Visiting Big Sky Country

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
May 22, 2015

On Wednesday, April 29, 2015, I flew from Houston through Salt Lake City to my destination of Butte, Montana, where I was warmly greeted by Past Vice President General Ivy Huntsman and Honorary State Regent JoAnn Piazzola. After enjoying a salad topped with huckleberries for lunch, JoAnn provided a driving tour of Butte, Montana’s fifth largest city.  The town is a major copper mining center and was one of the largest and most notorious mining boomtowns in the American West. During its heyday, Butte became home to immigrants from the world over and it is still an ethnically diverse city. JoAnn pointed out the gallus frames which mark the remnants of mines and we visited a memorial where a devastating fire killed 168 miners in 1917. The gallus frames were used to lower miners and mules to their work, and bring up load after load of ore. The town of Butte boasts one of the largest historic landmark districts in the country, with nearly 6,000 Victorian buildings in the National Historic Landmark District.  They are to be commended for so carefully preserving this history.

The theme of Montana State Regent Cathy Lane is “Honoring the Past, Celebrating Today, Shaping the Future.”  Cathy’s project is to place a marker at the restored Fort Benton Block House, the oldest standing building in Montana. Montana DAR began in 1894 and the 112th State Conference was hosted by Silver Bow Chapter, the first chapter organized in Montana.  The State Society now has over 530 members in 12 chapters.  Despite the vast distance to travel, more than 10% of the members attended the conference.

The conference was held at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, which features multiple swimming pools, all heated by hot springs.  Mountains were visible on all sides and I regretted that time did not permit an opportunity to linger.

The first event was the State Officers Club dinner on Wednesday evening where the current officers and Honorary State Regents had a chance to visit.  After formal photographs were taken in the lobby that evening, we were highly entertained by the Tiernan Irish Dancers.  Their feet were moving so fast that all my photos were blurred.

The Youth Awards Breakfast was held Thursday morning in which the winners of the American History and Christopher Columbus Awards read their essays.

The Business Session began after the breakfast with reports of the Officers and Chapter Regents.  The State Committee reports were filed, but each committee was invited to have a display for their committee.  I was honored to present 100% participation certificates to the nine chapters which generously supported the President General’s Project.  Chapters reported almost 21,000 Celebrate America! hours last year with the encouragement of DARLA, an  eagle mascot, serving to remind  members to enter their community service hours. 

Following the Memorial Service, Diane Carlson Evans, R.N., Captain U.S. Army Nurse Corps, Founder & President of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation, gave a moving and enlightening talk on the challenges she faced as she persevered for 10 years to have a monument to the women erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.in honor of the women who served in Vietnam.  She shared that the blood of heroes ran through her fingers in Vietnam and that building the memorial was a matter of honor.  I was so touched when she presented me with a replica of the monument and the entire audience applauded enthusiastically when I announced she would be receiving the DAR Medal of Honor at Congress! www.vietnamwomensmemorial.org

The highlight of the afternoon session included two service projects including folding 300 pocket flags which will be given to deploying troops.  www.Pocketflagproject.com Several other ladies clipped coupons from the newspapers which will be sent to military families.  Members were encouraged to visit the display tables and to bid on the baskets offered at the silent auction.

The President General’s tea followed and it was a delightful opportunity to express appreciation to the donors and sharing some of the exciting plans at Headquarters.

At the banquet that evening, the Outstanding American History Teacher was presented.  They were delighted to hear of our recent announcement of an agreement with Ancestry K12 to offer genealogical and educational resources to students throughout the country.

State Chaplain Leigh Spencer had found a letter written in 1924 from Eleanor Roberts Batzell, National Number 675, daughter of Col. Thomas P. Roberts, regarding his experience as one of the first surveyors of Montana. Col. Roberts is mentioned in the The Trails of Lewis and Clark, published in 1904. Leigh presented the original letter to the State Regent, who then presented it to the Director of the Montana State University Archives.  Leigh was kind enough to present a copy of the Mrs. Batzell’s letter and application papers to me, along with a copy of the Lewis and Clark book, already bookmarked with the applicable pages. It was impressive to learn that the Montana DAR had placed a historical marker at Three Forks, the headwaters of the Missouri River, in honor of Sacajawea 100 years ago. 

That evening I had the opportunity to speak at the Formal Banquet and to share many of the activities and projects currently at National.  As we reflect on our 125 year history, our thoughts inevitably turn to the future and it is fun to challenge the members to think about Tomorrow’s DAR and the legacy we are leaving. 

Regrettably, my first visit to Montana ended very early the next morning as I departed for the Washington State Conference.

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