Women's club members bid farewell

At the 1976 Fashion Show, Women's Community Club members Mrs. Earl Harrington, Mrs. James Lundberg, Mrs Richard Bolles, Nancy Fenn, Mrs. Thomas Roman, Mrs. Charles MacGowan, and Mrs. John Howe don wedding gowns from the 1800s to the 1960s.
By Sarah M. Corigliano, Assistant Managing Editor

EAST LONGMEADOW After 89 years of serving the community in whatever way they could, the members of the Women's Community Club (WCC) of East Longmeadow have decided to disband.

Established in 1917, the Club began when 17 East Longmeadow women wanted to do their part to support the First World War effort, rolling bandages for the Red Cross and compiling "comfort kits" for local soldiers who were called to duty. The kits included a face cloth, tooth brush, soap, socks, cigarettes and a sweater. They also sold Liberty Bonds and Thrift Stamps.

Former club president Diana Peterson last week shared with The Reminder stories about the WCC and its myriad activities throughout the decades.

"When it first started, [the club] was more of a social activity for women who stayed at home to raise their families and who wanted an outlet," Peterson explained.

The Club was organized by Mrs. Cornelius Hurlburt with 28 charter members. The first president of the club was Adelaide Denslow. At one time, there were about 200 members.

In the last 10 years or so, she said membership has wained, and she attributed that to more women working outside of the home and having less time to devote to clubs or other activities.

In addition, the existing membership has aged. Peterson said many members have moved on to fulfill their retirement plans. Others can't do as much as they used to.

"It just breaks my heart to see it close up," she said. She was a member for 42 years.

Longtime East Longmeadow residents will remember the WCC Flea Markets; its longtime annual scholarships which are awarded to East Longmeadow High School students who are involved in community service; home and garden tours; its political achievement in the early 1940s, convincing the town selectmen to begin the first trash collections in town followed by the club's beautification efforts at the dump; and its more recent Homegrown Festivals, which showcased local students and artists and raised thousands of dollars for civic projects and the club's annual scholarships.

Peterson shared photos from the club's activities throughout the years: fashion shows, award-winning Fourth of July Parade floats, the bicentennial quilt, and more. All of their fund-raising activities were organized only to raise money for community betterment. And the ways they helped the community varied with the needs of the times.

Peterson explained that, during the Great Depression the WCC members made Friendship Baskets for those who were lonely or in need. Over the course of a year, the club would also "adopt a family," providing food, clothing, birthday and holiday gifts for a family in need.

When the town was in need of street signs, the club gave money. They supported the Council on Aging's predecessor, The Golden Age Club, and began transportation services for town seniors.

The First World War Honor Roll on the grounds of Town Hall was donated by the WCC.

In the 1940s, the club initiated recreational activities for girls. Previously, only boys had the opportunity. At times, they reached out beyond town limits to help other organizations who served the greater community.

Their projects and events are too many for a complete list. Their goal was to improve the community, but also to involve the community it their activities. Peterson said members' families were always a big part of their projects, aiding in construction, sewing, fund-raising, recruiting, and more.

She explained that the club's motto was simple, "To promote fellowship in its members and to encourage and aid civic betterment."

Before officially closing the club this spring, members met for the last time at the newly-refurbished Norcross Center, where two of the club's former members Kathryn Jarvis Norcross and Diana Ambush Feffer once resided.

Peterson said many women traveled great distances to be there for the final goodbye.

During the meeting, longtime member Joy Roman reflected on the inter-generational relationships that thrived within the membership.

"It was the blending of the ages of the ladies in the club that was so special," she said. "The younger members learned so much from the older members of our club, gleaning their knowledge and their experiences from the projects they did."

The blending of generations also included mother-daughter pairs, such as Amy Colbath/Joy Roman, Julie Barchielle/Linda Agerty, Esther Rosati/Sandie Potter, and Marion Carlson/Diana Peterson.

"Of the 21 members meeting for the last time, the person who has been in the club the longest is Esther Rosati, who has been a member for 55 years," Peterson added. "She has seen the wonderful contributions the Women's Club has made over the years and its continued efforts to make East Longmeadow a wonderful place in which to live."

Upon closing, the Women's Community Club of East Longmeadow donated their silver coffee and tea service and the china used for their social functions, their hand-made Bicentennial Celebration dresses, and $500 for the restoration of the carriage house to the Norcross Center. Another gift of $150 to the Center will be used as a memorial to Pearle Lane, former Club president.

Several Club photo albums also were donated to the Norcross Center. Friends of the Norcross Center Vice President Merle Safford said the books will be part of the history library there, which the public will be able to access by appointment.

The remaining funds were given to four East Longmeadow High School students as previously announced in this newspaper.

Any former club members who would like to share or donate photographs or other memorabilia of the Women's Community Club may contact Peterson at 525-3408.

Reminder Publications, Inc. 280 North Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028 • Tel: 413.525.6661 • Fax 413.525.5882

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