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Royal Purple ladies leave a legacy of service

Sunday, 17 November 2019. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Royal Purple ladies leave a legacy of service

The Royal Purple lodge of Crowsnest Pass may be disbanding, but the last remaining members of this historic group — Frances Kuryluk, honoured royal lady, and Irene Filafilo, long-time treasurer — refuse to leave without giving one more time.

 On Oct. 29, the ladies gifted five organizations with the remaining funds from their lodge reserves. In this photo, staff and students from Horace Allen School receive their gift of $2,000 in front of the Learning and Nature Discovery room that the funds will go to help develop.

 In back are teacher Lesley Margetek, HAS principal Elaine Garner, Frances, Irene, and assistant principal Myrna Dembicki. In front are Charlotte Ramage, Irene’s great granddaughter, and her friend Noah Burton.

 The ladies also provided one other parting gift when they held their final Christmas in the Mountains Royal Purple market last weekend. The market will be greatly missed by many who turned to it every year as a source of local artisan gifts and considered it a classic part of the holiday season in Crowsnest Pass.   Photo by Jess Harrington

Royal Purple ladies leave a legacy of service

By Jess Harrington

After 60 years of friendship and service, the last royal ladies of Crowsnest Pass are hanging up their purple hats.

It is with heavy hearts that Irene Filafilo and Frances Kuryluk share that the Canadian Royal Purple Lodge of Blairmore No. 159 will officially cease operations at the end of this year.

The Canadian Royal Purple Society is the sister service club to the Elks of Canada. The first Royal Purple lodge in Crowsnest Pass was instituted in Coleman in 1949 and a second lodge was established in Blairmore in May 1953. The two clubs amalgamated in the late 1980s.

Irene and Frances are the last remaining members of these clubs. They were both proud to receive their 60-year membership pins last year.

Both still remember deciding to join the sisterhood in 1958.

For Frances, it seemed a natural choice, as her own mother and many aunts were Royal Purple ladies.

While growing up, “it seemed like every weekend there was a banquet, and I had to help cook turkeys,” she recalls. “That’s how I got roped into joining — I was helping out anyway, so by the time I was 18 they just got me in!”

For Irene, the reason was even simpler: “There was nothing to do at that time!” she says with a big laugh. “And I always liked being involved in things.”

And involved she was.

In its prime, the Royal Purple Society was a cultural force in Crowsnest Pass, with a peak membership of up to 150 women. The two lodges would hold concerts and perform sketches at festivals, march in parades and cater community feasts. They held craft fairs and bake sales, conferenced with other clubs — and were always fundraising.

Over the years, the Royal Purple has supported nearly every cause possible in Crowsnest Pass. Food banks, schools, charities, festivals and special projects have all benefited from the efforts of Royal Purple ladies.

“We did a lot of good,” says Frances pensively. Irene nods in agreement.

Both ladies also remember having a lot of fun. They especially relish times when they could let loose and act silly during club events, like the time they dressed up as bumblebees and played kazoos while marching in a local parade.

“They put us behind a band and we were trying to outdo them,” Irene remembers. She and Frances both laugh heartily.

For Frances, the greatest moments of joy came while performing with her Royal Purple sisters in sketches and plays.

“I loved that part,” she says. “Anything to get on the stage and act crazy — it was wonderful.”

Both ladies say that being a Royal Purple member has shaped them in important ways over the years, bringing them out of their shells and always pushing them to do new things.

They say they felt empowered knowing they always had a great community of women to connect with and turn to for support, and this sense of togetherness is what they will miss most about the club.

They also lament that they are yet another traditional service club that will be disbanding, as many others are.

“It’s a real shame,” says Frances. “I think after we’re disbanded, people are going to realize what we did for the community.”

Irene agrees. “I know the world is different, and I’m not going against this generation coming up, but they have different interests. It seems like you can’t get younger people out anymore. I’m not sure what will happen when these clubs are gone.”

Before the lodge officially dissolves next month, Irene and Frances have arranged to leave parting gifts by donating the remainder of their club’s fundraising reserves to a handful of local groups.

On Oct. 29, the ladies presented Horace Allen School with $2,000 for its Learning and Nature Discovery program, York Creek Lodge received another $2,000 for its campaign to purchase a new bus, and Crowsnest Consolidated High School was also gifted $2,000. They have also given Crowsnest Pass KidSport and the Crowsnest Pass Literacy Foundation $500 each.

Irene says they wanted to make sure their remaining funds were distributed at home rather than sent to the Royal Purple head office.

“It’s the people in the Pass who have supported us to get this money,” she explains.

Thank you, Irene, Frances and all past members of the Royal Purple, for your many contributions to Crowsnest Pass. Your service is appreciated, and will be dearly missed.