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by Patty Cheffey
Stating she feels like it is where she belongs, Joyce Erwin has now enjoyed 60 years of PEO sisterhood and fellowship.
Erwin was recently recognized for her 60 years during the Missouri State PEO Convention in Kansas City recently, and was presented her award during a recent club meeting.
“I have stayed involved in PEO for 60 years because I always felt like I belong there,” said Erwin. “The ladies are wonderful, generous and kind, and great workers for important projects.”
Joining PEO when she was 18, Erwin noted her mother and grandmother were both PEO members.
Once she decided to attend Cottey College, which is supported by PEO and is located in Nevada, Mo., Erwin decided to join the local organization.
“The lady who initiated me into PEO that June was Kathleen Miller, who had been my math teacher in high school,” said Erwin. “I had always admired her and felt ‘special’ that I was joining her group.
“I was influenced by my family to join PEO, but I also wanted that fellowship,” she added.
Erwin began her time in PEO with the Hannibal Chapter JH. After marrying Charles L. Erwin on July 29, 1967, she joined Chapter IE in Palmyra, where her mother-in-law was a member.
“When we moved to Jacksonville, Ill., for my husband’s work, I briefly transferred to a chapter there,” she said. “Returning to Palmyra, I again became a member of IE.”
Erwin stayed with IE until it disbanded, then changed to Hannibal’s KV chapter since many of her teacher friends are also members there.
“PEO is an international organization and wherever I moved to, I always felt that I was welcome there,” said Erwin. “PEO supports women in general–from scholarships and grants to helping hands in later years.
“I am proud to be a part of the organization.”
Even though she attended Cottey College for only one year before transferring to the University of Missouri-Columbia, the fellowship and work of PEO stuck with her.
“I have had many activities and roles in PEO,” said Erwin, noting those included hosting meeting, doing programs, going to schools to tell the girls about Cottey College, singing at nursing homes, attending conventions and visiting other chapters.
In addition, Erwin said she had held several local offices, starting with guard, then moving on to recording secretary, chaplain and vice president, and serving as president twice.
While the fellowship remains the same, Erwin said she has seen some changes in PEO over the years, many for the better.
“PEO is less formal and more approachable now,” she said. “Many of our ‘sisters’ extremely disliked memory work and now that part has been relaxed.”
Erwin and her husband have two grown children, Steven Erwin, Palmyra; and Theresa (Justin) Conrad, Parma, Ohio.
They also have four grandchildren, Braden and Nick Erwin and Jaylee and Kate Conrad.
In addition to her membership in PEO, Erwin is a member of the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Palmyra.
She retired from teaching in 2004, having taught English and Spanish in the Hannibal School System for 20 years as well as served as the Key Club sponsor.