Celebrating Constitution Week at Valley Forge

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
October 29, 2015

Early on September 12, I traveled from Kansas City, MO to Philadelphia, PA where my Page, Liz Ciarrochi, and her husband drove me to Valley Forge to attend special events with the Pennsylvania Society.  The first was the second annual Constitution Ball hosted by the Pennsylvania DAR, Bobbi McMullen, State Regent and the SAR, Joe McMullen, State President. It is certainly unique for both the DAR State Regent and SAR State President to be married!

Special guests included Judge Tom Lawrence, SAR President General, Billie Spence, C.A.R. Senior National President, Erin Jackson, C.A.R. National President and Nancy Popielarski, Senior State President, Pennsylvania C.A.R., all of whom brought greetings.

Lt. Col. Robert Fritsch, USN, and Honorary National President of C.A.R. served as Emcee for the evening. Eleven lovely young women from six states who were joining DAR were presented by their fathers and escorted by a C.A.R. member.  After the presentation of the Debutantes, a delicious dinner was served, followed by an evening of dancing to a marvelous band. Regrettably, the heel broke off my evening shoe, making dancing awkward, to say the least…

On Sunday morning we drove a short distance to the Valley Forge Memorial Chapel for a wreath laying ceremony to Colonial Mothers, sponsored by the John Morton Society C.A.R. of Pennsylvania.  Liz Ciarocchi serves as the Senior Society President of the John Morton Society and her three young daughters participated in the ceremony along with other C.A.R. State and National Officers.

A worship service was held in the Washington Memorial Chapel which was built in 1903 as a tribute to George Washington and the American Patriots of the Revolution.  The large stained glass window over the door is the George Washington Window with 36 scenes from his life, a gift of the PA Society, DAR. The chapel is absolutely beautiful, reminding me of some of the ancient churches we visited in Scotland last year.  In unison we recited George Washington’s Prayer for our Nation and closed with “God of Our Fathers.” http://wmchapel.org/

Following lunch, we had an opportunity to have a guided tour of the Chapel and visit the National Patriots Bell Tower which was built by the DAR.  The tower was completed in 1950 and houses a carillon of 58 bells, the national birthday bell, and bells for each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and our territories. Dedications and memorial plaques honoring America's military cover the interior of the tower.  The bells are played high in the tower by a Carilloneur, Doug Cefvert, using both feet and clenched fists.

As we celebrated Constitution Week and our freedoms, we commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Justice Bell.  In 1915, Pennsylvania held a statewide referendum on women’s suffrage.  To gain support for the amendment, Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger had a replica of the Liberty Bell cast with the words “Establish Justice” added to the bell.  The Bell traveled to every county in Pennsylvania, drawing crowds to hear the women suffragists and to see the bell.  However, they could not hear the bell, as the clapper was chained until the women had the right to vote.  Although the referendum failed, the Justice Bell rang for the first time in September  1920 at Independence Hall when the 19th Amendment was ratified.  www.JusticeBell.org

Speakers included Rev. Roy Almquist, Priest-in-Charge, Washington Memorial Chapel, Bobbi McMullen, Gardiner Pearson, President, Washington Memorial Heritage, a representative from the Chester County Historical Society, Susan Carty, Pennsylvania President of the League of Women Voters, Mrs. Alexandra Tatnall, Great Niece of Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger, and Marion Roydhouse, Ph.D.  I enjoyed sharing a brief history of many of the early Suffragettes who were also DAR members. 

Bobbi graciously invited Mrs. Ruschenberger’s great-niece, Mrs. Alexandra Tatnall, to join in ringing the bell one more time before it was re-chained. Bobbi then locked the chain which will be unlocked on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 2020.  We were treated to a Carillon Concert by Doug Cefvert, Chapel Carillonneur.

Kathleen Zinskie, State Chair, DAR Service for Veterans, presented me an afghan which was hand made by Blankets for Vets, a group of volunteers in Blakely who meet bi-monthly to knit and crochet blankets, offering comfort and warmth for the veterans when they need it most.  Since 2009, the ladies have made over 800 blankets. They are now creating 60 blankets for the Pennsylvania DAR to give to female patients in veterans’ homes.

Kathleen generously created a counted cross stitch silhouette on linen of my Patriot, Burwell Green of Virginia.  I continue to be amazed by our members and their generosity in sharing their many talents.  I enjoyed greeting old friends and meeting many Pennsylvania Daughters and guests from other states.  After an inspiring weekend, it was delightful to visit with Curator General Jennie Rehnberg as we drove to Washington, D.C. for several days of meetings.

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