Read stories of Chi Omegas recognizing our members celebrating 75 years of Chi Omega membership in 2016, below! Stay tuned for touching stories and photos from our 2017 75-year member visits.
Sister Katherine Singer
On April 29, 2017, eight Chi Omega alumnae from the Mobile, Alabama Alumnae Chapter had the honor of visiting Katherine Phillips Singer- Alpha Beta 1942, to celebrate her 75th year as a Chi Omega sister. Katherine is a native of Mobile, Alabama and attended Auburn University during World War II. A master story teller, she shared what it was like to attend college during the war years with very few male students around! Most dates were found from nearby Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. For one Chi Omega formal, seven paratroopers from Fort Benning brought their dates silk stockings, cigarettes, and Kleenex—treasures during the war, and the envy of all the other sisters at the dance! She served as Rush Chairman her senior year. She was the only Chi Omega majoring in Home Economics, so “every time any food had to be served, I got the job!”, she said.
After graduating from Auburn, Katherine returned to Mobile to “provide daycare for Rosie the Riveter’s children” at the shipyards in her hometown. After the war ended, she taught home economics and then worked as an airline stewardess for Waterman Steamship Corporation until she married her husband, Harvey Singer. They returned to Mobile and Katherine opened an antique store which she owned for many years.
Katherine’s daughter, Susan Singer Pearson, and her granddaughter, Jenny Pearson Harmon were also Chi Omegas at Auburn—three generations of Alpha Betas. A photo of them was featured in the Eleusis and Katherine has a framed copy of it proudly displayed in her home.
In her later years, Katherine played a prominent role in the Ken Burns documentary, “The War” on PBS. Her charming personality and beautiful Southern accent were a bright spot in this show about the Greatest Generation.
We presented Katherine with her 75-year certificate and then we all gathered in a circle to sing “Shades” which brought tears to all of our eyes. It was a memorable afternoon- one we will all cherish!
Written by Kim McKinney
Sister Claudie Kolowich
Dressed in a lovely shade of red , Sister Claudie Kolowich was recently honored at a celebration that recognized her 75 years of service in Chi Omega.
With several of her adoring sisters by her side, Kolowich and several dear friends took a stroll down memory lane.
Kolowich was initiated into the sorority January 30, 1941 in Sigma Gamma Chapter at Ohlethorpe College, Atlanta, Ga., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in commerce. She served as the chapter’s president in 1942. In this role, she inspired countless members to reach for the stars.
During the celebration, Kolowich was presented with a beautiful bouquet of white carnations, a cake, and a certificate of recognition and appreciation from the Chi Omega National Headquarters.
On display at the event were some of Kolowich’s most treasured possessions, including her college yearbooks, her sorority pin, and several photographs from her trips to the Chi Omega National Convention.
What a beautiful event for a beautiful lady!
Sister Frances Blount
On May, 23, 2016 in Birmingham, Alabama, Chi Omega alumni Laura Bryan (Zeta Zeta), Bug Greer (Beta Theta), Cheryl Landreth (Zeta Zeta), Helen Pittman (Nu Beta) and Cathy Randall (Nu Beta) visited Mrs. Frances Dean Blount, Nu Beta, University of Alabama to celebrate her 75 years as a Chi Omega.
We were so surprised when she answered the door! Frances Blount is beautiful, vivacious and youthful! We should not have been surprised since we knew before our visit she had recently returned from a cruise and was leaving the next day for a trip to North Carolina. She leads a very full and active life!
Frances recalled meeting her future husband, the late Houston Blount, at a Chi Omega/Sigma Nu pledge swap. They were married 67 years and had five children, 16 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.
Frances had an older sister who was also a Chi Omega at the University of Alabama. She said during her sophomore and junior years the college campus changed dramatically as many young men left college for World War II. One of her fondest memories of Chi Omega was her housemother, Carrie Mae Wright. She said Carrie Mae was a wonderful, sweet, lovely lady that made all of the Sisters want to be nothing less.
What a joy it was to spend time celebrating with this wonderful Chi Omega Sister!
Sister Helen Till
It was a treat to hear about Mrs. Till’s graduation from the University of Wisconsin followed by a move to Chicago where she lived in an apartment with five friends. It was there that she met her husband, a medical student from Alabama, who completed his medical studies at Northwestern. She spoke fondly of moving to Montgomery and seeing an invitation in the paper to a Chi Omega Alumnae Meeting. The Chi O sisters she met in Alabama at that meeting became some of her very first friends.
Sister Ila Mae Purcell
We had a wonderful time visiting with Ila Mae Purcell yesterday in Tempe, Arizona celebrating her 75thanniversary with Chi Omega Women’s Fraternity.
She told us fun stories about growing up on a small farm in Colorado and getting a scholarship to the University of Colorado, Boulder. She even served as G.H. and attended Chi Omega Convention in her day. She still loves playing the piano and she played us a few songs. She also enjoys drinking wine with her friends and going to the opera. She’s going to be a great-grandmother soon and she said that’s what keeps her going.
