The pews are empty but the old church is full of memories.
Joe Breiding’s footsteps echoed as he walked down an aisle at the former Christ the King Catholic Church on Creighton Avenue in North Akron.
“So Grandpa and Grandma were here,” the 52-year-old businessman recalled as he patted the back of a wooden row on the right side. “And the second pew from there, that’s where we grew up.”
Dick and Elizabeth Breiding and their 12 children — Kathy, Tim, Bill, Winnie, Liz, Pete, Chris, Bridget, Tom, Mary, Joe and Ann — usually sat in one pew together until the older kids matured into young adults.
“Then one pew couldn’t hold us,” he said.
The family lived across the street from the church where Breiding was baptized, attended school, served as an altar boy and got married.
“We lived here,” Breiding said of Christ the King. “I mean, this was a part of our family. It just wasn’t a parish. It was a family, too.”
And now he owns the place.
He and business partner James Ready recently purchased the 9½-acre site from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for an undisclosed price through Hoff & Leigh realty in Fairlawn. The property includes the church, rectory, school building and two ballfields.
The church building has stood vacant since Christ the King closed in November 2009, joining St. Martha and St. Hedwig in the formation of the new Blessed Trinity Parish on East Tallmadge Avenue. Before the church was sold, all items considered sacred, including the altar, statues and stained-glass windows, were removed. The former Christ the King School, adjacent to the church, has served for seven years as the home of the Steel Academy, a charter school.
Breiding paid a visit to the church last week to reminisce about the past and talk about the future of the property.
“This neighborhood was my life,” he said.