Tuesday, June 4, 1996
Bid farewell to ladies of Delhi council

BY LAURA PULFER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Lewis and Clark stopped, 200 years ago, near the edge of Western Hills Country Club, close to the beautifully manicured 11th green. The reason you could know that - even if you don't golf and you were throwing spitballs during American history class - is that the ladies of the Delhi Hills Community Council put a plaque there.

These women also planted the Crab apple trees whose petals color west-side schoolyards and churchyards with soft pink and white every spring. "We planted them - it must have been - in 1945," Florence Meyer remembers, "because I was pregnant with Allan."

They mark time, some of them, by the births of their children. Heaven knows, their lives revolved around their families. Energetic, ambitious, bright women in an age when marriage signaled the end of one kind of work and the beginning of another, they began meeting in 1939.

Good women, good works

They have had an enormous impact on their community, quietly doing good works, building a library, finding money for a playground, putting barbecue grills in the park, starting a kindergarten, feeding the needy.

And they are finished. Tomorrow will be their last meeting.

We are preparing the eulogy of this worthy organization, sitting at a polished table covered by an elaborate crocheted cloth. We are sipping homemade raspberry juice and looking out onto grassy land undisturbed by progress. Inhaling the aroma of Sweet Rocket, growing wild outside the window, I'm trying to remember why I think I have to go back to work.

We are in the home of Marie Koch Paner, a charter member. It is her birthday. She is 91.

Florence is stopping by on her way to a reunion of the University of Cincinnati, Class of 1936. Next to her is Jean MacGregor, who joined the group after her daughter won one of the council's scholarships. They've awarded two every year since 1959, so just imagine the number of children they've nudged toward an education.

These three women want me to know that they are merely here to help me remember, that many others now and before them have "done so much." In particular, they mention the late Hazel Currie, the council's first president, and Ruth Schroeder, who will be its last.

There is, if I may say so, plenty of credit to go around. The original plan for the group, according to Marie, was simply "to keep the country country." They went around Delhi sowing seeds and planting flowers and showing their neighbors how to grow organic vegetables.

They did not call themselves environmentalists, but that's what they were.

The roster of members reads like a Who's Who of west-side politicians - their husbands, of course - but you can imagine the sort of clout they must have wielded.

And did I say this is the passing of an era? I'm sure I must have, as I never pass up the opportunity to state the obvious. And if there's a cliche attached, so much the better.

Just like Marie's 23 untrammeled acres, once home to her father's herd of Jersey cows and certain to be the future site of 50 or 60 houses with Jacuzzi tubs and faux wood cabinets, this organization of women has remained true to its beginnings and productive past all reasonable expectation.

No new members

Right now, there are 77 members, but only about 30 of these are active.

They say they used to go to visit the elderly residents at Wesley Hall until they noticed that "we were older than they were."

"We're getting tired," Jean says. "Sometimes, there are only 16 people at a meeting. Young people don't want to join. Our generation is responsible for this. I told my daughter she could have it all. She works and has kids. She doesn't have time to volunteer, too.

"We're sorry," Jean says, "that it's gone. We did it, and we did it joyfully. I guess that's all you can say."

Well, there is really one more thing left to say.

Thank you.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in The Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU-FM (91.7 MHz) and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.