Daughters mark 90 years with celebration
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Martha Brungardt has fond memories of mother-daughter breakfasts for the Daughters of Isabella she attended with her mother and sister years ago.
The Hays woman said she always will remember Saturday's mother-daughter event of another kind.
Her mom, Mary Schmeidler, was able to accompany her daughters to the 90th anniversary celebration for the Catholic woman's organization in Hays.
Coincidentally, Schmeidler also turned 90 years old this year and has the longest-running membership with the Hays Isabella Circle No. 254 -- 68 years.
"That was one of the things we did regularly," Brungardt said of her younger years. "And we liked that a lot."
Schmeidler now lives with her other daughter, Madonna Oborny, in Hoisington, and the two came to Hays for Saturday's event.
"She was really excited about coming," Brungardt said of her mother. "She enjoyed being there with everybody and being a part of that, and we really enjoyed it, too."
The Hays Circle's other longtime member, Agnes Leiker from Hays, was not able to attend the anniversary event but still was able to take part in another way.
When she learned of the upcoming celebration, Leiker gave event organizer Stephanie Schumacher some keepsakes from her scrapbook -- programs from a 1946 D of I banquet and a 1948 mother-daughter breakfast.
Leiker, a D of I member for 67 years, joined at even a younger age than Schmeidler. Leiker, 85, was not yet 20 when a friend talked her into attending a D of I meeting with her, and both joined immediately.
The D of I, originally founded in 1897 and an auxiliary to Knights of Columbus, now is composed of more than 60,000 members in the United States and Canada.
There are 35 Isabella circles in Kansas, and Hays' No. 254 -- which helps with various events at all three Hays parishes -- long has been the largest circle in the state.
That membership number for the Hays circle reached 400 as late as the early 2000s, and there still are approximately 280 members, Schumacher said.
Like any organization, some members are more active than others, but Schumacher said she notices a trend of people holding onto their membership, some even after they move away from Hays.
"I got an RSVP from Doris Pfannenstiel in Iowa that she wouldn't be able to make it" to the anniversary celebration, Schumacher said of another D of I member for 67 years.
Leiker said she wasn't able to stay as active in the organization while raising her five children, and she no longer is able to attend meetings these days. However, she still considers it an honor to be a member.
"I've never regretted it," Leiker said. "I liked it for the spiritual benefits, and I just kept paying my dues every year and didn't want to drop out."'
Ditto for Schumacher, who was encouraged to join -- a lot -- by her aunt, Mary Jacobs.
"My mother also was a member and never bugged me about joining, but my aunt did," Schumacher said.
"Things felt right at the time, so I joined. And I can tell you, within two or three years, I was an officer in the local circle," said Schumacher, who also got involved and had various offices at the state and international levels.
"I really liked the programs, and I thought it was a really good service organization," said Schumacher, who has become the face of the local circle for the past 30-plus years.
She said the Hays circle always has personified the Isabella order's principle of "unity, friendship and charity."
"Not only is it one of the largest circles, it's one of the strongest," said Schumacher, whose involvement has taken her to different states and Canada.
"Getting to work with the Canadians was a big thrill for me," she said. "I enjoyed that experience of a different culture and different language, but we're all in the same organization. It really broadens you as a person."