Whately Grange honors collective 920 years of service among 16 members

  • Massachusetts State Grange President Glenn Gibson speaks to members of the Whately Grange Thursday night. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

  • John LaSalle and his father, James LaSalle, stand in front of Massachusetts State Grange President Glenn Gibson as they are honored Thursday for their decades of service with the Whately Grange. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/17/2021 8:28:57 PM

WHATELY — Longtime members of the Whately Grange were honored at their bimonthly meeting Thursday night as they reminisced about the Grange’s lasting impact on their families and lives.

The 16 members, whose total service time adds up to 920 years, received memorial documents, hand-delivered letters, and handshakes or fist bumps from Massachusetts State Grange President Glenn Gibson.

The Grange, which was founded in 1867, has deep ties in agriculture, but has shifted to a community service role as the world around the organization has changed.

James LaSalle, the longest-serving member who was honored Thursday, was recognized for 75 years of membership with the Whately Grange and recalled the many memories he’s made during his time.

“It’s been a fantastic number of years and I loved all of it,” LaSalle said to the group. “One of my favorites was Neighbors Night, seeing the other Granges and having them visit us.”

LaSalle, who joined the Grange when he was 15 years old, said his Grange membership has had an immeasurable impact on his life and his relationship with his family. His father was in the Grange before him and his son, John LaSalle, was honored for his 55 years of service as well.

“Grange is family,” James LaSalle said after Thursday’s meeting. “It’s been a tremendous part of my life.”

John LaSalle said both his father and grandfather were longtime treasurers for the Grange, which began a fun tradition of using the same bag to carry the financial documents for a century. He added his father credited his time with the Grange for his development of life skills.

“It was the same leather bag for 100 years, they brought it to every meeting,” John LaSalle told the group. “He always attributed his ability to speak to the Grange.”

John LaSalle said his father is a member of a generation of Grange members that he has a lot of respect for, and he’s grateful he’s been able to share this lifelong experience with his dad.

“I spent a lot of time with him,” John LaSalle said after the meeting. “I’m very proud.”

Gibson, who has served as State Grange president since November 2019, said seeing these members who have dedicated their lives to the Grange “truly proves” the group’s core mission of building and serving the community.

“It’s improved a lot of lives,” Gibson said after the meeting. “There’s lots of memories and lots of friendships.”

He added the Grange is deeply rooted in family ties and welcomes everyone in the community to join.

“It’s a family organization,” Gibson said. “Everyone 4 and up can join. … It’s a true community thing.”

According to Whately Grange President Ruth Leahey, the Whately Grange was founded in 1910 and has worked with the town’s churches, schools and farms over the last century. Most recently, the Grange distributed masks at the onset of the pandemic, which Leahey said shows the perseverance of the organization as it adapts to the rapidly changing times.

“As we all have noted, the world has changed and so has the Grange,” Leahey told the group. “We have survived several wars and are now dealing with an unseen enemy, the COVID virus. Let us enjoy this night of celebration and hope for continued success of the Whately Grange.”

After the meeting, Leahey used a Bible verse often read during their meetings to describe the continued service of the 16 members who have nearly a millennium of collective service time.

“‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’” Leahey recited. “That’s them.”

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