PAST DEPARTMENT PRESIDENTS: 1980-1989
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1979-1980
Mrs. Nellie Birk
Gridley, Kansas

It was a special day on June 24, 1979 In Hays, Kansas when Nellie Birk was installed to the office of Department President by Past Department President and Past National Chaplain Florence Batten.  President Birk shared a wonderful year with American Legion Department Commander John Hobble and together they participated in the wreath laying ceremony for the Truman Pilgrimage in Missouri.  Joining the Department of Kansas at its annual Mid Winter Forum in Manhattan was National President Agnes Kennedy from New York.  A good time was had by all in spite of heavy snow and frigid temperatures.  Special Olympics was a new program embraced by the Department and the President Birk, National President Kennedy and her officers attended a Special Olympics banquet in Salina where the children made a special visit to the head table with a presentation of roses. She remarked, "So much LOVE in Salina."  It was a special year for Kansas, as Dora Seymour was National Vice President and Auxiliary ladies were busy selling cookbooks to help raise funds to assist her.  National Convention was in Boston where President Birk was privileged to present Dora's name from Kansas as a candidate for National President.  Many receptions were held and more than 2,000 guests were received and greeted.  During her year in Kansas, President Birk pushed poppies and requested only poppy corsages be used on visitations.  So many lovely corsages were created by auxiliary members.  In addition to attending holiday gift shops, President Birk represented Kansas at the newly named Awareness Assembly in Washington, DC.  Thanks to the race cars zooming across Kansas for membership, Kansas achieved its national membership goal and was announced at national convention having reached its national milestone.  Nellie Birk resides in Gridley, Kansas where she remains committed to the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary.

1980-1981
Mrs. Yetta Irwin

McPherson, Kansas

Placed into nomination as a candidate for Department President was Yetta Irwin, a proud member of McPherson Unit #24 and the Fifth District of Kansas.  As the delegates convened in Wichita for Department Convention in May 1980, Mrs. Irwin took the oath of office administered by Past Department President Sophia Fordham.  Her theme was "Light Up Your Life--Serve the American Legion Auxiliary." It was an exciting year as Dora Seymour was serving as National President and President Irwin recalled the excitement of marching in the parade as Dora was presented.  In the Fall, she attended the National Presidents and Secretaries Conference in Indianapolis and the Homecoming for President Seymour in Colby, Kansas. By Department Convention 1981 in Topeka, Kansas had once again made its membership goal.  Yetta Irwin passed away at the age of 100 on September 16, 2010 just two weeks shy of her 101st birthday.  The Department of Kansas recalls fondly a gathering of members to share in the 100th birthday celebration.  In addition to serving as Department President, Yetta was active in the 8 and 40 and shared stories of her time as a vaudeville performer in the 1920's with anyone who would listen.  She truly "lit up the lives" of so many with her friendly and cheerful demeanor and devoted service to the American Legion Auxiliary. 

1981-1982
Mrs. Darlene Slechta
Ellsworth, Kansas
 
1982-1983
Mrs. Leita Broockerd
Overland Park, Kansas

Pledging to the members to uphold the superior leadership provided by those who preceded her, Leita Broockerd was installed as the 62nd Department of President for the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of Kansas on May 16, 1982 at its annual convention held in Salina.  Past Department President Wyota Adams served as installing officer as Past Department Presidents from the Second District Mary Plank, Willa Lucero and Elsie Hemphill served on the installing committee.  Her theme for the year was "Participate and Communicate" and in support of this concept, President Broockerd traveled extensively during her year of service and was present at a variety of department functions.  These included unit installations, activities at the VA Medical centers, homecomings and many American Legion birthday events.  A highlight of the year was the inaugural Eisenhower Pilgrimage held on Saturday, October 16, 1982 with  over 75 wreaths assembled for the ceremonies.  National President June Stolte and National Commander Al Keller joined the Kansas leadership as The American Legion family paid tribute to the only United States President who called Kansas home.  The photo at left shows National Commander Keller, National President Stolte, Department Commander Clarence Blake and President LeitaClick to download the .pdf Broockerd following the wreath laying at President and Mrs. Eisenhower's grave sites.   Following the Eisenhower Pilgrimage in October, President Broockerd joined in the fun at National President Stolte's homecoming and later traveled to Washington, DC for the Awareness Assembly.  It was an exciting time as Poppy Chairman Ann Lutjen arranged a meeting with Governor Carlin to present him with a poppy as he proclaimed the month of May "Poppy Month."  Leita remains an active member of Dwight Cowles Unit #370 and continues her commitment to serve as a positive role model, mentor and friend to younger Auxiliary members.  She resides with her husband Jim in Overland Park, Kansas.

