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Local woman breaking ground personally and at Elks Lodge

April 08, 2010|By MARLO BARNHART
  • Melita Wishard is the new exalted ruler for Elks Lodge 378.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer,

HAGERSTOWN -- At 58, Melita Wishard is no stranger to change, nor is she fearful of it.

Out of work in 2007 after a 35-year career with Vishay Angstrohm, Wishard enrolled at Hagerstown Community College to study medical assisting. She will earn her degree in December.

In March, Wishard broke new ground at the Hagerstown Elks Lodge 378 on Robinwood Drive when she became the first woman selected to be exalted ruler in the organization's 113-year history in Hagerstown.

"I joined the Elks seven years ago and became very active about five years ago," Wishard said.

She has edited the Elks' monthly newsletter, The Antlers, and will continue to perform those duties during her year as exalted ruler.

She also writes a column for The Herald-Mail about activities in her Maugansville community.

Wishard's term as exalted ruler officially began April 1. The installation ceremony was March 27.

"I've worked with the men for four years and I enjoyed it," Wishard said of her rise through the stations at the Elks Club. First, she was lecturing knight, then loyal knight and last year, leading knight.

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She said the four-year ascension through the stations allows for education in all the functions of the organization.

Wishard's reasons for joining the Elks included friendship and her enjoyment of doing community work, a strong point among the female members, she said.

Of the lodge's roughly 1,700 members, "There are approximately 400 women who are either members of Ladies of the Elks organization or the general Elks membership," Wishard said.

Although the Ladies of the Elks has its own two-year term president, Wishard stressed that she is exalted ruler over the entire organization, but only for one year.

When the Vishay Angstrohm's Washington County plant closed, Wishard spent some months traveling to Nebraska, where part of the company was moved, to train the new employees there.

Then, she took stock of her future and started working toward a new career.

"After I graduate, my husband, Scott, and I are planning to move to Myrtle Beach" in South Carolina, Wishard said.

A native of Kentucky, Wishard describes herself as an Army brat who moved around a lot in her younger days.

"We came here when I was 10 or 11 years old," she said.

Wishard has a daughter and three grandsons.

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