Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

“R” is for the Royal Red Divas of the International Red Hat Society


Red Hat's misbehaving

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The Royal Red Divas of Youngsville and Wake Forest, North Carolina, became an organized chapter of the International Red Hat Society in 2004. Eleven years and going strong! We have done crafts, been in parades,  and eaten our way through Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, NC! We’ve toured, partied on the local, state, and national levels, and have loved every minute! There’s just something about wearing red hats and purple outfits to make you laugh at yourself–so of course, everything seems funnier and more lighthearted. Sadly, we had one of our members die, but she even elected to be buried in her red hat regalia with us dressed to the nines as her escorts!  Now that is impact.

We are an especially lucky chapter, because although we have had a lot of turnover with moving and all, we have always kept a diverse group age wise, and racially. Having pink hatters, those under 50, and red hatters, those over 50, keeps us young I believe, keeps us vibrant! Some of our oldest members do that well also, as they are our friendliest flirts…we are never alone! Laugh, Love, Live those words  are our motto! 

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“Q” is for Queen of my Red Hat Group!

Red Hatters (2)

Hands Down! The most fun thing I have ever done has been to serve as the Queen of my Red Hat Group, The Royal Red Divas, for ten years! Queen! Queen! Queen! I never thought of myself as the Queenly type or even a Princess, in my childhood I was the cowboy!  But I learned quickly that being the Queen was fun!  We learned to PLAY–to play dress up, to play games, to play with the rules! The poem of our Society says it all–“Warning by Jenny Joseph—


Red Hatters kicking up some fun!When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
 I retired last year, and the Divas honored me with  an awesome party!  I’m still a part of the group, just not the Queen, now I’m the “Dowager Queen”!  My pins say “Founding Queen ” and “Retired Queen”, take  your pick!  We have the most wonderful new Queen, Angie Rowe! 
You might know of, or even belong to the International Society of Red Hatters.  If not,  you may not know how much fun they are! You can start your own chapter and be the Queen, or look around and join one near you! It doesn’t matter how old you are either. If you are 50 and above, you wear a red hat and a purple outfit, reversing colors on your birthday!  If you are under 50, awaiting “reduation”, no matter how young, you are called a pink hatter, and you wear pink and lavender!  You can go to the website, redhatsociety.com and find a chapter near you. if you are in a group, please let me know in the comments. It’s always great to meet other red hatters!

The Royal Red Divas Honor their Retiring Queen—Goodbye Queenie Wahine, Queen of Perpetual Joy and Popcorn Peach Pie!


In May 2014, the Royal Red Divas, a chapter of the International Red Hat Society, crowned their new Queen, Angie Rowe. For their June gathering they honored their retiring Queen. Since I am that retiring Queen, I have to tell you no one’s ever had a better tribute and/or retirement party!


First of all, I knew nothing about these plans and was very surprised that they carried it off without my having an inkling! I arrived thinking I was coming to my first meeting as simply a member, ready to enjoy the leadership of our new Queen, Angie Rowe. The Divas had prepared a beautiful, formal tea, with lace tablecloths and china teacups. They had decorated the room to reflect my favorite things! Knowing that I am majorly into gardening and genealogy, the divas had decorated the room like a garden. There was an amazing red and purple arched trellis! Surrounding it and all over the room were a multitude of beautiful flowers. There were pink vincas, purple Angelonia, bright pink and red impatiens, and many others reflecting our colors and my love of flowers. It took my breath away! Displayed prominently was the most incredible piece of art and loving work I have had the pleasure to see in a while. The Divas had collected tiny pictures of Divas who had  been in the group over the last 10 years and decorated a family tree with those pictures!  It is so beautiful, and these people are so meaningful to me, that I will treasure it always.

I wish you could’ve seen the table laden with tea sandwiches: cucumber, cream cheese and olives, egg salad, chicken salad and more. There were fruit, olives, cheese, croissants, and of course a multitude of desserts. There were scones and clotted cream which were delicious. Of course we live in the South, so there was scrumptious pound cake;. and iced and hot tea in china pitchers and pots which graced our tables along with choices of wine. The Divas had out-done themselves for a second month in a row!

