“DF stands for dear friend and you are all dear to me,” said Mary Lou Myers, a 25-year member of Payson’s P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) chapter.
Almost 50 members and their guests filled a dining room at The Rim Club to celebrate the chapter’s milestone birthday, listen to Myers recount her many years in the organization and enjoy a delicious lunch.
Kathy Corley, a longtime member, could not have agreed more with Myers’ description of the group.
“We have a lot of fun. We call each other’s husbands BLs — brothers in law,” she said to describe how close the ladies become with each other.
However, the Payson chapter mainly gathers to support the mission of the organization.
P.E.O. started with seven Wesleyan College students in 1869 in Mt Pleasant, Iowa. Since that time, P.E.O. has grown into an international organization with 6,000 local chapters and a quarter of a million members that support women and their goals.
Primarily, P.E.O. supports women through funding education.
The P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund, International Peace Scholarship, Program for Continuing Education, Scholar Awards and STAR Scholarship, help to fund women’s educational aspirations from undergraduate to doctoral programs.
From its inception, the organization has aided more than 88,000 women, including Natalie Black from Payson High School’s 2012 graduating class. Black received the competitive STAR scholarship, one of five women in Arizona to receive the honor.
P.E.O. also funds an all-women college in Missouri named Cottey College. Founded in 1884, the college aims to offer women the same educational opportunities as men.
Since its founding, the two-year college has prepared women to transfer to four-year institutions such as Smith, Pepperdine, and the University of Washington. More than 95 percent of Cottey students transfer to finish their education.
The camaraderie of the DF chapter members showed as the women chatted amongst themselves before sitting at tables covered in white cloth and decorated with a simple centerpiece.
Opening the event, Tori Sorrel, the entertainment coordinator for the event asked all members to stand. She then asked those that had been a member of the DF chapter for five years or less to sit, then 10 years or less, and on down the line until she came to the 25-year mark. Only Myers and one other remained standing. Organizers had asked Myers to speak of her years in the Payson P.E.O.
Myers described how her mother initiated her into the P.E.O. sisterhood in 1958.
“So, I’ve been a 50-year member,” she said, “but, I’ve never been the oldest of anything.”
She lamented that she’s had to miss a few meetings due to her work as a Realtor in Pine, but gladly returned to the Payson chapter to help with the social committee two years ago.
Myers fondly remembered the early years of the group, when members met simply to spend time together at lunches. The early ladies had been members of other organizations from states such as Colorado, Iowa and Nevada.
“Once they had 17 members, they formed an official group,” Myers said.
She went on to tell stories of the founding members such as Dorothy Boise, the first person to get things going, Katherine Sullivan Lommey who reached 100 years old — and Margaret Murphy, who grew up on Doll Baby Ranch.
But what summed up the day and the members’ friendships, was Myers’ nod to the chapter president Kay Miller’s choice of the year’s theme: People who need people are the luckiest in the world.
“I know P.E.O.s are very special,” said Myers of the ladies in Chapter DF in Payson.