Anniversary A Red-Letter Day For Red Hat Groups

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The ladies of the Payson area's Red Hat Society chapters gathered last Friday for lunch and lots of laughter.

The members of three different chapters -- The Ruby Reds, The Mad Hatters and The Sophisticated Ladies -- joined forces for an anniversary lunch at the Shepherd of the Pines Lutheran Church. A fourth group, The Fancy Flair of Red Chapter held its anniversary luncheon at the parish hall of St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church.

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Chatting it up after their 10th Anniversary meeting are from left to right, Jorja Leslie, Joyce Frederick, and Paula Barker.

"We had about 60 women here," said Queen Mum Paula Barker of The Ruby Reds.

The Payson area groups were celebrating the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Red Hat Society.

While the parent organization is based in Fullerton, Calif., it actually traces its roots back to a visit to Tucson, according to information on the Web site www.redhatsociety.com

The story is as follows:

While visiting a friend in Tucson, Sue Ellen Cooper impulsively bought a bright red fedora at a thrift shop, for no other reason than it was cheap and, she thought, quite dashing.

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Ann-Marie Marley, left, is visiting with the oldest Red Hat Society member, Madeline Thomasicchio. The chapters celebrated the 10th Anniversary of The Red Hat Society at the Shepherd of the Pines church, Friday, April 25.

Sometime after buying the hat, Cooper came across the poem, "Warning" by Jenny Joseph, which depicts an older woman in purple clothing with a red hat. Moved by the poem, Cooper had a copy of it framed and presented it, along with a red hat, to a friend. It was so well received, Cooper gave the same gift to several more friends. Those friends formed the first "Red Hat Society" among themselves - going out to tea in full regalia, which included purple outfits as well as the red hats. From that simple gathering of friends - women of a certain age (50 and older) - the Red Hat Society has evolved into a worldwide sisterhood of nearly 40,000 chapters across the U.S. in all 50 states and in more than 25 foreign countries.

Paula Barker founded The Ruby Reds Chapter in 2004. She originally had attended meetings of The Mad Hatters, but the group became too large and she organized a new chapter (something the parent group encourages). The Sophisticated Ladies Chapter is the latest spin-off among those represented at the group gathering, Carol Brooks organized it, Barker said.

"I started with seven people and now there are 28," Barker said. She said she thinks there is room in The Ruby Reds for perhaps four more people.

Each group meets on a different day of the month for lunch at local restaurants The Mad Hatters meet the first Tuesday; The Sophisticated Ladies go to lunch the first Wednesday; and The Ruby Reds get together the first Thursday. One woman, Ann Marie Marley, belongs to all three chapters. She is the vice queen mum of the Ruby Reds and Sophisticated Ladies.

"I have friends in all three groups and the first week of the month I'm free, so I belong to all of them," she said.

Marley said members of the three groups are involved in community service -- they just don't go to lunch. Many are members of the Pink Ladies of Payson Regional Medical Center, others volunteer with the Payson Police Department, some help with Rim Country Literacy.

The women also participate in other group endeavors. The members of The Ruby Reds were in four parades last year. One member, Ruth Klaver, is giving the chapter a fashion and jewelry show at a coming meeting, featuring fashions from Past and Present Boutique. Recently Barker hosted a pajama party for members of her chapter.

To learn more about The Red Hat Society, visit its Web site, listed above or call the Queen Mums of one of the local chapters.

In addition to the five Payson area chapters, there are two or three additional chapters in the area, one for residents of East Verde Park and one or two in the Tonto Basin area, Marley said.

Rim Country chapters of The Red Hat Society

The Mad Hatters Chapter meets the first Tuesday. Call Judy Freegard at (928) 474-8301

The Sophisticated Ladies Chapter meets the first Wednesday. Call Carol Brooks at (928) 474-4375

The Ruby Reds Chapter meets the first Thursday. Call Paula Barker at (928) 468-2410

The Fancy Flair of Red Chapter meets the second Wednesday. Call Mary Smith at (928) 468-8766

The Classic Car Chapter - information unavailable at press time

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