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Our Staff


Rev. Rothea (Thea) Kornelius, Head Pastor

Reverend Kornelius was born and grew up in Pretoria, South Africa. She graduated from the University of Pretoria with a degree in Physiotherapy and later obtained her doctoral degree in Physical Therapy from Boston University. She has worked both in South Africa and the United States for over 20 years.  Rev. Kornelius received her Master of Divinity degree from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary.


Thea is married to Dawn La Duke, and they have 5 fur babies, 3 dogs and 2 cats. Her hobbies include reading, gardening, knitting, making music, and anything that has to do with the great outdoors. 

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Pam Merrill, Office Manager

Pam brings 20+ years of church and private sector office management experience to First Presbyterian. Her penchant for writing and detail have happily found a home in her tasks here, along with her desire to serve the people of the congregation.  


Pam has two grown sons and two magnificent grandchildren. She loves books, movies, theater, discussing theology, hosting dinner parties, walks and meeting folks along the way, and actually likes to wash dishes and shovel snow.

Deborah Walters, Director of Music

Deborah has served as Director of Music for over 30 years. She brings enthusiasm, experience, and education (Master’s Degree) to her position as Director of Chancel Choir and leader of the Children’s Music programs. She takes an active leadership role in community ecumenical music opportunities for adults and children alike.

Through her efforts, First Presbyterian offers a summer week long music and drama day camp for the children of First Presbyterian and those from family literacy programs and other local churches.

Peggy Ognacevic-Engels, Organist/Accompanist

Peggy was trained in piano and cello from an early age. She had her formal training from Northern Illinois University School of Music, and is currently continuing her education there. Since 2005 Peggy has served as organist and accompanist to the chancel choir for First Presbyterian Church. In addition she is active as an accompanist and adjudicator in the greater Fox Valley area and maintains a private piano studio in her home in Algonquin.

Becky Koester, Custodian & Building Maintenance

Becky works full time as a Logistic Coordinator at Hoffer Plastics.

She is a long-time member of First Presbyterian Church, and has served as the church janitor for 10 years.

Becky describes her work in our building a "challenging adventure!"

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