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The Shady Ladies ride again

Rogue group of Red Hatters give up Red Hat Society in favor of road tripping

Staff writer

Delores “Dee” Duggan, ringleader of a group of Red Hat Society defectors that calls itself “The Shady Ladies” cares more about friendship and shared experience than paying membership dues.

Duggan and The Shady Ladies once made up a small local chapter in the Red Hat Society, a national social club in which members traditionally met for tea parties donning elaborately decorated red hats, purple attire, and other attention-grabbing accessories.

The exact origin of the renegade group’s name is shrouded in mystery, but Duggan said they became The Shady Ladies during a rowdy brainstorming session.

However, Duggan and the gang recently decided to soldier on socially as solely as The Shady Ladies.

“I am Queen Mother, and I get to do anything I want,” Duggan joked about her position within the group. “I get to boss everyone around.”

She said the decision to drop out of the Red Hat Society was a no-brainer.

“We don’t pay the dues anymore because all the money goes to California and none of us go on the (club) cruises,” Duggan said. “I guess we’re a rogue group, but didn’t figure they would come and arrest me or lock us up for it.”

At 80 years old, the thought of serving jail-time for continuing to wear red hats and go places with friends was just silly to Duggan, but the bonds of friendship she forged within The Shady Ladies are stronger than age, distance, or deteriorating health.

Spanning in age from about 67 to 89 and hailing from Tampa, Hope, Herington, and Abilene, Duggan said it helps some members who had been otherwise lonesome “get out and about.”

Shady Ladies with poor vision or mobility car pool with other members.

Recently added members Mary Wendt and Conne Gentz, both of Herington, brought the group’s membership to 14.

“We are a fairly small group and it’s really quite astonishing that we have stayed together for this long because we’ve gotten older and spread out,” Duggan said. “Some have moved away and some passed on.”

Having lost her husband Tom to a long and difficult battle with cancer last October, Duggan said she almost quit the group. It was the support she received from The Shady Ladies that compelled her to stay on as Queen Mother and rule the social club with her “iron fist.”

“I backed off from leading it while Tom was sick,” she said. “It wasn’t easy, but there were other ladies who had lost husbands, too.”

Duggan hates to think of what the group does as “a meeting.”

Instead, she explains it as “A thing, it’s just a thing we do. We get together and go places. There are no rules. The only ‘items of business’ we have are where we want to go next.”

The Shady Ladies reunited at Tampa Grill in March.

Discussing different events like an upcoming play in Chapman, a song and dance performance at Kansas State University, or just taking tea at a tearoom in Canton, the group comes up with ideas for different road trips between gossip and banter.

“I love going to find trouble. Some wear red ball hats, some don’t like to wear the red hats at all and I frown at them if they don’t, but we all wore shades of purple,” Duggan said. “I found that it makes people smile when they see us all decked out. I like seeing them smile because of us. It’s something to look forward to.”

Last modified April 16, 2015

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