eastern stars

Left to right: Gary Hill, Louise Hill and Pat Gruntzel represent La Crescent's Eastern Star Chapter 71 as the group donates $8,000 to local organizations.

Alex Graaff

La Crescent’s Eastern Star Chapter 71 said goodbye the only way it knew how — helping the community.

As of June, chapter 71 was consolidated with St. Charles, Minnesota-based Sunshine Eastern Star Chapter 98.

This time around, the group was bequeathed $8,000 by former member Joan Taylor, to donate to organizations and community needs within La Crescent and the state of Minnesota.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” member Louise Hill said. “I didn’t know her but we joined the same year, 1964.”

From what the current 10 members of the organization can gather, Taylor joined the Order of the Eastern Star in 1964 in her home state of California. She moved to La Crescent and then moved to Florida to be with her daughter in the late 1970s.

Taylor passed away in December 2015. Chapter 71 received the news of the donation in the spring of 2016.

For Gary Hill, Hill’s son and member of chapter 71, the generous donation shows how committed the members of the masonic order-affiliated group are.

“It means a lot to us but it goes to show how much it meant to her,” he said. “I’m glad we have been able to help the organization in the community and statewide.”

Taylor’s money was used to purchase pajamas at the Minneapolis-based Children’s Hospital, $2,000 went toward La Crescent Events Center project, $500 went to the La Crescent Food Shelf, blankets and peanut butter were purchased for the veterans and a bench was purchased for the La Crescent Aquatic Center.

The remaining dollars were separated into $500 donations for six La Crescent organizations: Cross and Star Foundation, fire department, police department, library, La Crescent Area Historical Society and Applefest.

“I just want to say thank you,” La Crescent Police Chief Doug Stavenau said. “This money will trickle down. It’s an honor to be included.”

The police department plans to use its donation to purchase in-squad video system that includes officer body cameras.

Order of the Eastern Stars grew out of wives, mothers, children, aunts, cousins and nieces collective needs to give back in an organization similar to its brother organization the Masonic Order — which is open to men only. Eastern Stars are open to both genders.

La Crescent’s Chapter 71 was founded in 1884.

“It’s just been wonderful to do things for the community. It’s a beautiful organization. It does so much for cancer research,” said member Pat Gruntzel.

Gruntzel, Hill’s daughter, joined the organization in 1965.

Although the now smaller group has shrunk in membership, its heart has not.

“It was a hard decision to consolidate. I was a grand officer of Minnesota, so it’s like giving up your group,” Gruntzel said. “It’s about giving and I just love giving. I never want to retire. I went down to Sunshine a couple of weeks ago and it was so nice to sit in the chair and be active again.”

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