 The Divas had already presented me with an incredible gift – the gift of this Dragon voice recognition program that I am using at this moment. They had already said such nice things about my 10 years as their Queen that I certainly never expected to be honored in this way. They gave me two beautiful decorative pins to wear. One says “Founding Queen”, and the other says “Retired Queen”. I just love them!  As you know in Red Hat “you can never have too much bling!”  I think I’ll wear one of them on my hat and one will be pinned proudly to my shoulder for all Red Hat gatherings. DSCF9013480654_10151353032167732_1041515182_n


Being Queen of the Royal Red Divas has been one of the most fun things I have ever done in my life! Only health concerns could make me step down. However I am looking forward to joining in as a Diva, and enjoying the energy brought to the group by our new Queen Pinkalovagaga!  I think my new name will reflect my genealogical work so now I’ll be Grande Dame Helen of Virginia!   I love that name, but will never lose the perpetual joy brought to me by the Royal Red Divas.  Thank you Divas! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Love and kisses from  your Founding Queen, Helen

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New Queen and Awesome Coronation for the Royal Red Divas of the International Red Hat Society

Corronation, Royal Divas, Angie Rowe, May 12, 2014

Queen Pinkalova GaGa, Angie Rowe of the Royal Red Divas of the International Society of Red Hatters, May 12, 2014


On Monday, May 12, 2014 the Royal Red Divas of the International Red Hat Society, crowned their new Queen.  For the last ten years Helen Holshouser had been the Queen of the Divas as Queen of Perpetual Joy and Popcorn Peach Pie!  Many women had come and gone over the years. One member had died and chosen to be buried in her red hat regalia. The Divas had laughed, cried, and grown older together. Tonight, however, marked Helen’s retirement and a new Queen would begin her reign. The coronation was set for Angela Rowe, Queenie Pinkalova GaGa!

Excited about this special event, the Divas gathered early to decorate the room. With red, purple, and pink tablecloths, flowers in abundance from their gardens, and laughter flowing, the divas transformed an empty room into a beautiful palace throne and dining room! Diana Craig, Lady Diamond, had transported a beautiful high-back pink, winged chair around town all day while she took her mother to the doctor and shopped for the beautiful sash for our new Queen. Grand Madame Ettoufe’, Loretta Highfield, arrived with her arms full of supplies– ready to set up tables and decorate. Princess Sweet Melody, Annie Holshouser also arrived with the music, the cake, and other decorative items. We went to work as other Divas joined us in transforming our space. Joining us were Baroness Breezy Beverly Reid, Countess Regina—Jean Mitchell and her daughter Ronni,  our guest. Comtesse Caroline Carol Rafferty, Baroness Geraldine Hildebrandt, and our own Lady Hops-a-Lot- Sharon Jones O’Kelley! Our famed  Queen of Vice, Sharon Wright Kittrell tied the evening together! As usual several members had to work late, were out-of-town, or unfortunately, sick with a bug and had to miss all the fun!

At last it was time to welcome our new Queen!  As Angie entered the room, two Divas met her with rose petals which they tossed for her path and showered her with– the joyful aroma of roses filled the air! Diana Craig escorted our new Queen to her throne. Waiting for her beside the throne was the retiring Queen, myself, Queen Helen. I welcomed Angie to her special night and reminded the group of the excitement of this cherished ceremony. As we began, Angie stood and took the following pledge

“I, Angie Rowe, do solemnly swear that I, having ascended to the lofty status of Queen, will gracefully and regally fulfill the duties of the office, including, but not limited to, the following:

I will reign over my chapterettes with a kind, benevolent spirit, valuing each member for who she is.

I will promote harmony and understanding among our world-wide sisterhood.

I will wear my colors and regalia proudly.

I will wield my scepter and make grand pronouncements whenever the mood strikes.

