Celebrating Our 125th Anniversary at Sea

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
November 12, 2015

My dream for NSDAR’S 125th anniversary was that every member in every chapter would feel a part of the celebration.  I do hope for each of you it was a time to reflect on the amazing legacy we share as DAR members and that you feel a deeper commitment to the important work of the Society.  It has been wonderful hearing how chapters across the nation and world celebrated this milestone event.  I continue to be inspired by your creativity and your commitment to community service.

Almost 200 DAR members and guests enjoyed a weeklong celebration sailing the waters across which many of our immigrant ancestors traveled hundreds of years ago on the Celebrating America! Cruise. DAR Tours National Chair Joy Cardinal and Vice Chair Virginia Lingelbach did a fabulous job organizing this large event with the help of our cruise company, Landry and Kling!

Immediately after the abbreviated National Board of Management meeting on October 10th, more than 80 passengers picked up box lunches and departed on two buses for the Port of Brooklyn, New York.  We boarded the Regal Princess, met the others in our group, and settled into our staterooms before the mandatory emergency drill.  We enjoyed seeing the New York City skyline and the Statue of Liberty as we departed New York at 5:00 PM.

 After exploring the luxurious ship, we opened the blue and white striped Celebrate 125! tote bags which included a lovely program of events, Celebrate 125! cap for the men, a blue pashmina and a pin for the women, pedometers and suggested community service activities. Each participant was invited to pledge whatever amount they wished for each step they walked during the week for the Save Ellis Island Foundation.  Additionally, Celebrate America! National Chair LeAnn Turbyfill and Vice Chair Annie John, had prepared cards on which we could write thank you notes to veterans and notes of encouragement to women recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  We were also given Random Acts of Kindness cards to share with other passengers. 

At sea all day on Sunday, October 11, our special anniversary day began with a Remembrance Service conducted by our Chaplain General, Ann Crider at 7:30 AM.  Past Recording Secretary General Ellen Powley and Annie John provided musical accompaniment as Organizing Secretary General Denise VanBuren led us in singing “God Bless America” and “Morning Has Broken.” Several of the executives briefly shared the stories of their immigrant ancestors as they traveled to the new land.  Honorary President General and Celebrate 125! Chair Presley Merritt Wagoner shared a tribute to the National Society reflecting on our amazing history and our contributions to historic preservation, education and patriotism.  She concluded with “Inspired by the past, we must be energized to be the shining example of what is good about our country.  As the prophet Micah writes:  'He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?'"

Historian General Bana Caskey led the group to the deck just as the sun was rising on a beautiful morning and invited all to toss rose petals into the ocean in memory of our immigrant ancestors. Many of the passengers in staterooms above the deck joined us as we spontaneously sang “God Bless America.”

Several members hosted a hospitality desk in the main piazza every day at which our members of our group could obtain information.  Other passengers stopped to inquire about joining DAR. A large Genealogy Seminar, “Ancestors Behind Brick Walls – Breaking Them Free from Genealogical Prisons,” organized by Registrar General Sharon Withers, was held in the theatre and open to the more than 3500 passengers on the ship.  A panel of experts including Vice President General Mary Frisch, Lineage Research National Chair Jolene Mullen, Florida State Registrar Cindy Weatherby, Lineage Research Vice Chair Debbie Duay and New Orleans Chapter Vice Regent Kay Alpaugh shared suggestions on ways to break down those frustrating brick walls.

Sunday afternoon, Sharon conducted a second seminar “Digging Up Grandpa without a Shovel; Using DNA in Genealogy” which was also very popular with the passengers.  In fact, as I was on the elevator returning to my room, a gentleman told me that I should try to get the woman who conducted the seminar to join the DAR!

That evening, a cocktail reception was held for our group in which Presley M. Wagoner led us in a toast to NSDAR’s anniversary.  We raised the stemless champagne glasses with “Celebrate 125!,” the  favors which Isabel Clark had generously donated. As our day of celebration concluded after dinner, we enjoyed a special 125th cake prepared by the Chef. It was a marvelous day of celebration!

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