By Tim Leeds
The Havre Eagles this week are celebrating 100 years of providing help, social activities and a sense of community in their hometown.
The Havre Fraternal Order of the Eagles, Aerie 166, received its charter on Sept. 1, 1901, only three years after the country's first Fraternal Order of Eagles was formed by six theater owners in Seattle. The Havre auxiliary to the aerie was instituted on June 22, 1946.
The celebration began Monday, with events planned through Sunday. The Fox Family is playing fiddle music for the celebration tonight from 5 to 8 p.m., followed by South Country. The festivities today include a hamburger feed and picnic and a singles pool tournament.
The Havre aerie on Saturday is hosting a meeting of District 2, which encompasses Havre, Great Falls, Lewistown, Chinook and Fairfield. The Eagles also will be in the Festival Days Parade, have a doubles pool tournament and more music by South Country on Saturday. A round-robin pinochle tournament is planned for Sunday.
Tom Farnham, past president of the aerie, said he has been a member for about 20 years, disappearing for a time while he works on some other community activity, but always coming back. Many join the organization because of the social life, he said, as well as the community work and charities the Eagles are active in.
The Eagles provide many activities for members. This week's celebration included karaoke, pool, darts and line dancing, as well as the live music, pinochle and barbecues.
A new activity is a high school pool league, which started last year. Farnham said it filled the pool hall in the club with 30 high schoolers every Monday during the league.
The aerie has been involved in community work since it formed 100 years ago. Jay Spinler is a past president of the aerie, and has been part of many activities, including the construction and maintenance of Eagles Park in Havre.
"I've always been proud and honored to be an Eagle," he said. "Our motto is People Helping People.'"
The land for the park was originally donated to the city of Havre by C.W. "Shorty" Young, Spinler said, but for years the cost of constructing a park was prohibitive. The Eagles started doing special fund-raisers to get the money, and work continues to this day to maintain and improve the park.
Elmer Casady, Eagles past president, said the organization is working on improving the condition of the park. He added that several years ago the Eagles added restrooms, with a facility that used to be at a rest stop near Wolf Creek.
"It's amazing what you get for asking," past president Gerald Grabofsky said.
Another result of the work of the organization is the Eagles Manor Retirement Apartments in Havre. Grabofsky said the Havre Eagles were contacted in March 1971 about starting a manor, after several other aeries in the state had done so.
Grabofsky said that after a special meeting on April 4, 1971, the aerie decided to build the manor. After three years of trips, planning and taking out a loan to build the facility, groundbreaking was held in June 1973. In August 1974 the manor opened with 80 efficiency units and 20 one-bedroom units.
"It's been a real blessing to the community," Grabofsky said.
Planning is under way to build an addition to the manor. Spaces are in high demand, with 127 people on a waiting list at one point. The application for federal funding to build the addition was rejected this year, but Grabofsky said the Manor will apply again next year. There are many applicants for the same pool of money, Casady added.
"When all the ducks get in a row, it'll happen," Grabofsky said.
Edna Hess is a charter member of the auxiliary. She said she has seen many activities over the years.
"There's a lot of water under the bridge," she said.
Hess is a past president of the auxiliary, and was local secretary for 25 years and state secretary for 30. She said the members were always busy with programs and charities.
"We were just always involved in community affairs," she said. "We've done so many things locally, charitywise, and supported all the charities of the grand aerie for all these years."
The Eagles are credited with pushing for legislation that resulted in worker's compensation, pensions, Social Security, and a prohibition against age-based job discrimination. Some Eagles charities include the Jimmy Durante Children's Fund, the Max Baer Heart Fund, Project Hope and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Hess said one year the Havre Eagles made the seventh-largest contribution to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
"It was a lot of work, but we did it," she said.
The Havre Eagles have done a lot of work with children over the years. "Shorty" Young left a fund in his will, as well as the land that is now Eagle's Park, to be used by the Eagles, Elks and Masons to provide help for people in need, especially the children, Eagles past president Frank DeRosa said.
That fund has helped with many Eagles activities, DeRosa said, including sponsorship of clubs and organizations, parties and scholarships. The Eagles still hold activities for Halloween, Christmas and Easter for children using these funds.
DeRosa was one of six Havre Eagles who formed committees for the state centennial celebration in 1989 and the city centennial in 1993. He said they held many activities for those times, including a centennial train complete with staged robberies and a barbecue in the Bear Paws that fed thousands.
Hess said people don't seem to be as active in the Eagles right now as they have been, with so many other things to take their time. Casady said, however, that membership goes up and down, and higher membership will probably come back.