#WHM – Elva Doyle Reed, Alpha Sigma Alpha

For today’s post about an Alpha Sigma Alpha, I was going to write about Dale Zeller, an educator. When I went searching for information about her, I found a tribute to Elva Doyle Reed written by Ida Shaw Martin. Mrs. Martin, as she was called, started her life as Sarah Ida Shaw, and that name will be familiar to every member of Delta Delta Delta. Martin also served as National President of Alpha Sigma Alpha, but that is a story for another day.

On the last page of the December 1916 Phoenix of Alpha Sigma Alpha, appeared this sad news:

It is with hearts crushed beneath a heavy load of sorrow that we record the death of our beloved National Secretary, Elva Doyle Reed. No sorority ever possessed a more lovable member, a more devoted worker, a more efficient National Officer. From the moment of her initiation at the Miami Convention, to which she went as the delegate from Kirksville, to the day of her death, Alpha Sigma Alpha was to her almost a religion.

Alpha Sigma Alpha owes to Elva Doyle Reed a deep debt of gratitude. So long as the Sorority shall stand, it will be a monument to her devotion, to her belief in its destiny as an educative force, to her faith in its ultimate and abundant success. Our hearts go out in  the deepest sympathy to the sorrowing parents, to the broken-hearted husband. Our love would enfold most tenderly the little son that never looked on the sweet face of his mother.

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The next issue of The Phoenix, dated January 24, 1917, which was edited by Martin, devoted four pages to Reed’s death. It began “In Memoriam,” and continued with:

Elva Doyle Reed was the first member (‘after reorganization’ is handwritten above it) of Alpha Sigma Alpha to attain the crown imperishable. ‘Tis said Death loves a shining mark. He could not have found in Alpha Sigma Alpha a more beautiful character, a more beloved member, a more widely-known worker, a more efficient Councilior. The loss to Alpha Sigma is irreparable, for there is no one that can ever fill her place in just the way that she did. Her taking away in the full flush of heart from a work that she loved, form a post here she was rendering a distinct and invaluable service is something to which it is not easy to be reconciled. It was her mother who has eased in a measure the poignant pain over the loss of her, for it was her mother who said, ‘She has only gone ahead, so as to be ready to welcome her sorority sisters.’ Ah, mothers understand! Heaven is a sweeter place because Elva Doyle Reed is there.

Alpha Sigma Alpha is so young, having but two years to its credit since the reorganization of the Sorority in November of 1914, that it has not had time to arrange for many of the things that form a vital part of long-established orders. It has as yet no burial service, no memorial service, no regulation concerning the wearing of mourning. When, however, the telegram came announcing the Sorority’s great loss, your National President sent out instructions at once to all the Chapters. These instructions were based on the best Hellenic custom, and explained the official draping of the badge with black grosgrain ribbon as well as stating the length of the mourning period. The instructions reached the Eastern chapters in time for them to wear mourning on the day of the funeral. Alpha Beta received word direct from Iowa City, and so had an opportunity to add a sheaf of narcissi to the spray of white chrysanthemums sent in the name of the National Sorority, as well as to be represented at the funeral in Shelbyville, Mo., on December 12th, by Ida. A. Jewett, Faculty Adviser, Marion Gardner Blackwell, State Secretary, and Dale Zeller, Chapter President.

The death of Elva Doyle Reed came home with particular force and significance to Alpha Beta, for the Chapter was in the midst of the Initiation Service when the telegram reached Kirksville and it had at hand letters of greeting and instruction from her. There was no break in the Service, because those in charge felt that it would be Elva’s wish that the Chapter go on with the sacred ceremony, but every ASA in Kirksville was sad that night and for long days afterwards. They recalled with pain that Elva’s burial day was the second anniversary of her installation of the Kirksville group as Alpha Beta Chapter, when, assisted by Lennye Tucker, she had initiated forty-three young women into Alpha Sigma Alpha, alumnae, active and pledges of Kappa Theta Psi. Those present on that occasion will long remember the joy, the inspiration, the fervor in Elva’s face as she welcomed former associated in the larger and more significant membership of a National Sorority.

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