After retiring from a 32-year career with the United States Air Force Reserves, Senior Master Sergeant and Oakland Beach resident Mary Kinsey was looking for fun ways to stay active. During an Internet search, she discovered one of Rhode Island's Red Hat Society groups, the Rhody Red Hatters.
It's a circle of women who get together for the sole purpose of having fun. The group's motto is 'Love, Laugh, and Be Happy,' and upon joining in 2004 and becoming Queen in 2005, Mary has made it a priority to help everyone forget their worries and enjoy the advantages of gathering with friends. For her, the goal of the Red Hats is "Just to have F-U-N – it's all in your hattitude," she says. She plans four to six monthly activities for the 50-member group. Included is a weekly Tuesday luncheon at her house, except for the first Tuesday, where the group meets at a restaurant. So far, the upcoming events in the summer include the Newport Flower Show, Massage Day, Paint Nite, Hawaiian Luau, a Boston train ride, and the Providence to Newport Ferry.
It would be hard to miss the Rhody Red Hatters on an outing. The women over 50 wear red hats and a purple top, while women under 50 wear pink hats and a lavender top. Those celebrating a birthday can be seen sporting a purple hat. The group includes women of all ages from various cities and towns across the state.
"People who join are meek and mild at first; they're bored. It helps them come out of their shell 'cause I make it lively and they like that," says Mary, speaking of the benefits of the fun and camaraderie the Red Hats offers. While the main goal is just getting together with other women to have fun, many friendships and an unending support system are also ultimately formed.
After working for 44 years at the same location, Debra A. Hockenhull joined the Rhody Red Hatters upon retirement and hasn't looked back.
"I didn't want to be a couch potato. I was too young," she says, adding, "Now it was my time to have fun." After an Internet search, she found the group and immediately joined after being impressed with the amount and variety of events.
"What I loved in the very beginning was the way Mary contacted me and was so enthusiastic regarding joining her group. I also loved the events and the energy that Mary has. She has so many different ones planned and she amazes me all the time with them, even after all these years as Queen. She loves her group and loves planning trips and events. All I know is that I picked the best group in Rhode Island."
The Red Hat Society describes itself as 'a playgroup for women created to connect like-minded women, make new friends, and enrich lives through the power of fun and friendship.' It started in 1997 by Sue Ellen Cooper who was inspired by the poem 'Warning,' which begins with 'When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat that doesn't go and doesn't suit me.' She purchased a red hat as a gift for a friend nearing 50 to encourage her to 'grow old in a playful manner and on her own terms.' Soon it caught on and women everywhere were wearing red hats celebrating their trek into middle age – hence the beginning of the Red Hat Society. Within five years, over 40,000 chapters were available worldwide. There is a plethora of Red Hat merchandise online, as well as the hit musical Hats, which began in 2006 and is still played today. There are also books, cookbooks, and numerous articles online highlighting the establishment.
Yearly dues are $2, and if you would like more information on the Rhody Red Hatters, call or email Queen Mary at 401-527-3202 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Rhody Red Hatters on Facebook. You can also check out their website at www.orgsites.com/ri/rhody-red-hatters. Feel free to visit them at their July 5 luncheon at noontime at the Treehouse Tavern and Bistro, 1094 Centerville Rd., Warwick.