How the Palatinate Chapter was Formed and Established
By Ramona Kechelen, Organizing Regent, DAR Palatinate Chapter
The Palatinate chapter was founded on April 15, 2000, with Ramona as its Organizing Regent. Here is the story of our chapter, as told by Ramona. In April of 2020 we would have held a celebration to mark our 20th anniversary, but Corona led to a different set of circumstances…
Nonetheless, here is a transcript of Ramona’s recent Zoom meeting with a DAR chapter in Michigan, where she was invited speak and share her experiences through her 60 years of DAR membership, first in the Tillicum Chapter in Seattle and then here in the Palatinate.
Take the floor Ramona:
“In 1998, the National Chairman of Units Overseas, Carol Rilling (now Honorary Vice President General) was convinced and enthusiastic about forming new chapters. She had lived at Ramstein as a military spouse. In 1990, I had started teaching for Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Germany, continuing my subscription to the DAR Magazine to keep connected. As a military wife, I had been welcomed and invited to attend and participate in chapters in California, Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. I learned a lot, even paged at Continental Congress, but was never able to serve as a chapter officer.
An article in the Stars and Stripes newspaper explained that a new DAR chapter was being formed. I replied … and made the 3 hour drive on the Autobahn (sometimes at 100 mph) to get to Ramstein and meet the ladies who were having preliminary meetings in September of 1999. Unexpectedly, the Organizing Regent’s husband received orders and they were leaving. They asked me to serve.
I had expected to be supportive, but keep my 40 years of membership in Tillicum Chapter in Seattle so they would not lose a member. Their reply was “DO IT” because it would not go against their membership count if serving as an Organizing Regent. I had begun as a C.A.R. member in Seattle, served as Washington State President, then joined DAR in 1960. All those experiences were so valuable and we started “practicing” the opening ritual even before we were official. The Palatinate Chapter was officially formed on April 15th, 2000.
We started selecting activities and service projects such as Conservation and providing JROTC medals for the ten American high schools on US bases. We soon learned of the location in the Old South Cemetery in Munich of two brothers whose father formed the Deux Ponts Regiment that included many Germans from Zweibruecken in the Palatinate area near Ramstein. That unit served under Rochambeau at the Battle of Yorktown. Wilhelm and Christian von Forbach led the attack on Redoubt 9 while Alexander Hamilton was injured taking Redoubt 10, causing Cornwallis to surrender.
We began participating in a Memorial Day ceremony of a single WWII GI , Lt. John Rahill, who had asked to be buried where he fell. His grave represents the thousands who lost their lives on that hillside in France, near the German border, in the liberation of France. Later, the Project Patriot focused on Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Air Force Base .
Our first bylaws incorporated Associate Membership. We were thrilled when we reached 100 Associates, which provided us with a budget beyond our own dues. (“Fundraisers” are not possible with customs and taxes in a foreign country). Our first Associate Member Chair maintained her membership in New Hampshire. She suggested that we send a Christmas greeting with a tree ornament, as a thank you for their valuable support. That tradition has continued. Today we send out over 700 cards every year!
We continue to welcome and encourage prospective members, transfers in, members residing in Germany temporarily, to be active participants in our chapter. Our Registrars are kept very busy with new applications, transfers in and transfers out (like a revolving door). The challenge facing a chapter that is dependent on military spouses as members is that they are usually here for only 2 or 3 years, and then get orders to leave to a new assignment. There were some meetings where there were more prospective members than actual members. For each one who left and returned to the States, one or two new ladies appeared. We now have about ten members who are permanent residents. These women represent the core of our active members in our charitable work.
Since 2000, at least one member from our chapter has attended Continental Congress each year providing popular items for the Units Overseas Luncheon and International Bazaar. Many friends and Associates help us organize and sell at our sales table every year, for which we are extremely grateful.
That is a glimpse of how Palatinate Chapter was formed and established.”
We are proud to represent the NSDAR in Germany and hope that, with your support, we can continue to make a meaningful contribution to the NSDAR goals of supporting American patriotism, education and historical preservation in this country.