Seventy-five years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II during their senior year at Bellingham High School, eight local women still nurture their friendships during monthly luncheons.
Historic events – just imagine how many these women in their early 90s have witnessed – aren’t a topic of conversation nearly as often as the lives of families and friends. Together, they have many dozens of family members to keep track of.
“Oh, we talk about our health and the weather,” said a grinning Peggy (Campbell) Adkinson, who now coordinates the reunions on the first Wednesday of each month at Bellingham’s Five Columns Restaurant since former coordinator Pat (Moore) Boppel no longer can attend regularly.
Adkinson is one of the “spring chickens” of the group – she won’t turn 92 until Feb. 14. That’s right, she has received birthday cards and Valentine’s Day greetings at the same time for as long as she can remember.
“I really want to stress how much Pat Boppel has done for us,” said Adkinson, who talked about the group along with Shirley (Tiplin) Smith. “Pat did a great job. She always had flowers and little treats at the table.”
The others include Lois (Hilton) Bowen, Rosemary (Kirby) Horn, Virginia (Emerson) Karns, Arlene (Evertz) Pilcher, Beverly (Davis) Whitsell and Phyllis (Rutherford) Wilson.
Neither Adkinson nor Smith was part of the original group, which began more than 25 years ago, although they’ve been part of the group for at least two decades. They said that at one time, about 40 women were part of the monthly gatherings from a large class, since BHS was the city’s only high school when they attended.
We’re going to keep meeting. We’re going to go to the last woman, and she’ll have a great lunch here.
“We’re going to keep meeting. We’re going to go to the last woman, and she’ll have a great lunch here,” Adkinson said.
“Oh, I don’t think I’d want to be the only one,” said Smith, a resident of Everson.
Responded the spunky and affable Adkinson, who treasures her friendships with the group: “I would be willing.”
She was referring to honoring the entire group, in much the same manner World War I veterans would have “last man” agreements to drink to the memory of former comrades.
In a note, Whitsell said, “I thank God every day for a happy, blessed life and I hope we ‘girls’ continue to meet as long as there are two left to do it.”
The sociable Smith, who obviously loves people, knows far more than most about companionship. She and her husband, former Bellingham police officer Lyle Smith, have been married 74 years.
“I (personally) don’t know anyone in the county who has been married longer,” she said.
Smith recalls she was grateful for an invitation to join the luncheons with Wilson, who moved back to Bellingham in 1987.
Smith recalled what a memorable year 1942 was for her.
“Three days after I turned 18, I married a great guy,” she said of Lyle, whom she recalled retired in 1978 as a detective after 25 years with the Bellingham Police Department. They raised four children (two deceased) and have 15 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.
I thank God every day for a happy, blessed life and I hope we ‘girls’ continue to meet as long as there are two left to do it.
“For gifts, I just pull out the checkbook,” she said with a laugh.
She is especially proud that granddaughter Natalie Smith (now on the track team at Portland University) won a girls state wrestling title for Mount Baker and grandson Brian Smith won a second-place boys medal.
Peggy and her husband, Dean Adkinson, were married 59 years when he died. They had two children (one deceased), and she has a granddaughter and four great-grandchildren.
Their daughter, Cheryl, is a retired doctor.
“Cheryl worked in an emergency room in Minneapolis and was in charge of a hyperbaric chamber,” Peggy said with pride, well aware that few women achieved the status of physician when her daughter did. Cheryl is a graduate of Whitman College and earned a master’s degree at the University of Iowa.
Peggy worked for more than 30 years in retail, learning her trade as a manager at the old Moss women’s accessory stores in Seattle and Bellingham. She learned about the clothing side of retail in several locations until she sold women’s accessories and clothing at her own shop, La Vee’s, on Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham from 1958-1974.
“I took a special class in retail at Bellingham my senior year,” she recalled. “I really enjoyed working with our customers. Some of the women in our group shopped at my store.”