For over three decades plus, Autumn Leaves has been a fixture in the Westlake senior citizen community. Organized in August 1976 by Gladys Schonnhoast with a name suggested by charter member Ona Reiser, the group began as a hub of activity ranging from art and craft projects to specially organized trips. And while trips out of town are not often on the agenda these days, the group still works on various projects, brings in guest speakers, and offers food and fellowship for their members at their Tuesday morning meetings.
In the beginning, Autumn Leaves met at several locations throughout the Westlake community, including inside an old bank. In the 1990s, the group found a permanent home when the Westlake Senior Center opened inside the converted firehouse on Jones Street. It was there that the group celebrated their 34th anniversary on Tuesday, August 31.
"Look at how many lives have been brought together over the years," said president Shirley Guthrie at the celebration.
The group began with twenty charter members including: Gladys Schonnhoast, Amelia Roya, Ethel Dams, Warrelyn Guillory, Matt Guillory, Louenia Smith, Amy Johnson, Ina Hicks, Bessie Miller, Dalise Manovich, Ellen Armstrong, Selma Brown, Buford White, Cornelia Johnson, Vesa Courtney, Melvina Rodnique, Ona Reiser, Pearl Johnson, Louenia Kirk, and Agnes Ardoin. Mrs. Schonnhoast served as the first president until an election of officers was held. Warrelyn Guillory was then elected president with Ellen Armstrong as vice president, Audry Roberts as secretary, and Ona Reiser as treasurer. Current officers include Shirley Guthrie as president, Katherine Hawkins as vice president, Ruth Bozeman as secretary, and Edith McKinney as treasurer.
With a current count of 27 active members, the group's numbers have held steady over the years. At its peak, it counted over 40 men and women as members. On Tuesday, the group celebrated those who have held a longtime role in Autumn Leaves when Guthrie recognized several active members who have been a part of the organization for 20 or more years. Those include Ruth Washington, Florence Rast, Lillian Washington, Rita Oliver, Dorothy Calligan, Martha Malbrough, Evelyn Shelton, and Geri Banks.
The group continues to meet every Tuesday, 10 a.m., at the Westlake Senior Center, 2001 Jones Street.