Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

November 8, 2013

Local sorority celebrates 50 years of service

Diane Raver The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — “Life, Learning and Friendship” is the motto of Beta Sigma Phi.

Fifty years ago, 12 young women – Bobbie Brandes, Mary Heim, Charlotte Vinup, Wanda Swain, Louella Voegele, Carolyn Spence, Shirley Carmichael, Pat Hoegeman, Rosemary Prickel, Peggy Blair, Gloria Paras and Virgie Dowell – took these words to heart when they pledged into the sorority’s Theta Nu Chapter Nov. 11, 1963. Two of the original members, Heim and Voegele, have remained sorority sisters over the past five decades.

Beta Sigma Phi is an international organization founded in 1931 by Walter Ross, according to its Web site. During the Great Depression, there was a need for an organization that could bring women together and expose them to a social, cultural and educational climate that was not available in those difficult times. Most importantly, there was a need for friendship and support from other women.

The sorority grew, with new chapters starting within the same town or close vicinity. “They were called Friendly Ventures,” reports Jan Prickel, who joined the local group in 1980. “The Theta Nu Chapter was a Friendly Venture of the Xi Beta Delta Chapter, Greensburg.

“In order to give back to the community, we have had fundraisers. The first was a raffle for a Barbie Doll and 27 outfits. Tickets were sold for 25 cents or five for $1. It was won by Marilyn Hentz, Cincinnati. The chapter cleared $81.75.”

Members also sold chances for an electric can opener. “At one point, you could find (sorority) sisters at Liberty Park selling snow cones on Sunday or at festivals.

Various moneymakers have narrowed to one annual blockbuster. “For 41 years, we have held the holiday bazaar. Local craftsmen and vendors are invited to rent spaces and tables to set up and sell their creations. We also have lunch available and a traditional cookie walk,” she says. “Money made is then budgeted out for the next year .... We do work hard preparing for and conducting our only fundraiser.”

Financial assistance awards are given to high school seniors each year. The first one was awarded in 1964 to Sherri Mullins Fehlinger. She was given $100.

Over the years, sorority members have supported many groups and organizations, including the Batesville food pantry, Batesville Area Ministerial Association, Margaret Mary Community Hospital Walk, Batesville Music and Arts Festival, Ripley County Relay for Life, Think Pink, Ripley County Community Foundation Women in Philanthropy Luncheon, Batesville United Methodist Church Summer Food Program, Batesville Area Historical Society, Explore to Learn Museum, Safe Passage and Southeast Indiana Health Center.

They have also purchased items for Margaret Mary Health, Batesville Memorial Public Library and Liberty Park.

“The last two years, we have been able to budget sister’s choice. Each sister has money to give to her favorite charity,” Prickel announces.

Annual themes are set by international headquarters. In 1963, the theme was “This is the Way,” and this year it is “Light Up Your Life.”

Current Theta Nu Chapter officers include President Gayla Vonderheide, Vice President Jan Prickel, Treasurer Elaine Howell, Recording Secretary Anne Baran and Corresponding Secretary Diane Fullenkamp.

Other members are Janice Brougher, Jody Bruns, JoAnn Butt, Sue Connelly, Judi Craig, Jane Fitzpatrick, Lori Giltz, Mary Heim, Laurie Krieg, Marilyn Rennekamp, Susie Rowland, Val Stutler, Lou Voegele and Sandy Zeigler.

Meetings, which are often at members’ homes or the library, are usually held the second and fourth Mondays from August through May. Invitations to join the group are by member recommendation.

Prickel adds, “We do enjoy meeting together. Membership in our organization provides us opportunities to contribute to our community and to develop lifelong friendships.”

Diane Raver can be contacted at or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.