I will honor the spirit of the little girl who lives inside myself and those of my Red Hat sisters as well.

I will promote the core values of the Red Hat Society – fun, friendship, freedom, fulfillment and fitness – where ever, whenever I can.

I will never call a ‘meeting’, make a  ‘motion’, or possess a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order. I will refuse to take myself – or anything else within my power – too seriously.

I will do myself and the Red Hat Society PROUD!

Then Queen Helen says, “By the power vested in me by the International Red Hat Society and the Royal Red Divas, I now pronounce you Queen Pinkalova GaGa – Queen of the Royal Red Divas! Cheers and shouting commenced!

At this point Sharon Kittrell, our Queen of Vice, transferred the Queen’s Robe, from Helen to Angie, placed the Queen Diva Pin on her  sash, crown ring on her finger, gave her the royal scepter, and last but not least– moved the crown from Helen’s head to Angie’s, and history was made! Angela Rowe became the new Queen of the Royal Red Divas of Youngsville, Wake Forest and Rolesville, North Carolina!

We were not quite finished our ceremony, however, as we had gifts to give our new Queen! We read the poem Warning by Jenny Joseph, giving our Queen the materials she would need as she grew older.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. 

Jenny Joseph

There is a videotape accompanying this story, taken  our own Loretta Highfield, which shows the gifts of brandy and summer gloves being bestowed upon our new Queen as she vowed to break the rules and get over the sobriety of her youth. The joy of giving these gifts and celebrating our inner child, was summarized in a second poem read by our Queen of Vice Sharon Kittrell, which can also be seen in the accompanying video.

With the coronation, gift-giving and poem-reading completed, we adjourned to share our feast and special desserts made by our own member pastry chef Annie Holshouser.  She made a Queen’s cake with an exact replica of the crown placed on Angie’s head tonight.  She also made red velvet cupcakes with crowns for each of us!

The dinner went well, enjoyed by all– stories were told– music was played, and laughter and tears rang through-out the room! At one point, one of our founding members, Countess Regina, Jean Mitchell came to the front of the room and presented a gift to the outgoing Queen. While doing so, she talked of her relationship with the former Queen and how close it had grown over the years. Then she presented the Queen with an unexpected and incredible gift that the former Queen is using at this very moment to dictate this blog post. It is a voice recognition software program called ‘Dragon’. Helen is unable to use her left hand for typing at this time and is facing surgery, what a wonderful gift from the Divas to allow Helen to continue her blog posts. Helen shed tears several times during the night and this was one of those times. Tears of joy I can tell you.

What a night! What a joyful, joyful night!  The leadership of the Royal Red Divas might change, but the spirit and enthusiasm of the Divas will go on forever!  This is one of the best groups of women both current members and past, one could ever ask to be associated with. Thank you Lord for the Royal Red Divas and the blessings they have brought to our lives!



Celebrating 143 years of St. Patrick’s Day Parades! Robert Kerse -52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


St. Patrick's Day Parade

My Irish heritage is something that I’ve always been proud of,  perhaps because my mother was proud of it also, and instilled that belief in me. She grew up an Irish Catholic, so it shouldn’t surprise me that her family was involved with the Hibernian Society. The AOH , Ancient Order of Hibernians, was an organization originating in Ireland, that started in America in 1836 and  is still active today. In Ireland, and in the early days of America, the society existed to advocate, and even protect, with violence if need be, Irish Catholics from prejudicial treatment. It is still active today, promoting Irish cultural awareness,celebrations, and charitable activities.  

I think it is so interesting, that as I studied my  ancestors, I discovered my fourth great grandparents, the Scottish Covenanters, fighting against the Catholics for the right to their personal covenant with God. Then here I discover that my Irish ancestors belonged to an organization called the Hibernian Society to fight, if need be, to support their right to be Catholic! It seems I descend  from some brave and strong-willed people.  It also reminds me that part of the reason they came to America, was to find religious freedom without persecution!