It was a lovely afternoon – such a great idea! Ila Mae said she was the talk of the town/retirement community and carries around her certificate and bragging to her neighbors. She told Lindsay that our visit gave her a renewed sense of hope and urge to keep going in general.
Sister Susan Blumgren
We had a wonderful time visiting with Susan Blumgren in Scottsdale, Arizona celebrating her 75th anniversary with Chi Omega women’s fraternity and coincidently her 94th birthday.
We spent a few hours with her touring the facility where she lives and talking about the wonderful life she has lived.
She talked about graduating from The University of Iowa with a degree in chemistry. She had intended to major in music or home economics but really liked Chemistry and became a Pharmacist. She retired at the age of 89! She met her husband a doctor while she was working as a Pharmacist. They lived in Cottonwood and Scottsdale Arizona.
They had 2 children together a son and daughter. She also has 5 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Susan has 2 cats that keep her company Mars and Tig. She also enjoys puzzles and reading. She still receives the Eleusis and looks forward to reading it.
Pictured in the group photo from left to right: Sydney Gray, Arizona State University, Psi Epsilon Chapter; Anna Sickler, Stanford University, Nu Alpha Chapter; Susan Blumgren, University of Iowa, Psi Beta Chapter; Lucy Gordon, SMU, Iota Alpha Chapter; Caroline Lucas Meyer, APSU, Sigma Kappa Chapter
Congratulations, Susan Blumgren!!!
Chi Omega love,
Caroline Lucas Meyer
Sister Deb Louise Paula
“Once a Chi Omega, always a Chi Omega” were words of Mrs. Louise Brooks (Epsilon Alpha Chapter/University of Oklahoma) that resonated in every moment as Deb Leslie (Tau Chapter/University of Mississippi) and Paula Brooks Lee (Psi Chapter/University of Arkansas), Louise’s daughter, gathered on May 7, 2016, to celebrate her 75th year membership.
Mrs. Brooks spoke of her younger years growing up on a peach farm in Oklahoma, moving to the “big city” for community college, and starting at the University of Oklahoma to finish her nutrition degree. We all flipped through her pledge scrapbook that included pledge class and chapter photos, fraternity dance cards, initiation notes from actives, her 50-year membership card, and much more precious memorabilia. Common trends throughout the chapter were lush pin-curl wave hairstyles and saddle oxfords with tall socks. It was common for many not to have a car while attending the university, and Mrs. Brooks thought this made everyone a close-knit group. Mrs. Paula Lee explained that she heard her mom only started dating her father in college because he had a car. Mrs. Brooks was also an active alum who served as an adviser for the Psi Chapter. She now enjoys playing bridge and spending time with family. We all loved sharing our sisterhood camaraderie and celebrating Mrs. Brooks’s amazing milestone!
Sister Virginia Rand Smith
In Fayetteville, Arkansas, a group of Chi Omegas gathered to recognize Mrs. Virginia Rand Smith, Psi, ’41, as a 75-year member of Our Sisterhood. We met at the historic Inn at Carnall Hall on the University of Arkansas campus. Refreshments with a Chi O theme were served, including petit fours with Mrs. Smith’s pin number. We presented her with her certificate from National and a bud vase with carnations.
Mrs. Smith recalled that the Chapter House did not have many bedrooms at that time, so she lived nearby in the Scott House. She was in the Chapter House often for study hall and other events. Her favorite memory of the House is spending time with Sisters in the Old Attic. Dancing was a most important dating activity. Dances were held on campus because few people had cars. She told us of one dancing evening that she and her Lambda Chi date practiced quite a long time in order to enter the dance contest. Unknown to her, her date had a bottle of liquor in his pocket that fell out during their dance. Apparently, they did not win, but had a very memorable evening.
A highlight of the day was a golf cart campus tour for Mrs. Smith. As a part of the tour, she was able to see the newly renovated Chi Omega Greek Theatre. She asked us if we knew that there was a rifle range under the Greek Theatre, and most of us did not know that. As we drove away, I believe she said that some other things went on under the Greek Theatre too!!
Mrs. Smith was absolutely delightful and shared many memories with us. It was truly an honor for each one of us to meet and visit with our amazing Sister.
Mrs. Virginia Rand Smith, Psi ‘41
Standing beside Mrs. Smith: Mary Pearce Stockland, Psi ‘68; Judy Singleton, Psi Delta ‘67
2nd Row: Paula Finkbeiner McRae, Psi ‘68; Martha Alfin Wann, Psi ‘70; Anna Beth Hilburn, Psi ’14 – Active; Betsy Burroughs Penix, Psi ‘69
3rd Row: Paula Irwin, Psi ‘75; Ann Hartenstein Morrison, Psi ‘69; Gwyn Brinkley Wood, Psi ‘68
4th Row: Sonya Jones, Psi ‘71; Spencer Epes Higginbothom, Psi ‘69; Rhonda Carney Lee, Psi ‘71
Last Row (top): Betsy Lavender, Psi ‘89; Janet Brown, Psi Chapter House Mother
Sister Betty Thurber
First, let me tell you something about my experience with Chi Omega. I entered the University of California, Berkeley, as a freshman in the fall of 1989 and also joined Chi Omega. There were six (6) other freshman pledges at the time. I then graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy. I finally attended law school at the University of California, Davis, and have been practicing law for almost sixteen (16) years.
