart, Michael O’Traynor, whose first marriage also had ended.  Between them, they have seven children and fifteen grandchildren.
    The couple moved back to NH in 1988, where Alice bought, refurbished, and ran the Littleton Diner.  In 1990 she sold the Diner and founded a company to help school districts secure Medicaid funds for special needs students.  This company grew rapidly, and Michael joined her in 1992.  Together, they expanded the company to serve school districts in 20 states.  Alice and Michael, who became UUs in 1995, attended UU churches in almost all those states.
    They sold their company in 2010 and decided to return to their hometown of Portsmouth where they joined South Church.  Michael died of a brain tumor only eight months after they settled into their Islington Street condo.
    At South Church, Alice is co-convener of the Pastoral Associates, sings with the choir and folk group, participates in the Knitting Ministry, the Spiritual Book Club, a Small Group Ministry team, and the Salvation Army dinner team.  Outside of church, she serves as a CASA volunteer, studies piano, and enjoys spending time with her family and friends.
  • Piazzi

    Joanne Piazzi

    Joanne Piazzi was born and raised in southeastern Massachusetts and attended Westfield State College where she majored in Elementary/Special Education. While at Westfield, she and her trusty sewing machine made extra cash and friends by getting involved in musical theater. She moved to NH in 1984 when she was hired by the Rochester school district. During a teaching career spanning 37 years in Rochester and Barrington, she continued to sew, working at an area bridal shop and summer theater.
    While earning her master’s degree in Creative Arts in Learning, she discovered a love of storytelling and decided to go pro. She has performed in libraries, schools, fairs, on festival stages, and of course, at South Church. She also sings with Voices from the Heart and is a majorette with the Leftist Marching Band.
    Joanne recently retired from teaching, and after 9 days off, she bought a building in downtown Rochester and opened Stitches Alterations & Needleworks, which she had been operating out of her home since March. She is enjoying being CEO, seamstress, and custodian of this new venture!
    Joanne has been a member of South Church since the early 1990’s. During this time she’s been involved in RE, the Pocket Garden Tour, the Soup Kitchen, Coffee House, the Fall Retreat Committee, and has been a Coming of Age mentor. Her favorite volunteer activity is creating and telling stories for services, which she hopes to continue to do as long as they let her. She feels honored to have been chosen to serve on the Search Committee.
  • Verschueren

    Jim Verschueren

    Donna and I joined South Church in 1984, much to my surprise and everlasting appreciation. The UU faith is tailored made for someone who has been baptized twice (Catholic and Southern Baptist), rejected religion altogether in early adulthood and believes that this life is all we have.
    Carlo Nittoli and I will celebrate our tenth anniversary this December. In 2005 I lost my wife Donna to pancreatic cancer just after our 32nd anniversary. Our two sons are Ben, age 43 and Paul, age 40. Both are married, each with two children. They live near Schenectady and in Settle, respectively.
    Growing up in a struggling, working class family in Michigan, religious connections, experiencing the divorce and remarriages of my parents as a teenager, receiving scholarship aid to attend college and volunteering two years as a Peace Corps English teacher in Francophone Cameroon, West Africa were the major formative experiences of my life before I met Donna.
    From Peace Corps to retirement I worked in administrative positions in colleges and non-traditional educational settings. I was blessed with meaningful work that I loved and extraordinary mentors and colleagues.
    I live out my faith in volunteer work as a retiree. South Church has offered opportunities for spiritual and personal growth and my current work as chair of the Dover Democratic Committee enables me to engage meaningfully in societal change. I feel continually blessed and grateful.
  • Wilhelm

    Jennifer Wilhelm

    Jennifer hails from the Hudson Valley in New York, and spent summers hiking and backpacking in the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains. In 2001, she moved to Portsmouth to attend graduate school, fell in love with the area and decided to stay put. Currently, she is a small fruit and vegetable grower at Fat Peach Farm in Madbury, and a research and network associate for the NH Food Alliance at the UNH Sustainability Institute. She is a certified Yoga instructor with the Yoga Alliance, receiving her training in Classical Yoga through the Yoga Life Institute NH. In her free time she enjoys reading, writing, cooking, hiking, running, and spending time with her dog, River. 
    Jennifer’s first introduction to South Church was in 2011, when she and her husband Micum Davis had their wedding photos taken in the sanctuary. They didn’t start attending services regularly until 2013, and Jennifer just recently became a member. Over the last six years, South Church has become an important part of their lives. Good things happen with time!