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Elks honor past members at annual ceremony

William Paine/SWT
Members of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks line up in front of marble remembrance wall. The members are (from left) Jim Chitwood (Past Exalted Ruler), Fritz Streff (Chaplain), Jeff Back (Esquire), David Boyd (Esteemed Leading Knight), Todd Hagee (Exalted Ruler), Glenna Cox (Lecturing Knight), Gary Cox (Secretary) and Leslie Turpin (Loyal Knight).



Members of Pulaski Lodge 1067 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks recently held a service for members of the club who died this past year. The tradition of honoring members who have passed away is held at every Elks Lodge in the country and occurs every year in early December.

The Pulaski Elks Club displays a list of all members in good standing who have died since its founding more than a century ago. The 635 names of past members are visible along the wall of the main room of the lodge.

Other Elks Lodges display the names of deceased members as well but only the Pulaski Elks Club has them inscribed on large marble slabs weighing about 250 pounds apiece (at least as far as anyone knows).

This year, the names of B.C. (Bunny) Wampler and David Morrison (Jocko) Breedlove Sr. were inscribed into the marble tablets, as both men died this year.

“Jocko was a car salesman,” said Todd Hagee, current Exalted Ruler of the Pulaski Elks. “I guarantee you, just about everybody in the county bought a car from that man. He was the best in the business.”

“Mr. Wampler owned and ran Pulaski Furniture,” Hagee continued. “He was definitely a vital part of this town and community. You think of all the people who have worked at Pulaski Furniture over the years.”

Of course, the Pulaski Elks Club has had many esteemed personalities come through the doors of 8 West Main street in Pulaski.

“If you look at these tablets, you’ll see prominent members who were businessmen, doctors, lawyers and builders of Pulaski,” said Hagee. “We try to keep their memory alive the best we can.”

This idea is part and parcel of being an Elk. Above the tablets an insignia reads, “The faults of our brothers we write upon the sands, Their virtues on the tablets of love and memory. An Elk is never forgotten or forsaken.”

“We’ve been here since 1907,” Hagee continued. “We built this whole block. We built the theater. It used to be the Elks theater.”

One hundred years ago, this same Elks Club building was briefly converted into a hospital for those suffering from the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

The Elks sold the theater in the Depression but theatrical roots run deep in the history of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (B.P.O.E).

This year the B.P.O.E. is celebrating 150 years of service to the community. The Elks were first formed as a fraternal order known as the “Jolly Corks” in New York City in 1868. The group was formed by 15 actors and entertainers associated with the theater. The Jolly Corks had a clever way of enticing new members to join while getting them to buy a round for established members of the club but for more on this, it’s best to ask a current member of the lodge.

The Pulaski Elks play host to the Dublin based Adair Theatre group, which uses the lodge from time to time in exchange for performances they give to lodge members. Their production of Home for the Holidays will be playing at the Elks Lodge from Thursday, Dec. 13, till Sunday, Dec. 16, and is open to the general public.

Today there are upward of one million members in the B.P.O.E. with several thousand lodges across the country. Unlike other clubs, the Elks only exist in the U.S. Their headquarters is in Chicago.

In the state of Virginia, the Elks Association supports the Elks National Service Veterans Program, Soccer and Hoop Shoot athletic programs, college scholarships and local youth and community support programs.

“This lodge has a lot of history,” said Hagee. “It’s a step back in time, kind of, but it’s a good step back in time.”

The Pulaski Elks have long been a pillar of this community and continue to play their part in making Pulaski County a better place to live and the good news is, they’re looking for new members!



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