It was a pleasure to deplane in Providence, RI for the short drive to the Massachusetts Fall Forum, in Mansfield, MA. After leaving 94° temperatures in Houston, the cool New England air was a welcome relief. Greeted at the airport by Gail Terry, State Regent, and Holly Blair, State Vice Regent, it was a surprise to see a white stretch limo generously provided by Gail’s sister. After settling into the hotel, Gail drove Danna Koelling, Arizona State Regent, and I to Longfellow's Wayside Inn located in Sudbury, MA. This is the oldest Inn still operating in the United States and has been serving travelers along the old Boston Post Road for almost 300 years. It began as a two-room home in 1707 and the Howe family ran a successful tavern and inn on this site from 1716 to 1861. In fact, the Inn had just been featured in the September/October issue of the American Spirit magazine. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited the inn in 1862 and made the tavern the gathering place for the characters in his 1863 book Tales of a Wayside Inn. We enjoyed a delicious dinner of traditional New England cuisine including clam chowder and corn pudding.
The following morning, a bus load of Massachusetts Daughters traveled to Fort Phoenix in Fairhaven. On May 13-14, 1775, the first naval battle of the American Revolution took place when the local militia captured two British sloops in Buzzard's Bay. Shortly afterward, the town petitioned for the construction of a fort for the protection of the harbor. The original fort, built 1775 and 1777, was outfitted with eleven cannons, several of which had been captured in the Bahamas by John Paul Jones. The fort was attacked and destroyed when the British raided the harbor in September, 1778, landing 4,000 troops in New Bedford. When the fort was rebuilt following the attack, it was named Fort Phoenix after the mythical bird which rose from its own ashes.
The next visit on the tour was across the Achusnet River to Fort Taber in New Bedford. The construction of the fort between the late 1850s -1862 was overseen by Henry Robert, author of Robert's Rules of Order. On the grounds of the Fort is the marvelous Fort Taber Historical Association Museum.
Returning to the hotel, the State Officer’s Club dinner featured a surprise entertainer – Honorary President General Ann Fleck who delighted all attending by playing the drums and reminiscing about some of her experiences as President General. Let me assure you, Mrs. Fleck may have just turned 90 but she has not slowed down! Another delight was meeting Jean Danielson who brought a photo of the 1944 Continental Congress which featured the C.A.R. ball. Jean became a member of C.A.R. when she was seven years old and has been a faithful member of DAR since 1947.
Friday morning featured two well attended workshops – “Chapter Fundraising” presented by Sandra Pollack, NSDAR Development Director, and Chapter Development and Revitalization Workshop presented by the CDR Commission.
The 226th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution was commemorated at a luncheon featuring Peter Drummey from the Massachusetts Historical Society who shared information on some of the Signers of the Constitution from Massachusetts.
The afternoon business session featured Mrs. Terry’s theme of “Sharing our Passion for Patriotism” and included reports of state officers and chairs and a presentation by David Beecher, Headmaster of Hillside School.
It was a pleasure to welcome members of the Heritage Club, Founders Club and 1890 Giving Circle to an afternoon reception and to express our appreciation for their generous gifts which ensure the future of the National Society and our worthy programs.
It was an honor to be the banquet speaker Friday evening and to share the objectives of the Young Administration with over 160 in the audience. I was delighted to receive a silver Massachusetts charm to add to the bracelet given to me by the Vermont DAR. Attending from Hillside School were Richard Meyer, Director of Alumni Affairs and DAR Liaison, and two 9th grade students.
The business session concluded Saturday morning with more reports and an opportunity for the members to ask me questions. The Awards Luncheon featured a very moving presentation of the Community Service Award to Paul Monti who lost his son, Jared, in Afghanistan in 2006. Jared received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic attempt to rescue a wounded soldier. When Mr. Monti went to the national cemetery to place a flag on Jared’s grave the following Veteran’s Day, he was told cemetery policy prohibited flags on graves because of the difficulty presented in maintaining the graves. The father tenaciously spent over four years fighting to have the policy changed so that every veteran would have a flag on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day. After a great deal of pressure, the cemetery agreed that flags could be purchased, placed and removed from the graves – all by volunteers, so the father has started a non-profit corporation to purchase over 56,000 flags, Operation Flags for Vets. With tears in our eyes, the audience applauded Mr. Monti for his efforts to ensure flags marked the grave of every veteran in that cemetery.
Massachusetts Daughters certainly are sharing their passion for patriotism!