I flew from Houston to Des Moines on Thursday, May 5 to visit Iowa for the first time. I was greeted by Judy McNamara who drove me to Ames, about an hour north for the 117th Iowa State Conference. Ames is the home of Iowa State University and it was a busy place as the University was holding graduation that weekend.
State Regent Sharon Braden selected a theme of “Promoting Education to Encourage Lifelong Learning” and her project is to provide needed materials for the Marie Yochim Classroom at the Kate Duncan Smith DAR School. Honorary President General Marie Yochim was a generous supporter of KDS and a dear friend of Honorary Vice President General Yvonne Boone, an Iowa Daughter.
The first event was the Iowa State Officer's Club Dinner where it was a pleasure to greet many Iowa Daughters. Past Vice President General and Club President DiAnne Lerud-Chubb and I served as State Regents together and the gift to the President General’s Project from the State Officers Club is appreciated. Sara Jane Harwood, Past Curator General and Honorary State Regent, presented an informative history of the Iowa Room at NSDAR which depicts a parlor in 1800. I had no idea Venetian blinds were popular so long ago. Prior to being converted to a period room, it was used as the office of the Registrar General until 1906.
The Iowa Society has 2100 members in 47 chapters and at least 200 attended State Conference. The first business session began Friday morning with greetings from the Mayor of Ames, the Honorable Ann Campbell, who received the DAR Good Citizen Award in high school. Barbara Grassley, the wife of the senior Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley, and a DAR member, brought greetings then presented me with a unique Isabel Bloom eagle. Enclosed with the eagle was the quotation “Until you spread your wings, you'll have no idea how far you can fly.” Barbara also presented a set of Rada Cutlery, also made in Iowa. She strongly cautioned me against placing the knives in the dishwasher and I vowed to care for them properly. She gave Conference Guests Kathy Ocasio, State Regent of Nebraska and Ginnie Storage, State Regent of Virginia, and me Isabel Bloom sculptures of the American goldfinch, the Iowa state bird.
The reports of the State Officers included a number of successes as well as a net gain in membership and the creation of a Real Daughter database. It was intriguing to learn that Nancy Grindle had created a database of Iowa Heirlooms on their members’ website in which members are invited to share photographs and history of some of the family treasures. First time attendees were easily recognizable with corsages of white roses and 50+year members wore red rose corsages.
At the Luncheon, Missy Franks, Senior State President, C.A.R. and my Page, brought greetings and presented Ellie Davis, representing State President, Ben Pezley. Missy’s husband, Sergeant First Class John Franks, brought their two sons, David and Robbie Franks, to the luncheon. We learned that John was being deployed in two days and would be gone for over a year. Our prayers are with all of the men and women proudly serving our country.
The guest speaker for the luncheon was Jason Clayworth, an investigative reporter for the Des Moines Register, who received the Media Award from the Jean Marie Cardinell Chapter for the documentary “Lost Schools”. He explained that in the early years Iowa law required that enough schools be built so that students had to walk no further than two miles. In fact, many in the audience had attended one room schools. As transportation improved, the population of rural communities declined and urban areas grew, so many of the schools were abandoned. Several of the members shared their experiences in a one-room schoolhouse. After his remarks, State Registrar Pamela Marvin asked “Who do you think you are?” and surprised him with genealogy of 10 Patriots! http://data.desmoinesregister.com/lost-schools/
The Business Session resumed with reports of the District Directors who then introduced each chapter regent who presented brief reports of their activities. Six chapters achieved a net gain of more than 10%. Two chapters had received Special Project Grants for their extraordinary efforts to preserve abandoned rural schools. Nola Gottshalk, National Vice Chair, Historic Preservation Committee, announced the DeShon Chapter in Boone had earned the first place award for Historic Preservation for the preservation of Cole School, one of the Special Project Grant recipients. The Cole School is one of the few remaining brick one-room schoolhouses in Iowa. Constructed of three layers of local brick, classes were held classes 1888-1933. http://amestrib.com/news/dedication-saturday-renovated-one-room-schoolhouse
Remarkably, each chapter in Iowa had achieved 100% participation status for their support of the President General’s Project and it was an honor to present certificates to the Chapter Regents. Nominations were given for State Officers for 2016-2018 and the meeting recessed early which allowed time to explore the exhibits and silent auction. I was quite pleased to win one of the beautiful 75th Anniversary Plates.
At the Banquet that evening I spoke on the Guardian Trust Campaign, sharing the history of our buildings, the remarkable women who built them despite many obstacles and the need to create an endowment fund to provide for major preservation and restoration in the future. The Chorus performed special selections including one on the State Fair. Awards were presented to the DAR Good Citizens and Scholarship Recipient. The Outstanding Teacher of American History, John Lee, gave remarkable comments starting with “Because of my ancestors” and donated to the Guardian Trust Campaign in honor of his mother, Joan Lee. How generous!
At the Heritage Club Breakfast Saturday morning, I had an opportunity to answer questions about the Guardian Trust Fund and Continental Congress. Regrettably, I had to rush back to Des Moines for a flight to D.C. As Bev Neuroth drove Sandra Pollack, Director of Development and Rachel Lettsetts, Planned Giving Specialist, and me to the airport, she pointed out the rich farmland for which Iowa is well known. It was the first visit for each of us and we left with an even greater admiration for the people of Iowa.