Red Hat Society: Flamboyant Foxxy Ladies celebrate 25 years of sisterhood
By Chelsea Retherford | Living 50 Plus
Each time Belinda Lokey dons a red hat, she’s reminded that she is part of a sisterhood that has supported her for more than two decades.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a Red Hatter,” Lokey said. “It is a sisterhood. It’s having somewhere to go and do things with friends, and it’s been really good for me.”
Teresa Peck, who joined the Society around five years ago, feels the same way and added that her local chapter has pushed her to become more active in her community.
“I’m a bit of an introvert,” Peck said. “Since I’ve gotten involved, it’s really helped me come out of my shell.”
The Red Hat Society was founded in 1998 by Sue Ellen Cooper of Fullerton, California, to enrich the lives of women over 50 who may have prioritized their families and careers over nurturing friendships.
Lokey, a Florence native, joined RHS as a “lady in waiting” while she was still working as a self-employed seamstress, sewing for clients and local theaters.
“That’s how I met Theresa (Kanka),” Lokey said. “She asked me to join her chapter, The Dixie Cup Red Hatters. At the time, I was a Pink Hatter because I was not 50 years old yet. Theresa actually gave me my first red hat.”
By the time Lokey received her first red hat, Kanka had been encouraged to start a new chapter, the Flamboyant Foxxy Ladies, and had been named the chapter’s first queen. Kanka asked Lokey to be her vice queen.
Lokey said the chapter was established in October 2003, and it began with a dozen or so members. Today, the chapter has grown to 23 members and among its newest attendants is Peck, who said she was also encouraged to join thanks to Kanka.
Peck said she retired from a 47-year nursing career in 2015. She stayed busy by picking up gardening with her husband, and becoming more involved with her church, but she said she still felt a void in her social life.
“I just needed something else. I needed friendship,” she said.
Peck and Lokey said they’ve each made several lasting friendships with women in their community and all over the globe since they’ve joined.
Lokey said she’s gotten to travel to places like Las Vegas, Nevada, St. Louis, Missouri, and the Grand Canyon.
“This will be my 16th year attending an event in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee,” she said. “Queen Starr Lawson hosts it in Pigeon Forge each year. We go to parties and conventions all over the place, and we’ve met wonderful ladies from all around the world. I’ve met ladies from Australia, England, the Netherlands, Germany. We have the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.”
As the group’s current queen, Lokey is responsible for planning events and outings for the group. She said she tries to keep up with all the local happenings in the Shoals so she can present them to her club members.
“Sometimes we attend as a group, and sometimes it’s just a few of us, but we always present it to everyone,” she said. “If members are sick, I keep in touch and keep the group informed. I send everyone birthday cards and simple stuff like that. I encourage everyone to come to the meetings and participate.”
Lokey was elected before Kanka’s passing in April 2020.
“Teresa Peck and I were both up for election for queen,” Lokey said. “After, Theresa Kanka asked us if we wanted to know the vote. Theresa Kanaka and only one other person knew the results, but she hasn’t said anything to me, and I’ve never asked. We don’t know how close it was, she just told me who won.”
Lokey said she took time to consider who she wanted as her vice queen, and eventually posed the question to three ladies.
“I called them and told them to think about it and pray about it. Teresa (Peck) was one of the three, and she said yes,” Lokey said. “She’s been a wonderful asset. We have a great relationship, planning events and working together.”
As vice queen, Peck said she is there to relieve Lokey whenever the queen is out of town, sick, or overwhelmed in her personal life.
While the chapter hasn’t hosted a party in three years, Lokey said a Red Hat Tea Party and Fashion Show held on April 25 served as a celebration for RHS’s 25th anniversary, but it was also a chance for the local chapter to honor the memory of its founding queen.
“Theresa (Kanka) was a flamboyant woman,” Lokey said. “She taught me how to dress, and she taught me a valuable lesson about looking well-put-together. I made a lot of her clothes, and I still make some clothing for the ladies in our chapter.”
She said the fashion show kicked off with the chapter’s members parading the room in their regalia.
“Everyone will come out in their biggest hats, their blingiest bling and their fanciest dress, and we’ll all strut our stuff in memory of Theresa,” she said as the group was putting the final touches on the event that hosted over 100 other RHS members from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.
Lokey said her chapter has been a major source of support for her following the loss of her close friend, Kanka, and after she lost her husband of nearly 48 years, Don Lokey.
“Red Hat Society has been a blessing to me, especially since I lost my husband last year,” she said. “It’s so important to go and be a part of a group, and this is a group of all exceptional ladies. It really has been a wonderful experience.”
DID YOU KNOW?
• The Red Hat Society celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Local chapter, The Flamboyant Foxxy Ladies, will celebrate its 20th anniversary in October.
• RHS is open to women 50 years and older, but the club also accepts “ladies in waiting” who are under 50. Until Ladies in Waiting come of age, they sport pink hats and lavender clothes.
• If you ever catch a Red Hatter wearing a purple hat and red clothing, she likely has a birthday to celebrate soon. Red Hatters are permitted to reverse their colors during events held in their birth month.
• RHS chapters are led by queens, who choose royal nicknames for themselves. Queen Belinda Lokey is also known as Madam Sew Sew. The late Queen Theresa Kanka, who preceded Lokey, was known as Queen Scarlet Star.