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The Eagle Has Landed/Local FOE Celebrates 100 Years

by Nathan Oravec

“We like to think of ourselves as ‘the best kept secret in Hagerstown,’” says Ed Shuda, President of Hagerstown’s Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE), Aerie #694.

Having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities near and abroad, and with a substantial roster numbering in excess of 760 members and a ladies auxiliary of 300 plus (Marie Brackett, President), it’s hard to imagine how the secret has been kept for so long. Originally chartered on April 27, 1904, the Hagerstown FOE will celebrate its 100th Anniversary this year, with a celebration scheduled for April 23-25.

Its parent organization was founded in Seattle, Washington on February 6, 1898 by a sextet of theatre owners; Initially competitors, ultimately comrades - they called themselves the Seattle Order of Good Things, uniting under a common ideal of “people helping people.” Headquartered at Seattle’s Bella Union Theatre, the club’s appeal was widespread throughout the state and numbers soon began to increase. As membership grew, a symbol of unity, brotherhood and patriotism was instituted, and with it, the inspiration for a new name.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles (FOE) was christened in April of the same year, forming a Grand Aerie, electing a president, and drawing up bylaws. In its early years, the organization was instrumental in establishing a number of far-reaching endeavors, from the institution of Mother’s Day as a national holiday (1904) to sponsoring America’s first laws for Mother’s Pension, Workman’s Compensation and Old Age Pension (1908, 1911 and 1923, respectively). The formation of a ladies auxiliary would follow in 1926, as would state and regional clubs - called aeries, or “nests” - throughout the US.

Hagerstown’s aerie was launched six years after formation of the national (Grand) organization, operating from South Potomac Street until 28 years ago, when it moved to its current location at 18 North Locust in town. A three-day celebration will be held - kicking off on Friday, April 23 and culminating on Sunday, April 25 - in honor of the Aerie’s 100 years in Hagerstown. In recognition of the milestone, FOE Grand Worthy Chaplain Phil Tice and Grand Worthy President Wayne D. Clark are slated to appear, while the State Charity Ball will be held Saturday evening, replete with a buffet dinner, entertainment and monetary prizes. Additionally, a winning raffle ticket will be drawn for a $20 Gold Double Eagle Coin, circa the FOE centennial 1904, valued at upwards of $500. State Auxiliary and State Aerie meetings will be held on Sunday, with the celebration coming to a close with a meal for guests and members in attendance.

“People helping people” - It was the impetus for the organization so very many years ago - and a cause continuously and vigilantly championed by its 1.2 million members countrywide today. Last year alone, Eagles nationwide were responsible for raising a total of four million in charity dollars, reaching an approximate 1,700 communities throughout the US and Canada. Successes like these are the result of the hard work and diligence of regional aeries such as Hagerstown’s, whose events and fundraisers continue to benefit both local social causes such as Cumberland Valley Breast Cancer Awareness, as well as a myriad of national charities. Over one thousand dollars was raised last month during Shuda’s President’s Charity Feed, designated for the Jimmy Durante (the Schnoz, himself, a longtime Eagle) Children’s Fund, established to care for mentally and physically challenged and/or abused children under the age of 18.

Feeds like these - encompassing smorgasbords of spaghetti dinners, All U Can Eat chicken and oyster feeds - are each devoted to individual Eagles charities. Charities include the Art Ehrmann Cancer Fund, the Golden Eagle Alzheimer’s Fund, the Max Baer Heart Fund, the Lew Reed Spinal Cord Injury Fund, the D.D. Dunlap Kidney Fund, and the Robert W. Hansen Diabetes Fund. In addition, The Eagles’ Memorial Fund assists the children of all members who lose their lives in the line of daily employment.

“It’s more than just a social club,” says Shuda of the FOE. “We do a little charity work and we have fun doing it.”

It was this organization’s camaraderie that essentially drew the president to the Eagles. “My wife and I were looking for a place to go that wasn’t a bar and where there were people more our age.”

“We’ve made a lot of friends here,” he continues. “It’s a nice place to go where you can feel comfortable.” And, he notes, from Wednesday night karaoke to Saturday night’s band, “there’s something for everybody.”

“There are no restrictions at all to become a member of the FOE, and membership is open to the public,” Shuda explains. The entire process of becoming a member, from application to acquiring a card takes no longer than a month. “You’re interviewed, obligated, and you’re in,” he says.

Membership entitles individuals to use of all Eagles clubs and access to the club’s social room - exclusive to members - and all feeds and events held by the aerie. “We have some members who have been here for 30 or 40 years,” Shuda says. “And some as far away as Hawaii. We still send them our newsletter every three months.”

“We’re a very patriotic organization,” he adds. “Our men’s banner is ‘Liberty, Truth, Justice & Equality,’ and our women’s is ‘For Home, For Country and For God.’”

And for a good crowd and a good time, which Shuda hopes for on April 23, when the Aerie’s 100th Anniversary is celebrated and this best kept secret will be shared: The Eagles still soar.

* Friday, April 23 -
5-8 p.m. All You Can Eat Spaghetti Dinner ($5 per person)
Entertainment provided by DO-WOP
* Saturday, April 24 -
1-4 p.m. Receiving of Guests
3 p.m. Maryland Past Presidents Club Meets
6 p.m. State Charity Ball begins with Buffet Dinner
7 p.m. Money Bonanza Draw (Tickets $20 per person - Only 200 Sold)
* Sunday, April 25 -
11 a.m. State Auxiliary Meetings
12 p.m. State Aerie Meeting
For more information about The Fraternal Order of Eagles and the 100th Anniversary Celebration, call FOE Aerie #694, 18 North Locust Street in Hagerstown, at 301-739-5140.

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