1983-1984
Ms. Marguerite Rice
Topeka, Kansas

A member of Capitol Post #1 of Topeka, Marguerite Rice served as the 63rd Department President for the 1983-1984 administrative term.  A longtime member of the Auxiliary, President Rice assumed her responsibilities with energy and enthusiasm.  She remained active in Sunflower Girls State and worked diligently with the committee to arrange a successful event the following June.  After attending National Convention in Seattle, President Rice enjoyed many activities for the purpose of connecting with grassroots members.  The Second Eisenhower Pilgrimage occurred on October 15, 1984 with more than 100 wreaths laid in honor of President Eisenhower by the Kansas American Legion family.  The national theme of "Hats Off to America" was carried on throughout the department as officers and chairmen wore a hat to represent her program and in honor of President Rice's theme "Top Hats."  Activities for Fall included junior conferences  and Veterans' Day programs across the state attended with more than 174 in attendance at the Mid Winter Forum held in Junction City. When recalling her year, President Rice commented the thing which she was most proud was the overwhelming response to her special project, the Cancer Research Fund at Kansas State University.  Funds amounting to more than $10,000 was raised for scholarships for undergraduate students to pursue an education in support of medical study.  Additionally Ms. Rice was instrumental in assembling a Junior Convention to run concurrently with the Department Convention.  As her term concluded, Past National President Dora Seymour presented Marguerite with her Past Department President's Pin.  Prior to her term as Department President, Marguerite Rice served the department as Secretary from 1956-1982.  She passed away on October 26, 1997 in Topeka.

1984-1985
Mrs. Elaine Smith
Paola, Kansas

National Vice President 1991-1992

"Sing Out for America, Invest in its Future" was the theme and call to arms for Elaine Smith, newly installed President of the American Legion Auxiliary.  With these words as her guide, she encouraged members to sing out and promote interest in the auxiliary's programs.  The emblem was the musical clef, notes and staff and each noted represented a program.  President Smith embraced two special projects during her year of service.  The first was a donation of two tents to the Lakemary Center for Exceptional Children in Paola.  The other projects was the state school for the deaf located in Olathe.  Four electronic telephone machines were donated to allow those who were hearing impaired to be able to use the telephone for communications.  A highlight of the year was visiting all three VA medical centers and soldiers home at Fort Dodge.  The gift from President Smith to these facilities included over $1,000 for a wheelchair van, an air compressor, $500.00 for the craft rooms and $300.00 for a popcorn machine in the kitchen area.  The 318 units in Kansas contributed over 73,000 hours of volunteer work and spent nearly $60,000 toward community service projects.  Total expenditures for the VA Medical Centers were $15,418 with over 179,000 volunteer hours.  During the 1984-1985 year, the American Legion Auxiliary worked hand and hand with The American Legion for many programs.  These included GET OUT THE VOTE, crime prevention, drug abuse and child abuse.  Under President Smith's leadership, the Auxiliary supported The American Legion's legislative efforts and sent more than 329 letters to Representatives, Senators, State Legislators and local officials.  More than 735 flags were presented to various groups and over $26,460 was donated for programs in support of children and youth.  Many awards were won by the Department of Kansas at the 1985 national convention including the Toomey Trophy for the best Department History.  Elaine Smith passed away on January 11, 2013.

1985-1986
Mrs. Dorothy Malone
Winfield, Kansas

Mrs. Dorothy Malone of Winfield, Kansas became the 65th President of the American Legion Auxiliary, Department of Kansas.  Using the theme, "Stars of Service" the stars brightly sparkled as the programs of the organization were highlighted and carried out among the 315 units across the Sunflower State.  President Malone's special project was the purchase of over 1,200 medals for the Kansas special Olympics Winter Games.  Additionally, stereo equipment was purchased for the Leavenworth and Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Centers and Ft. Dodge Soldier's Home.  The units in Kansas donated $1,928 to "Save the Lady" and over 1,300 flags were presented to senior citizens, new auxiliary members, scouting groups and schools.  Cadet Law Enforcement was well attended by both young men and young women and the efforts of the auxiliary reported more than 4,600 children were helped through over 6,400 volunteer hours and $47,800 dollars spent.  Community Service had an outstanding year with more than 191,700 volunteer hours and $147,484 dollars used for programs in support of safety, health, recreation, beautification, arts and American Legion programs. The Department gave eight scholarships totaling $4,000 and units purchasing poppies increased their donations to over $35,537.  The units of Kansas donated gifts valued at more than $47,480 for the four Christmas Gift Shops with $3,400 spent on other Christmas programs for veterans in the state.  Two important veteran bills were pending in the Kansas state legislature allowing for a very active Legislative committee.  The Auxiliary helped The American Legion with a card campaign to save Ft. Dodge and helped obtain over 22,000 signed cards that was presented to the Governor.  Both bills passed and became law.  President Malone traveled over 13,000 miles crossing the state to attend many unit and district activities. She cited the work done by each member allowed the Kansas Auxiliary "Stars of Service" to accomplish great things.  Dorothy Malone remains active in her unit activities and continues to serve as the the Department of Kansas' VAVS Representative to the Kansas Veteran's Home in Winfield, KS.

