Jacksonport Women’s Club Celebrates 50 Years of Community Service

On July 10, the Jacksonport Women’s Club will celebrate its golden anniversary with a gathering at 5:30 pm in Lakeside Park. All past and present members and officers are invited to attend.

On April 10, 1967, a group of women in Jacksonport decided it was time to organize a club to benefit the community. They called their group the Jacksonport Improvement Club, but within a year changed the name to the Jacksonport Women’s Club.

Gertrude Erskine, Evelyn Schaff, Loretta Buboltz, Mabel Anschutz, Esther Sorenson, Barbara Smith and Alice Olson were among the first officers.

Since the organization’s inception others have also served as leaders, including Linda Burke, Pat Rondeau, Irene Lotito, Germaine Zahn, Catherine Mueller, Lucy Mentzel, Delores Moschea, Viola Morin, Martha Labiott, Melda LeClair and Sue Jarosh.

The group raised money by holding card parties, raffles and bake sales besides serving cherry kolaches at Maifest each year and selling homemade Afghans.

Sue, who joined in 1984, has wonderful memories of making those kolaches. “It was great fun,” she said. “A bunch of us would gather in the big kitchen of Evelyn Schaff’s house. Pat Wickstrom and I were the youngest members, and we were never allowed to make crust, but were relegated to measuring the cherries.

“Toni Sheridan, whose husband owned a car dealership in Chicago, always drove her black Cadillac to Evelyn’s house and, like most of the women, parked along Hwy. 57,” Sue recalled. “One day the driver of a truck full of fish lost control and hit a number of cars, including Toni’s. That was the last time she drove the Cadillac to Evelyn’s!”

(Sue added that many people will remember that the Schaff family owned Sunrise Inn, the bar next to Ivanhoe – a big old log building that also housed Evelyn’s daughter’s hair salon. The bar had a fish boil every night. “Quite the place,” she said.)

Catherine Mueller was the kolache baker for years and taught many other club members, including Sue, how to make them. Sue has been the baker for the last 18 years or so, and plans to teach others at a meeting this winter.

The recipe, by the way, makes 120. “If you try to cut it down, they just don’t taste the same,” she said.

Catherine Mueller, Linda Burke and Sue Jarosh make kolaches for Maifest 2004. Submitted.

The club’s early gifts to the community included donations to the Jacksonport Fire Department, Port Riders Snowmobile Club, Little League, Advancement Association, TOPS and First Responders. They also equipped the kitchen and purchased tables, chairs and bathroom mirrors for the Jacksonport Town Hall. They provided a flag and flagpole, playground equipment, a pump and part of the cost of the well in Lakeside Park. And prepared and served turkey dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas for the elderly and lonely. They also donated to “Odyssey of the Mind” at Sevastopol School and paid for the sidewalks in town.

Sue remembers that in the early years, meetings were held in the evening, as many of the members worked outside the home. “They were very progressive,” she said, “and wanted Jacksonport to be a nice place for families. They played card games and had prizes – sometimes just a bar of soap.”

Dawn Craig, who joined the club in 2008 after teaching for 30 years in Illinois, is the current president. “It’s nice,” she said, “that we’re in a growth period with people retiring and moving here. We have about 60 members now, about 25 of them active at any one time. That’s a big change from a number of years ago, when Sue and Terri Smith, once the club’s youngest members, were the last two left.”

“We said we’d either have to recruit two more or quit,” Sue said.

They began a membership drive that helped to boost the current rolls. Sue is still very involved, although she and her husband, Joe, moved to Baileys Harbor after selling Jacksonport Craft Cottage, which they operated for 31 years. Terri, the only other living member from the early group, now lives in Chicago.

Perhaps not so much has changed in 50 years?

Members still care a lot about the community. They raise money by serving at Maifest every year and manning aid stations for marathons and other races around Door County. They regularly donate to the Jacksonport Fire Department and to the Town of Jacksonport for town hall and park improvements. They also donate to Sevastopol School, the Miller Art Museum, NWTC and other Door County nonprofits – often to benefit women and girls, but also the community as a whole.

Members hail from every corner of the county, as far south as Southern Door and as far north as Gills Rock. Officers attribute a recent surge in membership to word of mouth about the organization, which sponsors a book club, a hiking group, a biking group and is open to new things to serve their membership and community.

“We’re always looking for new ideas to provide opportunities for our members,” Dawn said. “A new venture is a Dine In/Dine Out group to connect widows who no longer have a partner with whom to go out to dinner with other singles who’d like to share their company.”

Past members and officers are invited to join current members on July 10. For more information about the celebration or the Jacksonport Women’s Club, contact Dawn Craig at 920.823.2887.

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