Visiting the Sooner State

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
October 2, 2015

On Wednesday, August 19, 2015, I flew from Houston to Tulsa for the Oklahoma State Workshop.  Past Vice President General and National Chair Volunteer Genealogists Diane Hamill, and Vice President General Pat McFall picked me up at the airport and welcomed me to Oklahoma.

My parents met and married in Ardmore during World War II and I have fond memories of visiting cousins there.  The State’s name is from the Choctaw Indian words "okla" meaning people and "humma" meaning red.  The nickname “Sooner State” refers to the thousands of people lined up to claim land when the Territory was opened.  When the signal was given, they raced into the territory to claim their land. The ones who went in early to claim their land became known as “Sooners.”  The state chorus is called the Sooner Crooners.

With over 3,000 members in 44 chapters, State Regent Orriene First Denslow’s theme is “Keys to DAR” and her emblem is a key.  Orriene has continued the Veterans First Fund Foundation as her project.  Begun by Honorary State Regent Pat McFall, interest on the fund is used for non-medical needs of veterans and at the two VA Hospitals in Oklahoma.

Orriene greeted us at the Tulsa Historical Society for the Boots and Barbeque dinner for the opening of the “DAR in Oklahoma” exhibit in celebration of our 125th anniversary.  Six large panels featuring featured Founding Daughters, Marriage of the Twin Territories, DAR Membership, Oklahoma Women Who made a Difference, Celebrate America! and Oklahoma Chapters provided wonderful histories of the Society.  These panels will not only educate visitors about DAR but will also be available for chapters to borrow for meetings or special events.  Additionally, each chapter contributed items and photographs which are on display.  

In honor of my home state, guests were invited to dress in western attire and the centerpieces were boots.  If there had been a contest for the most authentic costume, Catherine Carter would have won with her hat, gun belt and boots.   She and her husband, a former Marine, are part of the U.S. Marshal Posse which originated as part of the U. S. Marshal Service in 1789.  The Posses are a volunteer group in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma which speaks to students and civic groups.  When needed, however, they serve as backup to the other U.S. Marshals. Catherine assured me her gun and bullets were real and she knew how to use them.

We enjoyed a delicious barbeque dinner catered by member Nancy Sevenoaks, an Oklahoma Daughter. During dinner, musical entertainment was provided by World War II veteran and former USO entertainer, Joseph Wilkerson.  Mr. Wilkerson is a volunteer with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and Orriene presented him with a certificate of appreciation for his work to preserve jazz.

State Historian Barbara McClanaham gave an entertaining history of the DAR in Oklahoma.  Originally, the area was divided into two territories, Oklahoma Territory (eastern portion) and Indian Territory (western portion).  Each territory had a one chapter and a state regent.  When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the only delegate to Continental Congress was asked to select the woman who would become Oklahoma State Regent.

Michelle Place, Executive Director of the Tulsa Historical Society and a DAR member, managed to provide an informative history of Tulsa in under seven minutes. The Indian Territory was created as part of the relocation of the Five Civilized Tribes during the Indian Removal Act of 1830.   A few decades later, Tulsa boomed during the oil discovery in the early 1900’s as it became known as “America’s Most Generous City.”  As the evening concluded each guest received a replica of a historic Oklahoma map and Orriene presented me with a lovely arrangement of yellow roses. 

Thursday morning State Regents Brenda Dooley of Kansas and Lynda Morrison-Radar of Nevada and I were treated to a tour of Tulsa with our knowledgeable guide, Michelle Place.  Our first stop was the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church designed by Dr. Adah M.Robinson in a unique art deco style.  This beautiful house of worship was opened in 1929 and features a round sanctuary and praying hands atop the columns. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Our next stop was to the Gilcrease Museum, the largest collection of American art and artifacts of the American West. It was absolutely stunning.  Duane H. King, Ph.D., Executive Director of Helmerich Center for American Research, welcomed us to the Helmerich Center and gave a tour of their new facility and the priceless artifacts within.  The center contains 100,000 rare books, documents, maps, and unpublished works. The collection includes a vast archive of printed documents, dating back to the time of Columbus, that detail Spanish arrival in the New World, as well as documents that tell the stories of the New England colonies, Westward expansion and the experiences of America's native peoples.

Later that afternoon, it was a pleasure to welcome donors to the National Society to the President General’s Tea. In addition to photographs with each guest, I had the opportunity to share information about the activities of the National Society and to answer questions.

