ST. JOSEPH — Pat Hill, regent of the Algonquin chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution in St. Joseph, believes that belonging to the organization encourages long life.
They have one member who will soon turn 100 and has been in the DAR for 75 years. Another lived to be 102. Hill herself is 81 and is in her third term as regent. The average age of DAR officer is 79, Hill said.
Marion Kelm, at 90, is another example of DAR longevity. She has been a member for 45 years, and served in the offices as regent, vice regent, historian and treasurer, for 27 years.
Since Kelm stepped down as treasurer, the chapter has had three people fill the office, Hill said.
To thank her for her many years of service, members of the Algonquin chapter on Friday went to the St. Joseph Township home of Kelm and her husband of 71 years, LeRoy, to wash windows and do yard work as part of the DAR National Day of Service.
They also brought fresh vegetables, flowers and treats.
Mrs. Kelm was born in Bowling Green, Ky., before moving to Benton Harbor with her family. She followed her aunt, Hattie Thacker, into the DAR. Kelm’s mother died when she was born and her aunt helped raise her.
Members are required to document that they have an ancestor who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Kelm’s ancestor was Major Samuel Shepherd Duval of Virginia.
Along with her service, her husband, called Roy, made flagstands for the group and built them a replica of the Mayflower. The two met while at Benton Harbor High School and remember roller skating together at a rink near the St. Joseph River.
“That was our home away from home,” recalled Mrs. Kelm, then called Marion Hookey. She graduated from Benton Harbor High in 1947.
“She just couldn’t find anyone like me,” Mr. Kelm joked about their marriage on Sept. 4, 1948.
When asked about the secret to a long marriage, he quipped “Keep your head down and your mouth shut.”
They raised three children, Kevin, Tim and Kris Streit, and have lived in their current home since 1969. They have six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Streit remembers growing up with a wonderful stay-at-home mom who baked great desserts.
Mr. Kelm worked as a plumber who went to work in the dark and came home in the dark. He said his wife always had his lunch packed for him and a freshly baked dessert waiting at home.
Hill said Mrs. Kelm finally decided to give up the treasurer’s post when they computerized their records.
Other DAR service projects have included raising $1,300 by selling pies, so a young man who won a national essay contest and his family could attend the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The Algonquin chapter last year paid to restore the World War II plaque in Lake Bluff Park and place it on a new stone monument wall. Leftover funds went to a veterans home in Ann Arbor. They are paying for landscaping for the LaSalle stone along the bluff and planning a ceremony for World War II veterans who fought in France.
Hill says Mrs. Kelm was one the mainstays of the chapter and the most easy-going woman she has ever met, and never let problems bother her when she was regent.
“She was our treasurer, and she’s our treasure,” Hill said.
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