Living history


By Wanda Dengel - Special to The Daily Times



Helen Wilkerson with AAUW President Donna Wolery.

Helen Wilkerson with AAUW President Donna Wolery.


Photo courtesy of Wanda Dengel

Alys Spears with her 100th birthday cake.


Photo courtesy of Wanda Dengel

Marge Rodeheffer with AAUW President Donna Wolery.


Photo courtesy of Wanda Dengel

When it comes to local history, three women recently cited for their long-standing membership in a local group have been around to see much of it.

And one just celebrated her 100th birthday.

The local chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) gathered recently in Wesley Village at Hillview Retirement Center to celebrate the centennial birthday of Alys Spears, an AAUW member for 50 years. Spears was flooded with birthday well wishes, birthday cards and a chocolate birthday cake with the number 100 prominently displayed across the top of the cake.

Individual AAUW members read their birthday cards to Spears, and extended their birthday wishes before presenting her with the birthday cake and taking photos with her. The cake was offered to Spears and other residents and staff at Wesley Village in honor of Spears’ 100th birthday.

Following the birthday festivities, Spears was presented a certificate issued by the national office of AAUW in Washington, D.C., recognizing her for her long membership in the organization. Spears has been a member of the local organization for 50 years. Along with the certificate, Spears was presented a rose in a bud vase by AAUW/Portsmouth president Donna Wolery. Spears was overwhelmed by the birthday festivities and membership recognition. She thanked everyone for their kind gestures, and regaled in the attention the AAUW members extended her.

In a separate ceremony, Helen Wilkerson, a resident of Hillview and a charter member of the local branch was presented a certificate issued by the national AAUW office for her 70-year membership in the local organization. Wilkerson is the sole surviving member of the women who established the local branch in 1948. Like Spears, Wilkerson received a rose in a bud vase to commemorate her long-time support of the local organization.

When asked what prompted her to become a founding member of the local group, Wilkerson responded, “It (AAUW) was being organized for university women, and I was one. The other thing was that a majority of women who were interested in this new organization were around my age with children whose ages were similar to my own children.” She recalled that the organization had set its goals quite high in the early days of the association by aiming for a membership of 100 university females. “If we reached a goal of 100 members, we could host a state convention in Portsmouth,” she recalls. Unfortunately, the local chapter fell short just 12 members of that goal during one point in their history.

Wilkerson was quick to respond when questioned how AAUW benefitted her. “Leadership and study groups allowed us to continue to grow while we put our careers on hold and raised our children.” Comaraderie and sharing child rearing tips were an added bonus that drew members closer during informal sessions.

The 96-year-old Wilkerson expressed her gratitude to the local officers for their leadership and continued commitment to the organization’s core values of equality and opportunities for women and girls … values upon which the group was founded in 1948.

Wilkerson has always taken her AAUW voting privileges seriously. She recently submitted her paper ballot for the 2018 AAUW National Bylaws Amendments vote, and reminded those members who had not voted yet to consider online voting before the June 10 deadline.

Marge Rodeheffer, a 50-year member of AAUW/Portsmouth was also recognized for her long-standing membership. She joined the local organization when she and her family moved to Portsmouth. Her husband was a Methodist minister at the time of their move, and was charged by the Methodist church to oversee the construction of Hillview Retirement Center. Fifty years later, they are living independently at home.

Wolery presented Rodeheffer with a certificate which was issued by the national AAUW office in Washington, D.C., for her 50-year membership in the local organization. Rodeheffer, like the others, received a rose in a bud vase, as well.

When asked what drew her to join the local organization, Rodeheffer replied, “We were new in town, and I mainly wanted to meet people.” Rodeheffer was a non-traditional college student. She raised her children, and then went on to college to obtain her college degree in education.

Rodeheffer, like Wilkerson, “enjoyed the study groups that were prescribed by the national office.” She also was enthusiatic about the many interest groups that were offered to members. “Bridge card groups were one interest group that I really liked. That interest group continues to this day, however, I’m the only one left from that original group,” explained the 95-year-old Rodeheffer.

Friendships have always been important to Rodeheffer, and she had numerous opportunities to expand her circle of friends through AAUW/Portsmouth. “It’s been a great organization, and I have enjoyed the fellowship. I’ve made some great friends,” Rodeheffer concluded.

For information about AAUW/Portsmouth, email reiser_sandra@yahoo.com or call 740-354-2909.

Helen Wilkerson with AAUW President Donna Wolery.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/06/web1_Helen-Wilkerson.jpgHelen Wilkerson with AAUW President Donna Wolery. Photo courtesy of Wanda Dengel

Alys Spears with her 100th birthday cake.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/06/web1_Alys-Spears.jpgAlys Spears with her 100th birthday cake. Photo courtesy of Wanda Dengel

Marge Rodeheffer with AAUW President Donna Wolery.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2018/06/web1_Marge-Rodeheffer.jpgMarge Rodeheffer with AAUW President Donna Wolery. Photo courtesy of Wanda Dengel

By Wanda Dengel

Special to The Daily Times

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