Happy Birthday, Mom!

Six weeks after I turned 18–which was more than 2/3 of my lifetime ago—I was initiated into your P.E.O. chapter in Fort Scott and presented my gold star. My initiation that day was a thoughtful and beautiful ceremony, and the only surprise was when the secret word was whispered in my ear. I remember you smiling at the look on my face because I’d spent years making wrong guesses and concocting my own answers, and the secret work meant much more than anything I’d come up with.

Because  Fort Scott is only a twenty-minute drive from Nevada, Missouri, I knew all about the beautiful red-bricked, white-trimmed campus of Cottey College. Sponsored by P.E.O. chapters all over the country, Cottey is the only nonsectarian college owned and supported by women. Students attend from 40 states and 15 countries. While I was growing up, International students couldn’t always go home for holidays, and I knew that they often received invitations from P.E.O.s. Because of your welcoming heart, Mom, we had Japanese and German students staying with us at Thanksgiving or Easter.

What I didn’t know all those years ago was that wherever I would go–away to college in Kansas and then to graduate school and to live in Colorado—there were always P.E. O. chapters to welcome me, and wonderful women who would become good friends.

This year, on your 94th birthday, the members of my P.E.O. Chapter BW in Colorado Springs send you warm and loving birthday greetings. When I told the group you had a birthday soon, immediately they posed together, waving for the camera and calling out greetings. Through the years you’d visited and attended meetings with me, but very few of those sisters still remain. Your “new” sisters—we all wear the same star—reach out to you with genuine affection and well wishes.

It’s come full circle, Mom.  You brought me into a Kansas chapter of P.E.O. sisters, and now I bring you warm greetings from my sisters in Colorado.  Heart to Heart. Star to Star. Happy Birthday!


The P.E.O. sisterhood was founded at Weslyan College in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa in 1869. Seven students who believed in women joining together as friends formed a sisterhood that went on to support and encourage other women to reach their educational goals.  Today there are more than 250,000 members. Student loans and international scholarships are available.

~ for more information:  http://www.peointernational



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren

11 responses to “STAR to STAR

  1. juliabarrett

    This is so cool. I knew nothing about this organization, but I have been to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Happy birthday to your mother.

  2. Happy Birthday to your Mom Marylin. Hope she has a great one!

    • Thank you, Tom. We spread out the mini-celebrations: Molly and the great-grandchildren did a party two weeks ago; I took cupcakes and cards when I visited; and now the long-distance greetings from PEOs in Colorado. This weekend my brother and sister-in-law will take her a peach pie. Mom enjoys each mini-party as it happens, and then almost immediately she’ll forget it–that’s the dementia, and it was even harder while my dad suffered with Alzheimer’s–so all of us have decided that each few minutes of goodies and fun stand on their own. We’ll hold the memories for Mom and each other.

  3. Molly

    Happy Birthday Grandma………I love that the PEO sisters all wanted to jump on the Birthday Bandwagon for Grandma. She has always been so active in PEO and church, those were definitely the places where her heart were.

    Great blog, Mom!

    • And Grandma still has the big cards her great-grandchildren made for her and the balloons hanging on her book cases. We do what we can, knowing Grandma might enjoy it for only a little while.

  4. Willow


    This is Willow. I have never heard about P.E.O. before your blog today. Could you give me a little more information about it, like what is it for? How would one go about joining?

    Anything that you and your mom have been a part of is probably a wonderful thing, . I know you put the web addresses for it, but if you could give a little more information about wyour experiences with it, that would rock. Thanks!

    • Hi, Willow. I don’t know where in Missouri you live, but there are numerous P.E.O. chapters in every state. I still have the email address you and your parents used to enter the writing contest on my blog, and with your permission I’ll be glad to write and give you more information in addition to the websites listed at the end of my blog.
      You must be 18 to join P.E.O. (which is why I came home to be initiated in my mother’s chapter during my freshman year at college, after I turned 18). You and I will communicate via your family email address. I have P.E.O. sisters in several towns in Missouri, and we’ll get your questions answered.
      Thanks for your interest, Willow. P.E.O. college scholarships and International Peace Scholarship monies don’t require you to go to Cottey College–they’re to help all women pursue educational dreams and goals throughout the country, at any community college, college or university. P.E.O. is a wonderful, affirming and encouraging organization. I would be glad to welcome you as a Star Sister. We’ll stay in touch.

  5. What a wonderful tribute and birthday wish for your Mother. What is PEO? I have never heard of that…

    • It really is a wonderful sisterhood, Pamela, which is very different from being a sorority, although there are elements of fun and social events in local, state and national P.E.O. chapters. Click on the PEOwebsite at the bottom of the blog for basic information; personally, I can vouch for the amazing, supportive coming together of fine women of all ages and backgrounds and interests, working together to make educational and personal dreams evolve into realities for women.

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