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Women of 'a certain age' form chapter of Red Hat Society at Hospital Center

May 31, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Since the whole point of the Red Hat Society is to bring women together to have fun, Laura Binau didn't know why that philosophy wouldn't apply to her and others just because they happen to be patients at the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown.

And so the chapter was started in January.

"We call ourselves the Western Maryland Red Hat Girls," Laura said.

The chapter's April meeting in the hospital's auditorium attracted about a dozen women.

Dressed in their colorful finery, the members didn't seem to be hampered by their wheelchairs, oxygen tanks or other medical apparatus.

At 88, Betty Stoops is the oldest member. Some of the members are in their 50s. All seemed to be having a lot of fun, which is the point.

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"I dyed my hair red for Valentine's Day," said Phyllis Smith, a member of the Western Maryland Red Hat Girls.

The project at the April meeting was to make a greeting card holder that could be posted on the walls of their rooms, freeing up counter space.

Pat Tewalt, 66, is a patient at Western Maryland, a friend of Laura's and a member of the Western Maryland Red Hat Girls since the beginning.

"It's a good activity for the people here," she said.

A retired schoolteacher, Pat also teaches Bible education at the hospital.

After attending a meeting of a Red Hat Society chapter called The Antiquities and seeing how much fun they had, Laura and her friend, Mary Henson, got the ball rolling for the new chapter at the hospital.

Friends for 12 years, they shared an experience 2 1/2 years ago when Mary went to visit Laura at her home.

Laura, who has diabetes, was having a problem with her leg that Mary realized immediately had become serious. Eventually Laura lost her leg and became a patient at Western Maryland Hospital Center.

"My husband, Alvin 'Bink' Binau, has been here three years - we share a room," Laura said. "We are hoping to go home soon."

Laura, Mary and Josephine Gandy are the Queen Moms of the chapter. Mary is not a patient.

The meetings are from 11:30 a.m. to about 2:30 p.m., once a month, Laura said. After the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, the members share a meal.

The activities have included making notepaper and glass beads. In May, the project was to be birdhouses. Tie-dyeing also was being planned for a future meeting.

"Volunteers from other chapters come to help us," Laura said.

In April, Margaret Cronauer of Rubies with Hatitudes was on hand along with her daughter, Meg Shane, who is a Pink Hatter because she isn't 50 years old yet.

"It's great," Margaret said. "I read about it and came to volunteer - this is my second meeting."

Also helping out recently were Betsy Pollard, a member of Hatitudes and The Antiquities; and Myra Binau, also of The Antiquities.

Denise Sigler of the hospital's recreation therapy department helps the club members obtain the supplies they need for their meetings.

"Our hats were donated, but each of the ladies picked out the feathers and ribbons for their own hats," Laura said.

Begun in 2000 in California, the Red Hat Society is a group for women of a certain age - older than 50 - who enjoy socializing in their red and purple finery.

The group's name has its origins in the opening lines of "Warning," a poem by Jenny Joseph:

When I am an old womanI shall wear purple

With a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me.

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