I signed up to meet with Betty Thurber in Bakersfield, California. I finally met up with her in the late morning of June 7, 2016. I stopped by her home. Mrs. Thurber was very gracious, insisting that she did not want to take up too much of my time. I explained to her that the visit was not burdensome and, in fact, was one to which I was looking forward. I asked her to pick anywhere that she may want to go for a coffee or an ice cream. Mrs. Thurber chose to get a chocolate frosty from Wendy’s. I obliged her and got a vanilla frosty for myself.
Mrs. Thurber and I sat down and spoke for over an hour. Mrs. Thurber explained that she had been born and raised in Georgia. When she was eighteen (18) years old, she and her family (consisting of her mother and father and three (3) siblings) up and moved to Arizona. They did so because Mrs. Thurber’s sister suffered from poor sinuses and it was believed that the desert air would repair the physical ailment. Thereby, Mrs. Thurber then applied to and attended college at the University of Arizona. She also joined Chi Omega. She has fond memories of her time at Chi Omega and of her friends at Chi Omega. In fact, she still remains in touch with a Chi Omega sister who lives in Arizona. Mrs. Thurber then met her future husband, Mr. Thurber, at the University of Arizona. Mr. Thurber was in the College of Agriculture. After graduation, Mr. and Mrs. Thurber moved to California. Mr. Thurber was the head cattle rancher for a cattle ranch located in El Tejon, California. Mr. and Mrs. Thurber had two (2) sons and one (1) daughter. After living in El Tejon for about twenty-five years, Mr. and Mrs. Thurber moved to Grass Valley, California, to be near some of their grandchildren. Therefore, the Thurbers were able to attend soccer games and piano recitals of those grandchildren. Ultimately, Mr. and Mrs. Thurber moved to Bakersfield, California, and settled there. Mrs. Thurber feels blessed to have met such a good man as Mr. Thurber and to have had such a good marriage. Unfortunately, her husband, Mr. Thurber, passed away about twenty (20) years ago.
I would like to complete this email by expressing that Mrs. Thurber is a kind person who has grace and class. She is sharp as a whip and interesting, to boot. I am privileged to have met and to have spent time with her.
I have attached a photograph of us that was taken during our visit.
Sister Gladys Runkel
April 26, 2016
Gladys Severson Runkel was initiated in 1941 by Nu Chapter, University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI and currently lives in Huntington Harbor, California. We had the privilege of spending the entire afternoon with Gladys and sharing a lovely tea which Hayley Dawn Thomas, Chi Zeta, Colorado State and Susan Carroll, Phi, Univ. of Sou. Calif. provided. Also in attendance as Glady’s guests were good friends of hers, Yvonne Vanwey and her husband Don Vanwey on vacation here from Arizona and another good friend, Alma Francis.
Gladys entertained in grand fashion and was quick to share some stories of her time in the house in Madison. One Sunday, after her family had left to return home, she went upstairs to her room and turned on the radio to listen to “Rosie” as she called President Roosevelt and ended up hearing his very famous “Day in Infamy” speech.
After graduation, Gladys and four of her sorority sisters, moved to Chicago. Gladys had received a degree in Social Work and ended up working for her sister Mildred administering to families and children receiving assistance during the war. She was living in a Residence Hotel on Lakeshore Dr., where in addition to single girls, many of the service personnel attached to the Armory there, lived in other Residence Hotels along the street. She said there was never a time when there weren’t plenty of handsome boys to see.
Her sister, Mildred was married to Ben Runkel and she and Ben re-introduced his brother John to Gladys while she was still living in Chicago. She had been in school from Kindergarten through the 12th grade with John and thought he was the cutest boy in Chicago. When they met again, he was so taken with her, they married within the year. John was an engineer and they travelled all over the world and the US together. They never had any children. They were married for 65 years and Gladys lost him in 2013 at the age of 91.
Gladys is 94 years young and still drives a car. She attends Church every Sunday. She was trying to figure out what to do for her 94th Birthday and wanted to go Skydiving, however, was afraid she might end up like George H.W. Bush, in the old wheelchair so she changed her mind and went for a Motorcycle ride instead. She said she really wanted to go zip lining for her 95th Birthday which comes shortly on July 16, 2016. But suspects her nephew may take her to Hawaii instead, because its much safer.
After tea, she asked Hayley and I to show her the secret handshake. She was like a mischievous little girl. The three of us disappeared into the kitchen and Hayley and I showed her the handshake.
Gladys was so charming and welcoming and we had such a wonderful afternoon. She was beyond thrilled with her certificate and thanks National for thinking of her and hopes that all her friends from Madison, who are still alive enjoy their presentation as much as she did hers.
Susan M. Carroll, Phi ’65
University of Southern California