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Wearing the Golden Key ... At Last

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–By Guest Blogger Cindy Haffner Howe, Washington State

When my son went to Washington State in 2002, I visited the Kappa house during Moms’ weekend. Hanging on the wall outside the chapter room was a beautiful blue quilt with a picture of the 1950 pledge class. I spotted my mom, JoAnne Carlson (Kruger), sitting in the middle of the picture. Mom, who left school before she initiated, was representing Kappa all these years without knowing it.

JoAnne was valedictorian of her high school and was given a scholarship to attend Washington State University as a pharmacy major. She pledged Gamma Eta Chapter in 1950, but back then members were not initiated until the spring.  

JoAnne 5

My mom was ready to officially join Kappa until love intervened. Her boyfriend, my dad, asked her to marry him at Christmas and mom did not return for spring semester. After returning home to Spokane, Wash., and taking a job to pay for the wedding, they married in June 1951. Mom eventually went back to school to complete her education, graduating summa cum laude from Eastern Washington University.  

Twenty-two years later, I also pledged Kappa at Washington State. Although Mom and I have always shared a love of irises and the color blue, I was heartbroken that I could not share Initiation with my mom.

In 2012, Fraternity Council unanimously voted to allow Mom to be initiated under special circumstances. I was thrilled at the thought of her dream finally being fulfilled and thrilled to pin a family member. After all, my two daughters pledged Delta Gamma and this was going to be my chance to pin a Kappa.  

There are no words for the emotions I felt as I drove Mom down to Pullman, Wash. We shared stories of Kappa and the bonds of sisterhood. Mom never mentioned being too old or this seeming ridiculous. Kappa sisterhood was something missing in her life and now, at 81, she was finally going to wear the golden key. Kate, my best friend from high school and a Kappa at Beta Pi, Washington, joined us for this momentous occasion.

JoAnne 4

The active members were almost as excited as we were. They could not have been more welcoming or gracious. Mom, Kate and I were invited to stay in the guest room, where we ended up laughing, crying and sharing a cherished memory together. I was worried we were invading a special time for the collegians, but quickly learned we were showing them that Kappa extends far beyond college. This bond is something that grows more valuable with age.  It is a connection that lasts a lifetime! Mom did not stop smiling all weekend.  


The following weekend, Mom attended Founders Day with the Spokane Alumnae Association.  She was reacquainted with her Kappa big sister, Katherine “Kashie” Watson Gregory, and other members of her 1950 pledge class.  It was the perfect ending to an unforgettable experience.  Sixty-three years may seem like a long wait to realize the dream of becoming a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, but my mom was never one to give up on her dreams. Thank you, Kappa, for granting this special request and reminding me that there are some things worth waiting for.

Posted by Blog Admin at 03/18/2014 09:54:28 AM | 

Thank you so much for sharing your mom's story! I teared up while reading it. It was a wonderful reminder of just how special this sisterhood is, and I'm so glad she can finally share in it after all of these years.
Posted by: Cate M ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 11:03 AM

What a wonderful story!! It brought tears to my eyes.
Posted by: Fran Becque ( Email | Visit ) at 3/18/2014 11:03 AM

Thank you for sharing this. It is a beautiful story that speaks to the special bond of sisterhood all of us who share the wearing of the Key understand! L&L
Posted by: Betsey Gregoire ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 6:29 PM

This is a beautiful story! Congratulations, JoAnne. L & L
Posted by: Jill B ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 6:42 PM

How well I remember the situation and process that was gone thru to make these types of initiations possible! What a beautiful story!
Posted by: Lois Razek ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 8:54 PM

eautiful tribute. She was meant to be a Kappa, and you are a special daughter too.
Posted by: Julie Mangis ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 9:35 PM

This is a wonderful story. I'm certain the actives had a very special experience witnessing such a special initiation!! Congratulations to JoAnne--welcome sister!! Loyally,
Posted by: susan ritchie ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 9:36 PM

So happy for you and your mother!
Posted by: Caroline Morgan ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 9:54 PM

Kappa IS for a lifetime and your story proves it! Beautiful!
Bunnie Laine Lubs
Alpha--Monmouth College
Posted by: Bunnie Laine Lubs ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 10:05 PM

Love & Loyalty
Posted by: Debbie Bishop ( Email ) at 3/18/2014 10:48 PM

I love this. I am so glad Kappa does this.
Posted by: Kennedy ( Email ) at 3/19/2014 9:45 PM

You and your mother are inspirations to us all. It is never to late to do the things that are important to you.
Posted by: Susie Bremer Jensen ( Email ) at 3/23/2014 3:18 AM

I was present at JoAnne's initiation this last fall at Gamma Eta. Not only was JoAnne and her daughter wonderful, lovely representatives of Kappa but proof that Kappa is for a lifetime. There was not a dry eye in the room when JoAnne took her vow to membership. Welcome sister.
Posted by: Susanne Vander Heyden ( Email ) at 3/23/2014 10:08 PM

special request and reminding me that there are some things worth waiting for.
Posted by: hotels lyon ( Email | Visit ) at 6/26/2014 5:55 AM

This bond is something that grows more valuable with age. It is a connection that lasts a lifetime!
Posted by: Virtus ( Email | Visit ) at 8/10/2016 11:59 AM

I'm a Gamma Eta as well and reading this was so heartwarming! Such a special memory and story of lifetime sisterhood. I look at that quilt everyday, what a wonderful story behind it. Truly a beautiful Kappa story. So happy to be a current Kappa member
Posted by: Natalie ( Email ) at 2/3/2017 5:41 PM

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