Robert Kerse arrived in America in 1850, as a 18-year-old Irish immigrant. He sailed from the Kilinaboy Parish, in County Clare, Ireland  to the Port of Boston with his brother Thady and his mother Ann. They came South and  joined another brother already living in Richmond,Virginia. By 1855 at the ripe old age of 20, Robert had married a woman named Margaret and had his first child, a son named Thomas. On the censuses we can see that he worked as a grocer, then in later years as a “turnkey”, a guard in the prison system–perhaps influencing his son James and his grandson Thomas Philip to both become police officers.  By 1863, at age 28, he was fighting in the Civil War where we can find records on Fold3.com of his horse being shot out from under him! By 1871, at 35 yeas old, the war is over, and he has buried two of the seven children he already has. (We know that  he will have three more children, with two more dying in the next couple years!)  Can you imagine?  Most of us do not have such incredible experiences in  our whole life! Yet, when I went to the newspaper archives on Geneaalogybank.com, what did I find, but a wonderful article about his attending a meeting of the Hibernian Society in 1871, where he was put in charge of organizing people in his part of town who wanted to be in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade! His resilience seems remarkable to me! 

I was born and raised in Richmond also, Robert’s  great great-granddaughter. One of the most fun things we did as a family was going to the parades which were abundant in Richmond! When I married and later moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, we also attended the St. Patrick’s Day parades, because they were  fun and to honor our Irish heritage. So, when I found this article, I was stunned to realize that my family had been enjoying and celebrating St.Patrick’s Day with parades for 143 years at least! Wow! Both of my daughters were in marching bands, and both marched in parades as teenagers–it must be in the genes!

Kerse, Robert, hibernian Society, p.1Kerse, Robert  hibernian, p.2Kerse, Robert, Hibernian, p.3Kerse, Robert, hibernian, p.4

Not knowing about my great, great grandfather’s involvement with the Hibernian Society, I think it is serendipitous that as the hostess for my Red Hat Society Group, I arranged for us to go to the Hibernian Irish Pub for our gathering this week! We had a great time, celebrating an early St. Patrick’s day with many o’ toasts as you n see in the picture below.  I was one of four “birthday girls” celebrating this month, and I loved some of the birthday  and friendship toasts offered: 

“May your troubles be less, And your blessings be more–And nothing but happiness come through your door!”

“Here’s to your coffin! May your coffin have six handles of finest silver, May your coffin be carried by six fair young men! And may your coffin be made of the finest wood from a 100-year-old tree, that I shall plant tomorrow!”

“May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may He turn their ankles, So we’ll know them by their limping.”

“May God grant you always…A sunbeam to warm you, A moon beam to charm you,  A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you!”

These toasts and many more can be found on numerous sites on the internet by simply googling “Irish toasts and blessings”.

Royal Divas, I'll toast to that!

The Royal Red Divas toast to St. Patrick and friendship!

I’ll leave you to celebrate your St. Patrick’s Day with this Irish blessing which is very special to me as it was offered at my husband Max’s and my wedding 43 years ago! Have a wonderful day! Helen

“May the road rise to meet you.

 May the wind be always at y our back.

 May the sun shine warm upon your face,

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”-author unknown


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The Royal Red Divas of the International Red Hat Society and The Great Gatsby

The Royal Red Divas take in The Great GatsbyDressed in our 1920’s finest, the Royal Red Divas of Wake Forest, Rolesville, and Youngsville, NC strut their stuff right into the theater to see The Great Gatsby! Starting with dinner at a nearby restaurant, Fiesta Mexicana of N.Raleigh, NC, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo a bit late, nevertheless heartfelt! But we were dressed in our finest attempts to represent the roaring twenties, the era of the story in The Great Gatsby, to attend the movie. Of course, our youngest pink hatters, those under age 50, were there mainly to drool over Leonardo DiCaprio.

