2017-04-20 / Front Page

After 116 years, Elks has first female lead

Hook will serve as newest ‘exalted ruler’

Front row, left to right: Bill Wedegartner, Mary Hook, Ron Gould, and Willie Raredon. Back row: Jim Maxwell, Andy Holub, and Kevin Smith. 
Pioneer Tribune photos Front row, left to right: Bill Wedegartner, Mary Hook, Ron Gould, and Willie Raredon. Back row: Jim Maxwell, Andy Holub, and Kevin Smith. Pioneer Tribune photos MANISTIQUE – The local Elks Lodge has been in existence since 1901, but has only recently elected its first female leader. Elks member Mary Hook has assumed the position of exalted ruler – leading at the helm of the local organization.

According to the Elks website, the Elks is a fraternal order with nearly a million members and a network of more than 2,000 lodges in communities across the nation. The organization spends more than $80 million each year on community based programs.

Locally, the Elks was founded in 1901 and the current lodge, located along Walnut Street, was constructed in 1906. The organization operates with a group of elected officers, consisting of an “exalted ruler”, three “knights”, a treasurer, secretary, board of trustees, and inner guard. Meetings are held twice a month to handle operations and finances of the Elks.

Hook said she joined the organization in 2008 after she was exposed to the social aspect of the club via friends.

“When I joined it, I really didn’t have a clear understanding of what the Elks stood for,” Hook said. “Shortly after becoming a member, I realized how valuable it could be in the community.”

Hook has now been a part of the organization for nine years – serving in different capacities since joining. Recently, the Elks officers voted her in as exalted ruler.

“In a 116 years, there’s never been a female ER (exalted ruler),” said Hook.

The organization used to separate the men and the women, she noted, with men serving as the “Elks” members and women as “Elkettes”. A wall used to be located in the bar area of the lodge to separate the two groups.

A year into her membership, Hook said she developed a special interest in the Elks National Foundation – which offers scholarships and funding for local projects.

“I wanted to try to promote the per capita earnings for that so we could be eligible for more grant opportunities to bring money back to our local community,” Hook explained. “Any grants that we get, we have to funnel right back into our community, and there’s certain areas where you can spend that money.”

The annual Elks Chili Cook-Off was the result of Hook’s fundraising brainstorm, and the event has been going strong for seven years.

“Since then, we’ve donated back $46,500 to the community,” she said.

In addition to the ENF grant money, the Elks also raises funds by holding 50/50 and raffle drawings, as well as other events.

“I also have donated my time to host karaoke on the first Friday of the month,” Hook explained. “We have several members that really appreciate the opportunity to come down and sing and listen to the performances.”

Since returning to the community 19 years ago, Hook said she has participated in many fundraising efforts, but none like the Elks.

“Seeing what they (the Elks) can do and the philanthropic way really fit in with what I have basically worked toward my whole life – doing community service whenever possible and dedicating my time to helping the community,” she explained. “This is just another avenue in which to do that.”

Hook said she will continue to promote the purpose of the Elks and encourage the public to join and participate in what the organization offers.

“I’ve been an active member and lend a hand whenever possible,” Hook said. “As Elks, we are there for each other as well as our community and that is important to me and makes me proud to be an Elk.”

For more information about the Elks or to join, contact Mary Hook at marylhook@gmail.com or visit https://www.elks.org/lodges/lodgefacilities. cfm?LodgeNumber=632.

Return to top