FAIRFIELD — A Fairfield woman reached a milestone in her commitment to a civic organization.
Wilma Lewis Whitham was honored Saturday, Nov. 23, for her 70 years of membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The ceremony was held at First United Methodist Church in Fairfield, and included dignitaries from all over the state who came to congratulate Whitham on her accomplishment.
Whitham was raised on a farm by Glasgow in Jefferson County, about a quarter-mile from the nearest country school. She attended Fairfield High School, and graduated in 1946, with a class of 119.
Whitham joined the DAR on Dec. 6, 1949, after having joined the Children of the American Revolution (CAR). She said she was inspired to join by a couple of family members, her grandmother Lorena Dallner and aunt Eileen Masden. To become a member of DAR, a person must prove they are related to someone involved in the American Revolution (1775-1783).
In Whitham’s case, that relative was Lt. Col. James Lyon, related to her through her grandmother’s family. Whitham said she doesn’t know much about Lyon’s life other than that he fought in the war and later moved to Henry County, Iowa, where he is buried. She knows that he forded the creek on the family farm.
The chapter that Whitham initially joined was the Log Cabin Chapter, the DAR club in Fairfield. However, membership in the club dwindled, and when it finally got down to six members, they decided to disband the group and join another DAR club. In Whitham’s case, she joined the James Harlan Chapter, based in Mt. Pleasant and which now has members from Mt. Pleasant, Salem, New London, Fairfield, Washington, Danville and elsewhere.
The group meets on the third Saturday of every month. Group members are asked to give programs, something Whitham has done a time or two. She’s taken the club to visit Maasdam Barns, a series of historic barns on the south side of Fairfield, and has taken it to events at the Fairfield Public Library.
Whitham said the group normally meets in Mt. Pleasant, and sometimes in Winfield. She said that the meetings can involve honoring the soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War, like the time the group decorated the grave of a Revolutionary War soldier buried at a cemetery in Mt. Pleasant.
Whitham said she was touched to see dozens of friends and fellow DAR members come to support her on Saturday. Kristin Macy, state organizing secretary of the Iowa DAR, and Ellie Senne, of the Candlestick Chapter of DAR and who is also the state chaplain, bestowed on Whitham a lapel pin commemorating her 70 years in the organization, a certificate from DAR and a host of other gifts.
The honoree said she never imagined she would live so long to be recognized in this way.
“I never thought I’d live to be 90, and here I am about to turn 92,” she said. Whitham will turn 92 on Dec. 27.
Carol Klopfenstein, register of the James Harlan Chapter, presented Whitham with a copy of her application to join DAR from 1949. Organizers of Saturday’s festivities had a couple of cakes made in Whitham’s honor. One of them read “Congratulations Wilma” and the other one was decorated in icing with the DAR’s logo and its motto “God, Home and Country” with a big number 70 in the middle of it.
Whitham said one of the things she enjoys most is spending time with her family. She has two daughters, “one on each coast.” Her older daughter, Diane, lives in North Carolina and her younger daughter, Joanne, lives in Oregon. She said she loves every chance she has to see her grandkids and great-grandkids.