It's more than just a name to the women of the Winona Chapter of the Lois Club. It's a connection.
“There’s a Lois sitting at the table just over there,” said Lois Grant, a member of the Winona Chapter of the Lois Club. “It’s always interesting to see how many of us are left.”
Women from the Winona area gather regularly and have one very important characteristic in common: their name. The Winona Chapter of the Lois Club was first formed Oct. 17, 1995, and continues to meet every fifth Tuesday throughout the year for either lunch or dinner and to simply converse and connect with one another.
The rules are simple: If you are named Lois, you are invited. Period.
“We have no agenda, no dues, no officers,” said Lois Pelowski of Buffalo City, Wis. “We just get together to have lunch.”
The first Lois Club was formed in St. Paul in 1979, when Lois Millner, a teacher, purchased life insurance from agent Lois Weston. They had lunch to celebrate the occasion and enjoyed it so much they invited more Lois’ to the next gathering. Lois Clubs have now sprung up in states throughout the country and a National Lois Convention is held every year.
Women of the Winona Chapter wear large white pins with black lettering, stating the name of the club and, oftentimes, a handwritten or typed last name stuck in beneath their namesake organization. If a member forgets her pin, she must pay a quarter to the “kitty,” which is used to purchase stamps to send sympathy cards to former members’ families.
With a traditional name like Lois, an unavoidable fact is having a list of members they have lost. A binder of the club not only holds newspaper clippings of stories and photographs of the group, but also obituaries of Lois’ who have died.
Although many clubs have been founded based on a specific name, the ladies of the Winona Chapter of the Lois Club are unsure of why their club seems to be the most popular.
“No other ones just seem to stick,” said Pelowski. “No one knows why it’s hung on.”
Conversation at the gathering revolves mostly around grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as the women are of similar ages, but many times the reason of their initial meeting springs up.
“People just don’t know how to spell Lois sometimes,” said Pelowski. “My niece—she still doesn’t get it. I spell it out for her and I still get cards that have my name spelled L-O-U-I-S. You just hate to say anything.”
Unfortunately, the Lois’ do agree that their name is becoming less and less popular.
“It’s a generation name,” said Lois Ladewig of Stockton.
Winona resident Lois Hipps agreed.
“Once we’re gone, the club will be gone,” she said.
Whether or not there will be a sudden surge in the name has yet to be determined, but the ladies will continue to enjoy their gatherings and the friendships they have created no matter the future of the club.
The next Winona Chapter of the Lois Club meeting is set for 12:30 p.m. March 30 at Country Kitchen in Winona, Minn.