The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio, Jewell Cardwell column [The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio]

By Jewell Cardwell, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 21--Of course, they would never describe themselves as picky or cliquish.

Even so, it's difficult to argue with the facts. Easygoing, fun-seeking and ladylike in all things, these women are tough-minded when it comes to this: keeping women bearing names other than Lois from joining the Lois Club.

The Lois Club of the Laurel Lake Retirement Community -- like all other Lois Clubs around the world -- has only one rule and that's to accept only members with that four-letter name.

Earlier this week, I lunched with the club. To make it all legal, I was made an honorary member, donning a "Lois" name tag for a couple of hours and learning more about the lure and lore. (Photographer Paul Tople was also permitted; he is the son of a Lois.)

Only three real Loises -- Lois Young, Lois Rice and Lois Chaffee -- were in attendance, a much smaller group than I encountered some six years ago when I first came to call.

But that's the sad reality for this band of sisters. The name Lois pretty much reflects women in their 70s, 80s and 90s, and it's not being recycled.

During the height of its popularity in 1929 and 1930, the name Lois was No. 17 after Mary, Betty, Dorothy, Helen, Margaret, Barbara, Patricia, Joan, Doris, Ruth, Shirley, Virginia, Dolores, Jean, Elizabeth and Frances. In the 1990 census, it was No. 91 in popularity. It doesn't even show up on the 2010 girls' name list.

Perhaps that's even more reason for the Loises of the world to unite and celebrate themselves while they can.

Take the Laurel Lake Lois Club. A few of its members now require skilled nursing care. Former member Lois Sonday recently moved to Indiana to be closer to her family. The other Loises miss her dearly and she misses them. Unfortunately, she has yet to hook up with another Lois Club.

Donna Anderson, advertising/public relations coordinator at Laurel Lake, acknowledged the community "is a little low on Loises these days" and they're always on the lookout to snag any new Loises who moved to Laurel Lake.

Lois Rice, 87, formerly of Lyndhurst, was thrilled when she learned from the community's marketing department that there was a Lois Club at Laurel Lake. She had been a member for "three or four years" of the Lois Club in Greater Cleveland -- pretty much the west side, she said -- and was looking forward to the unique camaraderie.

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The other Loises at Laurel Lake could not have been more welcoming, she said. But she would not have expected any less of someone named Lois.

Lois Young, 85, formerly of Mayfield Heights, also belonged to another Lois Club that met only once every four years or so.

A Laurel Lake Lois Club member for seven years, Lois Young is lovingly dubbed the Mother Superior of the club, as she's always campaigning for the retirement community to encourage more Loises to move there.

The retired nurse, who taught at the Cleveland Health Museum, is not only active in the Lois Club but at Laurel Lake in general. "I run bridge games on Monday night, duplicate [bridge] Friday night and I teach bridge Wednesday night," she said.

Lois Young said it was her grandfather who named her. "He got it from the Bible. Lois was Timothy's grandmother," she said proudly.

Lois Rice said she was named after Lois Wilson, a B-movie star who played Shirley Temple's mother in Bright Eyes.

"Lois is just not a name you hear much anymore," Lois Rice lamented. "It's not like Mary or Jane. Or even Sophie or Emma, which are back in style."

While Louise is considered in some circles as a softer version of Lois, it's still not enough to get the Louises of the world the warm hand of membership.

Lois Chaffee, 76, the newest member of the Laurel Lake Lois Club with only 2½ years under her belt, doesn't know why her parents named her Lois, but given the interesting crop of friends with that name -- both old and new -- she's glad they did.

The name was fairly common in her youth. "I had four Loises in my class in elementary school. That was out of 40 students," Lois Chaffee recalled. "And they were all honorable and very attractive."

A former office clerk who formerly lived in Hudson, although most of her time was spent in Medina, Lois Chafee was no stranger to the concept before moving to Laurel Lake. "I attended a Lois Club meeting in Parma one time but I never joined," she said.

However, she's very much relaxed and delighted to be a member now. "I like the lack of organization of the Lois Club," she joked. "We're just friends here. ... It's fun to get together, chat and get to know each other."

Since arriving at Laurel Lake, Lois Chaffee has become a TLC giver, visiting ailing residents in the Crown Center unit.

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Sam Chaffee,12, a student at Nordonia Middle School who was spending time with his grandmother on his day off, called the club "a cool idea."

Sam vouched for the rarity of the name, saying he doesn't believe there is one Lois at his school.

The first Lois Club started in 1979, conceived by Lois Weston and Lois Millner in St. Paul, Minn. As the story goes, Weston invited to lunch all of the Loises from her insurance business and Millner tapped all the Loises from a class she taught.

And the rest, as they, is history.

Presently, there are Lois Clubs scattered throughout the United States, Canada, Ireland, Norway, England and New Zealand with annual conventions.

None of the Laurel Lake Loises has ever attended a convention or been on a club cruise, but they're curious. Like all other card-carrying members, they insist they've never met a Lois they didn't like.

Women with other names feel the same affinity for women named Lois and are lining up to belong.

"Some ladies want to know how they can join the Lois Club," Lois Young said. "I tell them they have to go to court first!"

The Laurel Lake club -- which meets once a month for lunch -- has no hard and fast rules, no officers, no dues and no reports. "We just solve the problems of the world," Lois Young joked.

According to these Loises, a Margaret Club was once tried at Laurel Lake.

With its fair share of Marys and Marjories -- Margaret wannabes -- clamoring to join, it just didn't have the staying power of the Lois Club.

Although the Loises were slightly saddened, they were not surprised.

Jewell Cardwell can be reached at 330-996-3567 or emailed at [email protected].


(c)2012 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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