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Remembering the day Queen Elizabeth attended services at St. Paul's in San Diego

As thousands wait in line for hours to pay their final respects to Queen Elizabeth, a handful of San Diegans remember the weekend in February of 1983 when the Queen and Prince Philip visited San Diego.

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St. Paul's archive
Queen Elizabeth is shown shaking hands with the Rev. James Carroll at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Feb. 27, 1983.

February 27, 1983 was a day that followed months of planning. Tickets that went primarily to members of St. Paul’s were required to attend the service. I was fortunate. I didn’t need a ticket because my father, the Rev. James Carroll, was rector of St. Paul’s at that time.

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St. Paul's archive
The Rev. James Carroll is shown with a commemorative prayer book gifted to Queen Elizabeth at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on February 27, 1983.

Months of anticipation culminated that Sunday morning. Everyone had gone through a metal detector and was seated. The first thing I heard were the news helicopters. To say I was excited would be a rather grand understatement. I couldn't believe I was actually there.

The sound of the helicopters grew closer, and I now realize this was when the Queen and Prince Philip, along with Secret Service and lots of staff were pulling up to the church.

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KGTV
Queen Elizabeth is shown getting into her limousine outside St. Paul's Episcopal Church on February 27, 1983.

The mood inside the place was electric. Before I knew it, my Dad was escorting the Queen into the church. No cameras were allowed inside. It was all over in a flash.

Dad then escorted the Queen back out where a young member of St. Paul’s gave her a bouquet. Then she and Philip got back into the limousine.

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Carroll family
A picture showing Queen Elizabeth with the Rev. James Carroll is shown at the Carroll home.

They waited until Scottish dancers finished their performance, and they were off.

Afterward, my father was interviewed by Channel 10 reporter Leonard Villareal.

“An enormous amount of preparation went into this and we wanted things to go right," Dad said — practically beaming.

I’d describe him as happy — and deeply relieved. Villareal asked him if he ever thought he’d preach a sermon to the Queen.

“I fantasized about preaching in St. Paul’s Cathedral London and that never happened, probably never will, but this was better," Dad said.

The cathedral still has physical reminders of that day. “Elements that were important at any given time, are things we try to retain," John Will, St. Paul's archivist, said.

He has a special area in the archives dedicated just to the Queen’s visit.

“We have the actual prayer service in here, as well as a number of photographs," he said.

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St. Paul's archive
An exhibit of photos and memorabilia from the Queen's visit to St. Paul's is shown in the St. Paul's archive.

There is another reminder of the Queen’s visit. This one is found inside the church.

Where there were once pews, there are now chairs.  My family and I sat in the second to the front row on that day. One very special pew remains. On Friday, it was draped in black — and that probably gives you a clue of what it is. Under the black drape is a plaque commemorating where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip sat on that very special day.

Back outside, one finds another tangible reminder.

Not long after the visit, the courtyard on the 5th Avenue side was renamed the Queen’s Courtyard, and on the north wall of the church, there is a plaque that commemorates her visit.

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Carroll family
A picture signed by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip is shown in the Carroll family home on September 16, 2022.

It’s not just at St. Paul’s where memories of the Queen are strong. They’re never far off in my family home either, where pictures of Dad and the Queen have been in the hallway, literally for decades. But there is one more picture that is truly a prized possession.

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Carroll family
Queen Elizabeth & Prince Philip's signatures are shown on a photograph sent as a gift to the Carroll family on September 16, 2022.

It’s found on the piano.  We got it a couple of months after the visit; a personally signed picture by the Queen and Prince Philip, an amazing way to remember a truly amazing day.

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