By Debbie Adams
The Roanoke Valley Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, which meets in Vinton, celebrated its 60th anniversary on Saturday, November 6. That’s the date the chapter was organized back in 1961 in Vinton with Irma Trammell Moseley as the first regent. The chapter was sponsored by the Col. William Preston Chapter of Roanoke and became the sixth DAR chapter in the area.
There were 17 charter members – Winifred Breeden, Caroline Etzler, Mary Goble, Hessie Goode, Bessie Harris, Marguerite Horn, Mrs. Neal Horton, Mae Maxey, Maggie Maxey, Carrie McDonald, Susie Muddiman, Martha Ogburn, Eva Scott, Florence White, Julia York, and Julia Wimmer, in addition to Moseley. (Goode, Harris, Maxey, and Muddiman were sisters. Wimmer was Moseley’s daughter.”
“The chapter instituted the first Saturday meetings in the area, in order to accommodate working women’s schedules,” said current regent Cindy Higgins in presenting a history of the Roanoke Valley Chapter. “In the early years, the chapter met in various living rooms, but has called St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church home for the last few decades.”
Regents since 1961 have included charter members Moseley, Goble, Horton, York, White, and Wimmer, and Suzanne Lipes, Mary Bush, Pauline Holloway, Elizabeth Lipes, Eleanor Dye, Lisa Gascoyne, Debra Woody, Barbara West, Sharon Menzies, and now Higgins.
The main qualification for becoming a DAR member is being able to trace ancestry to a Patriot (not necessarily a soldier) in the American Revolution who helped actively in gaining independence. DAR goals include perpetuating the memory and spirit of men and women who achieved American independence; promoting the development of enlightened public opinion; and fostering patriotism.”
However, the DAR women spend a limited amount of time at each meeting discussing the past. They spend the majority of their time planning community service activities and ways to honor and serve veterans and active military personnel.
“The Roanoke Valley Chapter is dedicated to promoting patriotism and respect for the flag of the United States of America,” Higgins says. “A Flag Moment is presented at each meeting. Over the years, the chapter has presented flag codes and flag pins to many local students, especially to all those who raise and lower the school flags daily. American flags have been given to local schools, a Girl Scout troop and to the Vinton War Memorial. More recently, the chapter has helped many area businesses replace their worn and tattered flags. A newer tradition has the chapter planting a lovely ‘flag garden’ of over 200 small flags in front of the Vinton Municipal Building for Flag Day, Independence Day, Election Day and Veterans Day.”
The Roanoke Valley Chapter has consistently supported the DAR Schools serving remote areas in several states by donating money, gently used jewelry, and clothing. The members collect Coke Reward codes and redeem them for money for DAR schools. They collected Box Tops for Education and sent them to each of the DAR schools until that program ended. Ronald McDonald House is also supported by collecting aluminum can tabs.
“Throughout the years, the members of Roanoke Valley Chapter have derived a great deal of pleasure from promoting patriotism among the school children in the area and is one of the chapter’s focused objectives,” Higgins said. “In addition to supplying flags, pins and codes, the chapter sponsors a coveted DAR Good Citizen Award each year, hosting the winner and hearing their essay at a meeting. The chapter also awarded Bronze JROTC medals and provided volunteers for Veterans Day Celebrations at W.E. Cundiff Elementary School.
“Roanoke Valley Chapter’s main focus over the years has been support of active troops and veterans,” said Higgins. “Support is regularly given to the Salem Veteran Affairs Medical Center and Virginia Veteran Care Center. The ladies have sent cards and collected necessities such as socks, T-shirts and toiletries for the centers. For the last dozen years, the chapter’s October Day of Service Project has been to make fleece lap blankets to give to veterans. Each year, the chapter attends the Roanoke Veterans Day Parade and passes out small flags.
“For active-duty troops, the chapter collects cards, toiletries, snacks, and other comfort items and ships them to various areas overseas,” Higgins explained. “In 2017, members folded more than 300 pocket flags (small paper versions of the American flag, folded in the traditional way, accompanied by a poem letting the carrier of the flag have a piece of ‘home’ in their pocket and know they are cared for.)” The chapter continues to distribute pocket flags to deploying troops.
Roanoke Valley Chapter member Heather Menzies is currently deployed in the Middle East. CARE packages have been sent to her and those in her unit and will be sent again for Christmas.
In 2018, the ladies began collecting store coupons to send to a military base in Atsugi, Japan. The coupons are given to Botetourt County Chapter NSDAR, whose members cut, sort and ship them to Japan. In 2020, the chapters sent a combined 346,632 coupons with face value of $809,745.
Recently, Roanoke Valley Chapter has placed a focus on conservation. A new project has been partnering with the Town of Vinton in collecting plastic film to be turned into the Trex Company for recycling. Trex will in turn donate benches to place on Vinton’s greenways or elsewhere. The group is far ahead of the goal with over 1,200 pounds of soft plastics collected. (It takes 500 pounds to earn one bench.)
During the pandemic in 2020, ladies in the chapter stepped up to the challenge and made nearly 1,500 masks that were donated to family members, friends, churches, schools, first responders, veterans, retail workers, repairmen, poll workers, and the homeless.
“Roanoke Valley Chapter has steadily grown from 17 charter members to 60, with several prospective members currently working on their applications,” Higgins said. “As the Roanoke Valley Chapter celebrates their 60th anniversary, the future is looking bright!”
The chapter members held their anniversary event at Bonsack Baptist Church. State Regent LeAnn Fetherolf Turbyville (who said she represented almost 10,000 DAR members across the state) and Virginia DAR District VII Director Patricia Honts of Fincastle joined the celebration along with members of other local chapters. Honts commented that “it takes lots of time and effort to keep something going for 60 years.”
District VII Parliamentarian Jacquelyn Wimmer Frith shared her memories of her grandmother Irma Moseley. Moseley, a well-known figure in Vinton, was the librarian at William Byrd High School for many years, co-author of “Vinton History 1884 to 1984,” on the occasion of Vinton’s centennial, and a co-founder of the Vinton History Museum.
Moseley was also a well-known seamstress. Frith, dressed in a wool pleated skirt and matching sweater of her grandmother’s, commented that the DAR and sewing were her grandmother’s first loves.
Moseley was born and raised in Florida, just happened to come to Vinton on a visit and met her future husband John Moseley at a church picnic—although she was already engaged. Moseley immediately decided, “That girl is going to marry me.” They lived a “long and happy life” on East Cleveland Avenue in Vinton.
As part of the anniversary program, Higgins reminisced about life in 1961 America where the cost of a boxed Duncan Hines cake mix was 25 cents, gas was 27 cents a gallon, and stamps were four cents.
In 1961 John F. Kennedy was president; the Peace Corps was founded; Russian Yuri Gagarin was the first astronaut in space; Barbie met her boyfriend Ken; and the Berlin Wall was built. There was no Super Bowl as of yet; the Dick Van Dyke Show, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke were the top shows on TV; the New York Yankees won the World Series. Fritos and the electric toothbrush were invented.
The Bonsack Baptist fellowship hall was decorated with 1960s memorabilia, including hankies and candies of the times. Several members dressed in period costumes with pillbox hats, white gloves, bobby sox, and enjoyed a luncheon catered by DAR member Ellen Hannan.
The local DAR Chapter meets at St. Timothy’s Lutheran Church on Hardy Road in Vinton on the second Saturday of most months, September through May.