Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Hat Sisters

Mary Ruth in red, with friends (l-r) Barbara, Hildred, Dottie and Sylvia
I caught up with the Hat Sisters at their church's monthly senior adult luncheon. They didn't wear their hats to lunch, but they put them on afterwards and posed for me.

My sister Peach and her family attend the same church as the Hat Sisters. Over Sunday dinner a while back my niece Melissa said, "There were several women wearing hats at church today." I was taken aback. We had attended the same church when we lived in Marysville, and it just didn't seem like a wear-a-hat-to-church group.

A week later I ran into the Mary Ruth at a memorial service. She was wearing a hat. "I am letting the color grow out of my hair," she confided to me, "and my friends are all wearing hats to support me." I looked around and there they were, in their hats.

Their solidarity impressed me. But then, they are pretty impressive women.

All born in the 1920s, they share the dubious distinction of being widows. It's what brought them together. It's their love for one another and the fun they have that keeps them together. When Mary Ruth, Barbara and Hildred all lost their husbands in 1999 they found support in one another. By 2003 they had each sold their homes and bought condos in a lovely complex in Everett. The "widow's row," where they sit at church each week, now includes Sylvia and Dottie. After church they usually go out to breakfast. Whoever drives gets to choose the restaurant, they told me. "But we're running out of places to go!" laughed Barbara.

When they are not at church or church events together they just might be at the symphony or attending a Village Theater production or enjoying a game of Dominoes.

Mary Ruth, the eldest, will be 92 in June. She is the only one left of the nine children in her family. She taught music and was a choral director at Spring Arbor College in her younger days. Two years ago the school hosted a reunion for people who had attended SAC in the 50s and 60s and invited her to come and conduct the reunion choir.

When Barbara's kids were growing up she was a stay-at-home mom. She went to work in her 60s -- as a traffic flagger, bright orange jacket and all. She and her husband loved to camp and she was quite a fisherman. She's a writer and a poet.

Hildred (she and Dottie are the youngsters at 88) worked at Boeing as a secretary, an estimator, and later in the Space Division. She painted her name on the door of Boeing's 5000th B17, and left her finger print on the Moon Buggy. She'd love to have some of her family members go to the Moon and see the Moon Buggy. Who knows? Maybe space travel will be available for a future generation!

Sylvia said she, too, was at Boeing when the 5000th B17 was rolled out. She had a Japanese-American friend who had been interned during World War II. After the war ended the friend was wishing for a job so that she could have a paycheck. Sylvia told her about openings at the Fredrick and Nelson department store, and that she'd go with her to apply. Both of the women got jobs there, and Sylvia ended up staying 18 years.

Dottie had worked as a long distance telephone operator during World War II. Her husband's job with Boeing brought them to the Northwest and provided training for her at Edmonds Community College to be an illustrator for the company. I haven't seen her work, but I understand from her friends that she is a fine artist.

Each one of these women had a positive attitude and a spirit of adventure. They are a total delight and I am privileged to know them.

If you're ever at a restaurant late on a Sunday morning and you see five 90ish women hanging out, enjoying themselves, and wearing hats, you just might be watching the Hat Sisters in action!


Karen S. said...

Loved the story and the photo! Are you working on this for another publication?

Ginger Kauffman said...

This was so much fun to do, Karen, but I think I just scratched the surface. Yes, I'm thinking about what more I'd like to do with this story about these delightful ladies.