Shown above left to right: Jean Siegfried, Linda Chapin, Rosemary Durocher, Jeanine Walsh, Susan Simasek
We are honoring those stalwart members of our League who have been members for at least half a century. They have been granted the status of LIFETIME MEMBERS – a special title given to those who have been members for 50 years or more.
Becoming a lifetime member is a singular honor. Over our League’s 82 years, only 13 Orange County Leaguers have become lifetime members.
Eight have passed away, including Robin Murphy. Robin joined in 1952 and was the senior Orange County Leaguer, in terms of membership years, when she passed away in October.
The deceased lifetime members, in order of the dates they joined, are:
Bea Ettinger, 1945
Robin Murphy, 1952
Pat Schwartz, 1962
Virginia Klaasen, 1961,
Sandy Rubinstein, date unknown
Phoebe Carpenter, 1955,
Betty Anne Staton, 1956
And Fern Hurt, 1958.
Their good works in the League are legend. These members’ service to the League and to our community has a special place in our hearts.
We also honor our precious living lifetime members. The League of Women Voters of Orange County has five living members who have achieved lifetime member status, including two members who will be welcomed tonight into this special category.
In terms of her membership service, Jeannine Walsh is now the most senior of our living lifetime members. Jeannine joined our League on March 1, 1961, and began her League service in the turbulent ‘60s, when some were challenging the system and the League was trying to transform it. Education restructuring, environmental preservation, and Constitutional reform were among many hot issues that Jeannine’s League tackled.
Jean Siegfried joined the League September 1, 1962, and served as president in 1974 and 1976. Among the many challenging issues, she recalls one especially hot potato: “Charter – charter- charter.” After the new 1968 Florida Constitution became law, local governments could adopt “home rule” charters that allowed them to control their own destinies, and the League was in the throes of debates over whether and how to revise the charters for Orange County and local towns. As president, Jean (and her vice president Linda Chapin) also represented the LWVOC at the 1974 convention when the LWV voted to welcome men as full voting members. Jean is the senior living president for the Orange County League.
Linda Chapin joined the League on January 2, 1968, and served as president in 1976 and 1978. Linda was elected Orange County Commissioner in 1988. Following the League’s successful campaign to reform the Orange County charter, Linda became the first elected Mayor of Orange County (1990-1998), where she became known as “the George Washington of Orange County” for her many landmark contributions. Linda credits the League with helping develop skills that allowed her to become one of Central Florida’s most respected leaders.
And now the three of them -- Jeannine, Jean, and Linda -- can welcome two new lifetime members into their exclusive club:
Welcome, Susan Simasek! Susan joined the League in 1971 and served as treasurer for many years before becoming president in 1984 and 85. Susan’s era included a growing awareness of the need for environmental preservation, including protection of water resources. One of her proudest accomplishments came when the LWVOC published a landmark booklet, “Preserve Florida Waters,” which contains information still relevant today.
Welcome, Rosemary Durocher! Rosemary also joined the League in 1972. She served as president in 1978 and 1979. It was the fight over the Equal Rights Amendment that lured Rosemary into the League, where she stayed to lead the charge for criminal justice reform and her proudest accomplishment, the 1978 Constitutional amendments. “We were the young ones,” Rosemary remembers, “the young Turks, but we were mentored by a beautiful generation of elder leaders who were to be admired beyond belief.” One of the elders used to say that five League women in white gloves could get the County Commission to do anything, Rosemary recalls.