1986-1987
Mrs. Carolyn Bailey
Hoisington, Kansas

"The Ideals of Justice" was the theme of Department President Carolyn Bailey of Hoisington in the Seventh District.  The theme was chosen to work in tandem with the National theme "And Justice for All."  The National President was Evelyn Starr of Minnesota and in support of her initiatives, the Department of Kansas focused on trying to make all citizens more aware of the flag and to practice flag etiquette.  President Bailey recalls her year being a busy and exciting one as a new Department Secretary was hired and together they learned in their roles as leaders.  Many activities were attended including Sunflower Girls State, Cadet Law Enforcement, open houses and receptions.  Department Fall Conference was held in Great Bend and was attended by National Vice President Nancy Smith of Ohio.  Due to a difficult economy, high unemployment and challenges facing the farming industry, President Bailey did not have a special project but rather encouraged every unit to do something in their own community to help locally and then report on it at convention.  This was a successful approach and many new projects were initiated and shared the following May.  Mid Winter Forum was held in Hutchinson, where program chairman presented along with informative speakers.  Kansas worked hard on membership and after achieving all previous milestones failed to surpass the national goal.  President Bailey recalls one of the most memorable items was the visits to the VA Hospitals during gift shops activities.  The faces of the veterans clearly expressed their gratitude for our efforts.  Carolyn Bailey remains an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary and lives in Hoisington, Kansas.

1987-1988
Mrs. Opal Naumann
Clifton, Kansas

Opal Naumann of Clifton was elected Department President for the administrative year 1987-1988.  Choosing "Highway to Happiness" as her theme, she joined Vice President Betty Jones in her theme "Time for Action" to work hard on membership.  Although Kansas met its first three target dates, the department closed out the membership year with 28,943 members, 597 short of its goal of 29,540.  It was an exciting summer when National President Pearl Behrend of Wisconsin honored Kansas with a visit to Sunflower Girls State, a first for Kansas.  Having served 17 years with the Girls State program, President Naumann recalls serving as official hostess to the 46th session as one of the highlights of her year.  The main accomplishment for the administrative term was noted as initiating a retirement plan for the office staff.  Technology was used to document and archive important Kansas activities, and a VCR tape of Past National President Mary Koger's inaugural speech was transferred and placed in the Cavalcade of Memories.  As she recalled the many activities of her year, Mrs. Naumann cited attending the Awareness Assembly and visiting Arlington National Cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial and the Moving Wall as highlights and the most memorable activities of her term as President.  Opal Naumann lives in Clifton, Kansas and when able continues to attend Legion Family activities.

1988-1989
Mrs. Betty Jones
Liberal, Kansas

May 15, 1988 was the day of the 68th Department Convention and the installation of Betty Jones of Liberal.  From the beginning of her term to the end, more than 35,000 road miles were logged in support of the American Legion Auxiliary and its activities.  Sharing the activities of her homecoming, President Jones recalled that a western motif was planned and a BBQ dinner was served.  She continued, "It was a relaxed and fun evening-except when we had an uninvited guest - a snake that was around the head table and moving among the band's musical instruments.  If you ever need a snake handler call Homer Naumann (Past Department President Opal's husband).  As we lowered the flag before dinner and as the young man played taps, my Dalmation "Wiley" decided to sing along (some people call it howling).  It was an embarrassment for me but many had a good laugh."  The Department had a new secretary, Carol Perez who traveled extensively with President Jones.  Trips to Indianapolis for the Presidents and Secretaries Conference were a great success and highlight of the year.  The Department Fall Conference was held in Dodge City with the distinguished guest National President Alice Galka.  President Jones was privileged to attend the three Kansas VA Hospitals and Fort Dodge for their holiday gift shop activities and she cited, "The Auxiliary should be very proud of the volunteer hours that are put into service for veterans." In addition to attending the Lincoln Pilgrimage and Truman Pilgrimage, Eisenhower Pilgrimage was a highlight of the year along with the junior convention that was held in Wichita.  Heidi Stout of Hays was elected Honorary Junior President.  It was a special moment when President Betty Jones installed the junior leaders.  Following Mid Winter Forum in Great Bend and a visit to Washington, DC for the Awareness Assembly, President Jones concluded a very successful year with Department Convention held in Topeka.  It was during the 1988-1989 administrative year that the Department had its first Cavalcade of Memories Chairman, Mrs. Dorothy Wood who worked hard to make the Cavalcade a reality for Kansas.  Mrs. Jones served on many national committees and as National Chaplain in 1996-1997.  Still fond of a good story, and a woman of great humor, Betty Jones continues to live in Liberal and remains active in the American Legion Auxiliary. 

 

 

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