Sorority member honored for 65 years of service
Alpha Omicron Sorority President Jeri Fine gently placed a sparkling silver crown upon the head of 84-year-old member Dorothy Burgess as their sorority sisters looked on.
"You get a crown because you're queen for a day," Fine said.
A dozen ladies giggled as Fine read the silly old-timer message in a greeting card that Burgess gave to her sisters in celebration of the Madras philanthropic organization's 59th anniversary.
But the cake, flowers, certificate and crown were really a surprise celebration for Burgess, who reached a 65-year milestone as a member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha. Burgess was also a charter member of Alpha Omicron Sorority, which is the local chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha.
"As Alpha Omicron's membership numbers have decreased to 18 members, Dorothy has continued through the years to be our go-to gal, always having an answer about rules and regulations of Oregon and national policies," Fine said after crowing Burgess. "In the know, that's our Dot!"
The ladies – most older than 75 – gathered at the Community Center in Madras on Monday afternoon, April 19 to honor Burgess and other long-time members.
"So, Dorothy, your sorority sisters are delighted to honor you today for being such an integral part of our service and educational organization," Fine concluded before leading the group in their softly sung congratulatory song.
Burgess joined Epsilon Sigma Alpha when she was a young, expectant mother living in Eugene. Her first husband, Milton Ingram, had a coworker who suggested she join the non-academic sorority for business women and mothers.
"It sounded like something to do for a young mom expecting her first baby," Burgess recalls.
That was April of 1956 – 65 years ago this month – and she has been a faithful member ever since.
Not long after joining the Eugene club, the couple moved to Salem, where she continued her service with two different Salem Epsilon Sigma Alpha chapters. In March of 1962, with two little boys in tow, the couple moved to Madras, where her in-laws lived.
The following month, Burgess helped start the Madras Alpha Omicron Sorority with a few ladies, including current members Joan McDonald and Bev Haworth.
"I always say we raise money to give money away," said the club's treasurer Louise Muir, who has been a member for 20 years.
Over the decades, members have supported organizations that help children, such as St. Jude, Easter Seals, MountainStar Relief Nursery and Kids Club. Burgess fondly remembers taking a local handicapped boy to an Easter Seals Camp in her VW many years ago.
"We used to do a lot of catering, and we earned money that way and turned around and gave it back to the community with donations to things like the historical society and the swimming pool," Muir said.
They also raised funds by hosting state conventions.
Not only was Burgess an active charter member of the sorority, she had two children, worked in the office of a construction company at Round Butte Dam, and was a member of other service organizations. She has been involved with Habitat for Humanity, Odd Fellows, State Home Extension, Family Finders Genealogy, the library, 4-H, TOPS, Jefferson County Fair and Madras United Methodist Church. She recently received her 70-year jewel from the Daughters of Rebekah.
In early 1965, Burgess went to work for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, working mostly out of Warm Springs. She was transferred to Toppenish, Washington, for eight years, where she joined a Yakima Epsilon Sigma Alpha chapter. She then transferred back to Jefferson County and rejoined the local chapter that she had helped found. She retired from BIA in the fall of 1994.
"Her journey through six-plus decades shows her holding all chapter and district offices several times, ever stepping up to the leadership plate," Fine said. "Also active at the state level, Dorothy held many committee chairs and one elected position. She was a familiar face at the dozens of state conventions here in Oregon."
For many years, Burgess' duty has been to create reports of the sorority's philanthropic activities and turn it into the state. She says she hasn't reported all she's done.
"I haven't turned it into sorority because it's too hard to keep track of it," Burgess said. "I just like to keep busy."
Fine says Burgess has kept her vows of truthfulness, loveliness and friendliness throughout her 65-year membership.
"After pondering the amount of time she has devoted to ESA in 65 years – an almost impossible task – I've given it approximately 25,000 hours at least of selfless volunteering," Fine says of Burgess. "What a feat!"
Alpha Omicron Sorority
Several members were honored for milestone years of service:
Dorothy Burgess – 65 years
Darlene Hoffman – 40 years
Sharon Comingore – 40 years
Pat Watson – 30 years
Nancy Jolstead – 30 years
Diane Duke – 25 years
Louise Muir – 20 years
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