Red Hat, 2 gorgeous pink hatters! Annie, l, and Angie, R., May, 2013

Leonardo DiCaprio

Robert Redford as The Great Gatsby

The older ones of us were reminiscing over our last viewing of this movie and the sexy Robert Redford with his blue blue eyes tempting us! LOL  We agreed they were equally fetching with their “come hither” gleams!


Red h. Dora collects men whereever she goes! Our own femme fatale, Dora, didn’t let us down last night as she went about collecting men, real and cardboard cut outs! LOL  If you want to have fun in the prime of your life as a woman, join a Red Hat Group, you can’t help but laugh! see  redhatsociety.com

    Red H. Loretta H. on left with Dora p. on right, May, 2013Red H. Sharon left and Annie H. right, May, 2013  Red H. Carol Rafferty dons her sombrero given to her by Fiesta Mexicana staff!


The Royal Red Divas Party with Angels

The Royal Red Divas Party with Angels!

      This past Monday night, the Royal Divas of the Red Hat Society got together for their annual Christmas party! We went to a local restaurant that provided us with a private room in which to party.  We never said we were the angels! LOL   We did have some serious contemplation time as one of our members, Countess Regina, sang an inspiring rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High”!  Her chorus of “glo.o..o..o..o…or ia, in excelsis deo!” just sent shivers up my spine!
    One of our pink hatters, Princess Sweet Melody, performed an interpretive dance to “I Am Your Angel” by Celine Dion.  She was dressed like an angel, complete with wings and halo, and we began to feel the spiritual presence of the heavenly beings as our own angel swayed to the music and floated across the room! 
     Besides the special music, different members had brought angel figurines 
from their own collections, so that we had a choir of angels represented in front of us at all times!  Just to take us over the top in atmosphere,Princess Sweet Melody had put together a music video that ran in the background between other presentations, giving us grand, breathtaking scenes of angels, clouds, mountains and oceans along with awe inspiring music ! 

                                Our hostess, Countess                                          Adairess presented a short seminar about angels and read some Bible scripture to help us remember the important role angels played in the Bible, and surrounding the birth of Jesus. By then we were immersed in and among our angels, and many of us were ready to share our personal angel experiences. I plan to share some of those with you in the next few days leading up to Christmas.   Lady Diamond shared my story for me…found previously in this blog, entitled “The Day an Angel Saved my Daughter’s and My Life”. I couldn’t share it myself, because I still cry when I think of how afraid I was that day! As well, Lady Diamond is such an incredibly talented story teller, that she had every one of us perched on the edge of our seat in anticipation of what would happen!  She told one of her own amazing encounters also! Baroness BeautifulBreezy Beverly shared how angels had been a part of her life, all of her life, since she had fist seen and talked with them around age three! I am hoping she will share her own story here as a guest author, but if not she has said I may share it. You can well imagine that by this time, we were feeling very spiritual and serene.

      However, even Psalms 100 reminds us to “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord…serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with singing. (King James Version) We were at our Red Hatters’ Christmas party after all! And we are probably more often known for being a bit naughty! Acting silly, remembering to play! So we reached inside, called out our baby angels, and revved it up!   Our videos followed suit as they magically changed to “I want a hippopotamus for Christmas!”, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer!”, and “Santa Baby” Our hostess had even penned three original Christmas Carols for our group alone! The twelve days of Christmas brought gifts like membership fees, boas, fascinators, blingy rings, and men under one of our Princesses’ beds! LOL  We were laughing so hard the whole room broke up!

      Our traditional gift exchange continued the glee as bottles of “Naughty and Nice” wine from Duplin wineries right here in North Carolina became a popular gift to steal!  (oh yes, each gift chosen, could be stolen up to three times!) A beautiful red velvet, lace shawl was stolen several times—and became a surprisingly sexy dancing aid by one of our 70 years young ladies!  

    We had to call a stop to our festivities only because the restaurant was closing, and some of our angels had to work the next day! But, we had the best of all worlds…good friends, good food, blessed by the angels, and joyful fun to take into our lives! That is what the Red Hat Society is truly all about, fun and fellowship, and I feel like one lucky woman to be part of it!