Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Charleston Elks Elect First Female Ruler

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Charleston Elks Elect First Female Ruler

Article excerpt

For the first time in the club's 125-year history, a woman is serving as head of the Charleston Elks Lodge. Joan Stiltner, 77, was elected Lodge No. 202's exalted ruler and officially took over April 1. Stiltner is an 11-year member of the fraternal organization.

She said being elected to the position is an accomplishment.

"I think it was the fact that the men felt it was time for a change, Stiltner said. "And I had nothing but support from all the men. They were very supportive.

Exalted rulers serve one-year terms and are elected every spring.

Stiltner grew up in the Weston/Buckhannon area and moved to Charleston in the 1970s. She retired from the Public Service Commission after 32 years. Stiltner said she's always been involved in clubs, from 4-H as a child to the PTA (before her child was even in kindergarten) to the Moose and Elks.

"I've always been involved with the Elks ever since I joined because I do enjoy their programs, Stiltner said.

Stiltner makes three current female exalted rulers of Elks clubs around the state, said Walter Ice, vice president south of the West Virginia Elks Association. Lodges in Sistersville, Fairmont and Mannington also have female exalted rulers. In Charleston, Lena Cowen was the first woman officer of the lodge, Ice said. Cowen has been the treasurer for the last 14 years.

The majority of the lodge's approximately 350 members are male, Stiltner said. The exalted leader is elected by the members who show up to business meetings. That number can vary but is generally around 30, she said.

Like many civic organizations, the Elks' membership has waned over the years, Stiltner said.

In the 1980s, there were around 2,000 members, Ice said.

Stiltner attributes the declining membership to younger people, especially parents of school-age children, having too many commitments, like taking their children to sports and activities.

"I started out while raising kids but I only had one, Stiltner said. ".. …

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