Vintage finds: ALA Jewelry and Its Special Meaning (part three – finale)

Auxiliary magazine, the quarterly national publication of the American Legion Auxiliary, shared the stories of several Auxiliary members and their family heirloom ALA-branded jewelry with a November 2020 feature article. In our Vintage finds: ALA Jewelry and Its Special Meaning blog series, we will share stories of Auxiliary members who found special meaning in the ALA jewelry they acquired at estate sales, auctions, flea markets, bazaars, garage sales, online sale sites, or thrift stores. 

Final blog in our “Vintage Finds: ALA Jewelry” series, presented in three parts

American Legion Auxiliary member Trish Ward’s pin from when she was Department of Kansas president in 2010-2011. This is an example of the type of vintage ALA jewelry finds Ward seeks.

American Legion Auxiliary member buys important symbols of Auxiliary history, brings them to their ALA ‘homes’

Guest blog by American Legion Auxiliary member Trish Ward

Patiently, American Legion Auxiliary member Trish Ward waits until she sees a vintage find for sale online. Owning her humorous, self-ascribed title as “an American Legion Auxiliary eBay stalker,” Ward looks for unique and special items from the ALA’s past, including Past Department President pins. Once she purchases these pins, she embarks on a quest to learn their history and find a home for each pin within the ALA.

“Nothing is as precious or more coveted then our famous filigree Past Department President pin, and when they come up for auction on eBay, I get ready for action. Throughout this journey, I have acquired five Past Department President filigree pins and have been in play on three other auctions,” said Ward of Auxiliary Unit 250 in Louisburg, Kan. Ward is also a Past Department President of Kansas (2010-2011).

Once she buys pieces, she asks the sellers how they acquired them. Base on her inquiries, Ward has learned that in most cases, the sellers got the pins at estate auctions and had no idea of their history or meaning. 

Ward shared a story about one of the Past Department President pins she purchased, what she learned about the pin, and what will happen to it.

One day in 2017, Ward casually looked at the eBay website on her cellphone and noticed an ALA Past Department President’s pin with a “Buy It Now” price. Ward recognized the importance of the piece, logged in to the site, and made the purchase. She later emailed the seller to learn more about the pin and its history.

The pin originally belonged to ALA Missouri Past Department President Grace Bellerson (1955-1956). Although Bellerson’s family valued and appreciated the pin, her relatives felt funny wearing it, Ward explained.

“Grace Bellerson, of Fenton, Missouri, led an interesting and vibrant life. Her pin will ultimately be willed to the ALA Department of Missouri to assure its safety, with the hope that future generations will have the opportunity to honor her and her service,” Ward said.

Ward reflected on what her pin purchasing effort means.

“The journey has given many of us the opportunity to bring joy to friends who serve in the American Legion Auxiliary with an item they can wear with pride — along with a shared story of service and commitment. It is a journey of pride and a commitment to preserve that which we have considered most sacred and revered,” she said.

So, Ward waits patiently for the next chance to purchase a piece of ALA history, pride and sentiment, and find an Auxiliary home for it. And when that opportunity comes, she’ll be ready for it.

About the American Legion Auxiliary

The American Legion Auxiliary is a community of volunteers serving veterans, military, and their families. Our mission statement:

In the spirit of Service Not Self, the mission of the American Legion Auxiliary is to support The American Legion and honor the sacrifice of those who serve by enhancing the lives of our veterans, military, and their families, both at home and abroad. For God and country, we advocate for veterans, educate our citizens, mentor youth, and promote patriotism, good citizenship, peace, and security.

Interested in becoming an American Legion Auxiliary member or volunteer? To learn more, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org or contact an American Legion Auxiliary unit near you.

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