Departing the Illinois Conference early on Saturday morning, April 16, I had a wonderful opportunity to view the farmland of Illinois as I drove 3 hours to St. Louis for the 117th State Conference, Morgan Meyr Lake, State Regent. After dropping off the rental car, Dr. Joseph Bradley, son of Honorary State Regent and Past Vice President General Karen Bradley, delivered me to the St. Charles Convention Center. Karen, her sister, Cheri Earnest and my page, Laura Bissen, warmly greeted me at the hotel.
Morgan’s theme is “Cherish every memory – Love every moment – Celebrate America!” and cherries were abundant. Morgan’s motto is “How sweet it is to be a Missouri DAR!” and all 700 members and guests registered for state conference agreed! The Missouri Society has 5600 members in 104 chapters. It was impressive to hear the Society has retained 94% of their members in 2015 (an increase of 1.5% over 2014).
Morgan has completed several successful projects as state regent. The kitchen was fully renovated at the state headquarters, Roslyn Heights, an elegant Queen Anne style mansion located in Boonville. Roslyn Heights was built in 1895, purchased by the Missouri State Society in 1983, and is listed on the National Historic Register.
The second project, Wheeling for Healing, raised $45,000 for wounded warriors. In October, 2015, the Missouri DAR, at the suggestion of Susan King Rew of Blue Springs Chapter, joined with the Missouri Park & Recreation to sponsor a state-wide fund raising event for the Wounded Warriors. Chapters throughout the state solicited 320 bikers, collected donations and provided refreshments along the 263 mile route. You can read more about it in the March-April 2016 issue of the American Spirit. In addition, the Missouri Daughters raised $9500 for Veteran Administration hospitals.
The Missouri Daughters also maintain one of the twelve Madonna of the Trail markers which were placed across the U.S. in the early 1900’s marking the National Old Trails Road from Maryland to California in honor of our pioneer mothers. The Madonna monument in Missouri is located in Lexington. Mrs. John Trigg Moss, National Chair of the National Old Trails Road Committee, traveled across America by automobile to identify sites for the monuments with a young judge from Missouri who would later become President Harry S. Truman.
Committed to historic preservation, the State Society also owns Cold Water Cemetery in Florissant, Missouri where special events are held every Memorial Day. Cold Water is the oldest Protestant cemetery west of the Mississippi River still in use and was originally settled by Patriot John Patterson, an American Revolutionary War soldier, who is buried there.
On the day prior to my arrival, the National Defense luncheon welcomed home 48 Vietnam veterans. It was impressive to learn that every chapter in Missouri is a commemorative partner with the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War commemoration.
Never one to miss a meal, my first event was the Honors and Awards Luncheon. The delightful centerpieces were hand painted birdhouses built by inmates as part of their restorative justice program. Morgan’s was decorated with cherries and mine had the 125th emblem. The award recipients were impressive. I can only imagine how difficult it was for the judges to narrow down the 47 entries for the DAR Good Citizen Award. Anne Sizemore reported that more than 1,200 participated in the American History Essay Contest. Vice President General and Honorary State Regent Donna Nash presented a music scholarship established during her administration to Abigail E. Gast. When this beautiful young woman sang “America, the Beautiful” to close the luncheon, we all had goosebumps. Other honorees included the Missouri Teacher of the Year Award who was selected by the Missouri Department of Education and the Outstanding Teacher of American History.
With a few minutes to visit the exhibit tables, I did a double take to see the Guardian Trust Campaign table manned by Jane Evans and Sally Bueno. They had a replica of our headquarters held together with duct tape – an eye catching way to emphasize the need for an endowment fund to care for our buildings. They were also presenting hard hats to those making larger gifts.
Morgan invited me to bring greetings during the Business Session and then presented a generous check to the President General’s Project. One entertaining report was the Missouri Madonna of the Trail Monument Committee, in which LaVeda Cross was attired as a pioneer woman carrying a string of fish (thankfully not real) on a fishing pole which she presented to Morgan.
A large group of donors attended the Heritage Club Tea and I had the opportunity to share more information than time permitted in the speech scheduled that evening. We are truly grateful for gifts to the National Society and it is a privilege to express our appreciation.
Following my keynote speech at the Banquet Saturday evening on the Guardian Trust Campaign, Morgan presented a Missouri charm and a generous donation of $5,000 from her State Regent’s Project. She then surprised me by presenting a bust of Marie Watkins Oliver, the DAR member who designed the Missouri flag. Known as the Betsy Ross of Missouri, her design was officially adopted in 1913. The original silk flag which she sewed was conserved on its 75th birthday with funds raised by elementary school children.
We were entertained by the Lewis & Clark Fife and Drum Corps, a youth corps that depicts field musicians and color guard from the 1st U.S. Infantry between the years of 1804–1810. The Corps promotes greater understanding of the historical significance of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which spent several days in the St. Charles area as they began their mission to find a route to the Pacific coast at the urging of Thomas Jefferson.
The DAR Medal of Honor was presented to Lynne M. Jackson, great-granddaughter of Dred and Harriet Scott and President/Founder of the Dred Scott Heritage Foundation. The Foundation’s goal is to promote the commemoration, education and reconciliation of our histories with an eye towards helping to heal the wounds of the past. This lovely woman talked about the need for reconciliation and gave me a copy of a book on her family. http://www.thedredscottfoundation.org/dshf/
Morgan presented the Women in the Arts Award to Sabra Tull Meyer, Sculptor and DAR member. Featured in the archives of the Women in the Arts Museum in Washington, D.C., she sculpted the Lewis and Clark Monument as well as many other works of art.
The Banquet concluded as we recited the Preamble to the Constitution in unison. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of preserving the freedoms we cherish.
Late night entertainment was provided by the Over the Hill Gang which featured an irreverent talent show. It was highly amusing and a great way to end the day.
Sunday morning began with the Memorial Service conducted by Fran Black, State Chaplain. The final Business meeting followed in which Susan Rew presented me with one of the Wheeling for Healing jerseys. One of the other conference guests commented that she was grateful it wasn't a pair of bike shorts… The new State Officers were installed and all enjoyed the Farewell Luncheon before departing for home. It was indeed sweet to be with the Missouri DAR!