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The DAR: Not just for your great-grandmother

Venerable organization making push for younger members in Lake Oswego


by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - Jessica Nazario is just the kind of new member the DAR is hoping to attract - young, dedicated and a lover of American history.

The casual image of the Daughters of the American Revolution is of tea, cookies, flowers, old-fashioned hats, musty scrapbooks and your great-grandmother.

Jessica Nazario of Lake Oswego is a real image breaker. She is a young, vivacious wife and mother of young children, fashionable and energetic.

Yet when she found out she was eligible to become a member of the DAR Tuality Chapter (based in Lake Oswego), she worked very hard to join. She had to uncover 11 generations of her family over two months in order to prove that she qualified for membership because she was a direct descendant of a member of the fighting forces of the American Revolutionary War.

“My great-grandmother had an application to join the DAR, but she didn’t finish it,” Nazario said. “I can see why.”

But showing plenty of the spirit of ’76, Nazario persevered, and she is glad she did.

“Joining the DAR was something left undone,” Nazario said. “In high school my mom told me that I qualified. I thought the DAR was so interesting and I love history. Unless the torch gets passed, we’re going to lose a lot. If anyone is interested in joining the DAR they should absolutely do it.”

It was Pat Dorr, chapter registrar, who helped Nazario to get through her arduous application process.

“Pat and I were able to find everything,” Nazario said.

But will many young women be interested enough in joining the DAR to uncover 11 generations of their family? Nazario thinks so, and so does her mentor, Marilyn Olson, a 10-year stalwart of the Lake Oswego DAR chapter. For many years, Olson’s life was simply too busy for her to get involved with an organization like the DAR. She was a wife, mother and a school teacher for 30 years. But when she finally retired, Olson energized the Lake Oswego chapter with her dedication and commitment.

“I joined the DAR because my father thought it would be tribute to my mom,” Olson said.

Upon joining, however, Olson’s interest in the DAR has grown immensely. She has since held just about every office in the organization, participated in DAR events at the Robert Newell House in Champoeg, has been a docent for battlefield tours, and has been part of the chapter’s honoring of Jordan Horak of Lake Oswego High School as DAR Citizen of the Year and Dr. Karen Hoppes of Lakeridge High School as historian of the year. Hoppes went on to win the national DAR award as historian of the year.

“Marilyn works so well with younger women,” Nazario said.

One of those young women is Olson’s daughter, Kristi. She is a teacher at West Linn and is also a member of the DAR.

“Our chapter has grown from 30 members to 43 members over the last year,” Olson said. “Last year the national DAR had its biggest growth since the Bicentennial in 1976. In the DAR you learn where you come from, not just what our country has been through.”

The reason for this growth is the huge increase in genealogical research, which Nazario notes is the second most popular hobby in the USA, and the massive increase in tools for such research through DNA investigation, which have only become available in recent years.

“If anyone is interested in genealogical research they can absolutely do it,” Nazario said, “especially with DNA research possible.”

Nazario describes herself as a lifetime lover of American history, and she has been able to find out so much about her own history through the DAR.

“I found that my Revolutionary War ancestor was Capt. Henry Diefendorf,” Nazario said. “He fought in New York and died in the battle of Oriskani (portrayed in John Ford’s film “Drums Along the Mohawk”). I saw the headstone of the place he was buried. He helped found the Methodist church in Rochester. I have learned so much about my family in general. Now I’m in contact with my grandfather’s sister, who is 96 years old.”

Olson’s own patriot ancestor was Walter Blounts, who fought under Col. Canfield. He later moved to Michigan and set down the roots for Olson’s family. She now wants to help other women find their patriots.

“The DAR has one of the best genealogical research libraries,” Olson said. “People come there from all over the nation. I’ve been able to find not just what my family has been through but what my country has been through. The DAR has played such an important role in preserving American history.”

For information go to the web site dar.org. Other sites recommended by Olson and Nazario for genealogical research include ancestry.com and findagrave.com. Although based in Lake Oswego, the local chapter has been known as the Tuality Chapter since its formation in the mid-1950s.

Members of the local DAR chapter begin their recent meeting at Oswego Heritage House with the Pledge of Allegiance.  DAR groups across the country have opened their meetings this way since 1890.



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