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Red Hatters play down in Monterey

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Red Hatters play down in Monterey

Red Hat Society members Charlene Coughlin and La Donna Settlemoir

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin


POSTED March 28, 2014 1:25 a.m.

Monterey always makes for a pleasant weekend, but adding 120 or so Red Hatters frolicking in the Embassy Hotel near Monterey Bay — including 10 from Manteca — adds an indescribable level of karma for all those involved including the onlookers. 

The unique laughter, the smiles and a willingness to talk to just about anyone wanting to know more about their fun group set the women apart as being special and giving individuals who care deeply about each member of their Red Hat Society. 

We had packed up for a fun weekend marking our daughter’s birthday, including her husband and three children. The Red Hat contingent was in the hotel for their “funvention” when we arrived. They were enjoying the happy hour in the downstairs plaza, dressed in all their colorful full-length finery with hats of every description. 

Curious as I tend to be, I asked a female staffer tending bar in the center plaza how many Red Hatters there were attending the afternoon reception. She looked at me and quipped there were about 150 and then asked if I might be single. My wife and family were in the lounge far on the other side of the room. 

Before I knew it La Donna Settlemoir caught my eye. She was standing with a group near the door, asking what I was doing in Monterey. La Donna is retired from the banking industry in Manteca and is queen of her chapter and heads the Queens’ Council overseeing some 65 chapters in the Central Valley. She had been with Washington Mutual in town for her entire career. 

Friday was their first night at the Embassy where they enjoyed hors d’ouvres and drinks followed by a festive dinner. Saturday morning they took part in a Pajama Breakfast together, complete with commercial photographers capturing every minute. Later on Saturday there was a “Tea” at noon that featured a fashion show of bathing suits from the 1800s organized by Settlemoir. Red Hatters, of course, served as the models for the specialty attire. 

There were plenty of other Red Hatters from Manteca. Dottie Oliver retired from the Bay Area Transit District (BART) where she worked as a mechanic. Dianna Vierra was in the millinery field as a hat maker, and Vicki Graham is an educator having served countless children in Special Education. Registered nurse Edwina Rozario proudly added that she has continued renewing her medical license at 95 — looking no more than 70 years old. Checking with another source I was told she was actually 70 and had been pulling my leg. She had me in awe wondering how she could look so very young. Rozario is an oncology nurse who had been at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto for most of her career.

Coleen Laurenti continues in her vocation as a seamstress. Erleen McNiel spent her career of 35 years at the San Joaquin County Hospital in the billing department. She continues to work at the hospital as an administrative assistant some 12 hours a week. Donna Crowe is the queen of Manteca’s Jazzin’ Rubies Red Hat Chapter. Her vice-queen is Erleen McNiel. In all there are some half dozen Red Hat groups in Manteca.

Mary Lee stated that she was a business owner and an electrical technician along with Vicki Graham who specialized in working with handicapped kids in the educational field. 

In Manteca Settlemoir’s local chapter is known at the “Red H’ttitudes” that demonstrates the undying karma of the group with a membership of 35. It costs $39 to launch a new chapter and dues are $20 a year for members who want to have fun. A number of the Red Hatters belong to several chapters in addition to their own. Settlemoir belongs to five.

Mary Louise Santiago was a “wine tracker” at Turner Road Vintners in Lodi. She can open a bottle of wine and quickly identify the winery that produced it. Charlene Coughlin worksat a winery. 

The colorful “funvention” included Red Hatters from as far away as Wisconsin, Maui, Texas, Colorado and all parts of California where members have to be over the age of 50. Younger women are allowed to join but they are referred to as “Pink Hatters.” 

The women’s flamboyant costumes are provided by a shop in Pacific Grove that is totally geared to the Red Hatters and operated by a husband and wife team of David and Nancy with everything from jewelry, clothing hats, rhinestones, name tags and hats. Nancy is seen as the organizer and her husband David is the professional photographer for their shop, “Royal Splendor in the Pacific.” David dresses the part and keeps the action moving along as he photographs the women’s activities. 

“Our clothes come from various places,” Settlemoir added. “Sacramento has a wonderful shop where we use Sparkles owned by English Sue and we use lots of thrift stores – never pass up a good deal,” she quipped.

Before noon on Sunday — after eating breakfast together — there was an exodus of red hats and suitcases headed for their cars and vans in the hotel parking lot. The smiles and laughter hadn’t ceased as they looked forward to their next relaxing confab together. 

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