At the banquet that evening, the colors were presented by the Thunderbird Academy Honor Guard cadets.  The Academy is a nationally recognized program for Oklahoma High School Dropouts offered through the National Guard and the Oklahoma Military Department.

Tammy Hinton, the National winner of the Women’s Issues Essay Contest, read her essay on family. Entertainment for the dinner was provided by a combo from the National Guard who played selections from the 1890s when NSDAR was organized.

My address that evening was on the history of DAR, the vision of our Founders, and our headquarters.  I also shared the urgency of establishing the Guardian Trust Campaign to provide for future preservation and restoration of our historic buildings and the need to continue to ev0lve as a society, while staying true to our objectives.

Throughout the meetings, forums were held including DAR 101, Growing our Chapter Gardens, Help is on the Way, Rx for a Healthy DAR Garden Chapter and How to Create a Report.  The Oklahoma Chapter Development and Revitalization Committee has had outstanding success in reducing the number of prospective members on the database to an average of 1.5 per chapter while increasing the number of approved applications.  Seventeen Volunteer Genies are assigned to 19 chapters to assist with application papers and the growth in new members is evidence they are successful. Diane Hamill reminded chapters of the pitfalls of the Lone Ranger Registrar who says “I can do it all by myself.” 

Committee reports were presented and it was impressive to learn 30 chapters are on track for a net gain in membership in 2015.   The Chimney Hill Chapter shared their success in adopting two veterans without families at the local hospital, visiting them regularly and spending birthdays and holidays with them.  With support from the Disabled American Veterans, they are now sponsoring eight veterans. Speaking of veterans, we were all amused when one chapter reported on their creative public relations success by advertising for veterans’ events in bars…

After the presentation of the colors by the Tulsa SAR Chapter color guard, Muskogee DAR member and retired mezzo-soprano Barbara McAlister, a member of the Cherokee tribe, sang both the National Anthem and the Lord’s Prayer.  Instead of the traditional Chaplain’s prayer, Tulsa DAR member, Gloria Fortney, a Delaware Indian, signed the Lord’s Prayer while Barbara sang it.

Lt. Joshua Starks relayed the story of SPC. Aaron Estes (Ret.), who was severely injured by an IED while under Lt. Starks’ command in Afghanistan. SPC. Estes spent 24 months in VA hospitals recovering and recently received a home from Helping a Hero.  Quilts of Valor were made by Sarah Wheatley and presented to both Lt. Starks and SPC. Estes with hugs.  The mission of the Quilts of Valor Foundation is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor.

Major Ed Pulido (Ret.), Senior Vice President, Folds of Honor Foundation and Founder, Warriors for Freedom Foundation, expressed his gratitude to Oklahoma DAR for their support of the 3rd Annual Red, White and Blue Golf Invitational to be held later this month.  Proceeds will benefit the Oklahoma Veterans First Foundation, Warriors for Freedom, and Folds of Honor.

Orriene invited me to give a brief history of DAR’s support of our military and our veterans. Orriene has continued the Veterans First Fund Foundation begun by Honorary State Regent Pat McFall in which interest on the fund is used for non-medical needs of veterans at the two VA Hospitals in Oklahoma. I appreciated the opportunity to mention my visit last fall to Landstuhl in Germany and how your gifts to DAR Project Patriot assist the troops as they recover from injuries.

Like many of our State Societies, Oklahoma DAR has a strong history of supporting our military. When Pat McFall was State Regent, her grandson, Caleb, was deployed overseas.  A teddy bear named Caleb was auctioned off to raise funds for the Veterans First Fund.  The previous winner of Caleb Bear generously donated him back to OKDAR and we had the opportunity to view a short video of his travels. After some lively bidding resulting in $1300 for the Veterans First Fund, Caleb was retired and went home with a new family.

For those who were unsuccessful in bidding on Caleb Bear, Diane Hamill suggested they make an initial contribution to the Guardian Trust Campaign.  Diane used the analogy that if each of our members donated $1 per week for 3 years, we would exceed the campaign goal of $25,000,000.  Using a borrowed cowboy hat and my boots, the generous Oklahoma Daughters raised over $10,000 in cash and pledges!  Honestly, it was the first time in my life I was grateful to have big feet so there was plenty of room in the boots!

At the Chapter Regents Club Breakfast on Saturday, the 2015 Outstanding Volunteer Genealogist and Oklahoma Outstanding Regent, Sarah McGuire, shared her experience using the Regent in a Box organization system which was detailed in my blog in 2014.

It was a wonderful few days visiting the Oklahoma Daughters and I said goodbye on Saturday knowing that Oklahoma DAR is OK!

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