Before I tell you about her, I should warn you that my grandmother passed away in 1994. I was 9 years old and she died on one of my friend's birthdays. Sure, I have photographs of her reading me books as I sit on her lap. Yes, I remember her at Christmas Eve dinners and Easter brunch, but I never really got to know her. My grandmother's memory began to slip when I was growing up. Instead of calling me her granddaughter, she would get confuse and lump me in with other children our family. She then thought I was her great-granddaughter, but she always remembered my name.
"Pink" Gramma & I
My favorite thing that she did was giving us our presents in a paper or plastic bag with the wrapping paper and the unsigned card in the bag as well. She remembered to buy the present and get out the card and wrapping paper, but for some reason that last step of wrapping the present and signing the card just slipped her mind.
These are the memories of my grandmother.
But the stories? I loved the stories. The romance story between Pearl and her husband is one of great laughter and length. I'm sure in my head it's been blown up and dramatized, but it truly was a great story. It's one I'll save for another day and another blog, once I've gathered up more details.
Ms. Pearl Steele was born on April 27, 1905. I don't know much about her childhood, but I do know that she went to UCLA in the 1920's. At that time, not many women were going to universities and her acceptance was very prestigious for her family. It was there that she studied to become a teacher and according to the members of my family, she was in a sorority. Some folks in my family even said that not only was she in a sorority, she was one of the first members of that sorority at UCLA. Of course, no one could ever prove this or even say for sure which sorority she was in.
Most family members recalled her talking about being a Chi Omega or an Alpha Chi Omega, but we never found her badge to know. She spoke once about having a car sent to pick her up for a southern California sorority luncheon and they were honoring her with a 50 year pin or some sort of award. This would have been somewhere in the lat 1970's or early 1980's.
A few years ago, there were rumblings about UCLA going through an extension process and gaining another sorority on their campus. Well last year, that rumbling turned in to a reality and a wonderful and beautiful chapter of Alpha Chi Omega was welcomed back to UCLA's grounds. Recently, I emailed their chapter president in the hopes that she could supply me with more information about my grandmother. It was a long shot, but I took it!
But she had no information for me. My heart broke. I was back where I started and still didn't know much about my grandmother. I should have known better than to get my hopes up; they were a young chapter and the President wouldn't have access to national records. But at the end of her letter she said she would forward my question on to one of their National Officers. Well, I had imagined that it would take weeks or months for this lady to find out any information, but today I got my answer in the form of a very nice email and a cell phone photograph.
"Hi Kipp!She wasn't just an Alpha Chi Omega, she was a charter member and he photograph is hanging in their halls! All those rumblings and recollections of my family were true!
I looked up your grandmother's name, and found her right away -- so yes, she was an Alpha Chi Omega initiated at our UCLA chapter in 1926.
This date might not seem significant to you at first, but I know that the UCLA chapter was founded in 1926.
So not only was your grandmother a member of Alpha Chi Omega, she was a charter member!!! Her photo is hanging on our wall, and her name is on our original charter!
Now all of you Zeta Taul Alpha's know why I was so damn Panhellenic for all of my collegiate years: I had the legacy of another sorority behind me and the love of ZTA around me! So here she is, my grandmother and the other members of the charter class of Alpha Chi Omega at UCLA. I feel so much closer to her just to know that we shared the love of a fraternity and warm bonds of a sisterhood that we carry throughout our lives. I'm also so incredibly proud of her, that her photo hangs in those halls and she is forever remembered by beautiful young ladies that follow in her footsteps.
April 27, 1905 - March 8, 1994
Bottom row, third from the left
Alpha Psi of Alpha Chi Omega Charter Members