The Birds of Paradise
Who are the Birds of Paradise of PVE? They’re the members of a club that conducts no business meetings, sponsors no charitable events, has no bylaws or elected officers and collects no dues. So, who are they? They’re better known as the Red Hat Club. One might ask, “What is their purpose?” The answer to that question can be answered in three letters: F-U-N. One might also ask, “How does one get to join this club?” The answer is that there are only two requirements for membership: Be a lady over 50 years of age. (Sorry, guys.)
Mary Tantillo founded the Birds of Paradise chapter in 2014, right after she and her husband Jim moved here from Milpitas. Mary had been active in Red Hat Clubs there and in San Jose. As the leader of the local chapter, Mary is known as The Queen. She is also the instructor of PVE’s chocolate candy-making class. “I’ll continue as ‘The Queen’ until someone else volunteers,” she says. “So far, no one else has.”
The Red Hat Club members can frequently be identified when enjoying an outing together. You’ll see each one, always, wearing a red hat and a purple outfit, and possibly a boa thrown over her shoulders. Mary describes the club’s activities as being “Just for us.” She adds, “We gather once or twice monthly to do something fun, like going to a nice restaurant, wine tasting, a tour, the theater, or getting together to do a craft project or decorate hats. Daytime get-togethers are usually just for the ladies, but we can bring gentlemen guests to most of our evening gatherings.”
According to Mary, the Red Hat Club gives mature women the opportunity to “kick up their heels and have fun in the company of other women who, most likely, have spent a lifetime raising a family and/or pursuing a career.”
There are Red Hat Clubs in every state in the Union, and a convention is held in every state. “Our Holiday/White Elephant Party is one of our favorite activities,” says Mary. “Everything we do is just for us to have fun together.”
To quote from the Red Hat Club’s poem:
When I am an old woman,
I shall wear purple.
With a red hat which doesn’t go
and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension
on brandy and summer gloves.
In other words, “Let’s have fun!”