By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Having a ball in red and purple

Starla Pointer / News-Register
Colorful hats greeted women arriving for Tuesday s event.
Starla Pointer / News-Register
Colorful hats greeted women arriving for Tuesday's event.

“Susie-Debbie-Dee-Maryanne-Karen-Doris-Kathy-Barbara-Bonnie-Bernie-Renee-Sharon-Toni-Ruth,” they proclaimed, all speaking at once. Then they laughed because, of all the things these women do, laughing is the main thing.

The Red Hat Society is open to women 50 and older — old enough to realize that having fun is what life’s all about.

“I decided I’m old enough, I can do what I want to do,” said Susie Sanford, a member of the Red Hat Divas at Parkland Senior Community, which hosted Tuesday’s gathering.

Like many of her fellow Red Hatters, Sanford came dressed to the nines. The hallmark of her outfit was an incredibly sparkly purple frock.

“It’s real polyester!” she said. “It will outlive us all!”

She said she found the dress in a thrift stop and just had to have it. “I love gaudy,” she said.

Of course, Sanford also wore a red hat. And compared to some of the others, it was understated.

Queen Bernie Ruark of Dayton Delightful Ladies wore a veritable froth of red feathers. Kathy Peck of Mac Catz ‘n Red Hatz sported both red and purple feathers.

Mac Catz’ queen, Dolores “Dee” Anderson, sported a huge bow on her hat. And Debbie Smurthwaite of the Dayton Delightful, daughter of Queen Bernie, wore a wreath of pink figures attached to a basic hat form.

Smurthwaite wore pink and lavender instead of red and purple to signify she’s not quite old enough to be a Red Hatter yet, but she’s not too young to join in the Red Hat fun.

“We do whatever somebody wants to do,” she said. “It’s a great way to get to do things with friends, things maybe your husband’s not interested in. It’s a way to have fun with other women.”

Smurthwaite, her mother and other members of the Dayton group have taken in plays, gone to dinners, visited the zoo and dressed up for parades. Riding in a 1988 Lincoln Continental, decked out in red and purple, of course, they won trophies at both the McMinnville UFO Festival and Dayton Harvest Festival.

The Mac Catz have a similar list of activities to their credit. “We go to teas, to museums,” said Maryanne Dawe. “Each member plans a month.”

She’s been a Red Hatter for five years. It’s given her something to do since she retired, she said.

“I’d probably be lost without it,” Dawe said. “This is my family.”

While the Parkland Divas group is being reinvigorated after a lapse, the other two groups are very active.

Members of the two have often met at New to You while searching for purple clothes to wear on outings. And they’ve gotten to know and appreciate each other in the process. At Christmas, they even staged a joint event — a red and purple tea.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t engage in some friendly rivalry.

Both chapters had their eye on Karen Reardon of Dallas, who came to the Parkland event on her own.

A former Willamina resident, she wants to get together with other women. “I’m shopping for a group,” she announced, causing a great ruffling of feathers as Red Hatters tried to capture her interest.

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