The Kappa Deltas

We all have families and extended families. Most of us have close friends and further networks of acquaintances. I am lucky to have been a part of a very unique network. This is a collection of people in my family’s life that is strangely close. There continues to be an ongoing connection between us all. I refer to them as the “Kappa Deltas,” the “Bridge Club,” or even just the “KDs”

The Kappa Deltas were a National Sorority at the University of Minnesota. I don’t know much about them, except that there is a specific class from the late 1950s that impacted my life throughout – and continues today! My mother was one of the younger members of the class, but she was a part of this group of very strong young women who worked hard to maintain their connection long past graduation from the University. A number are still around today, but the incredible connection they built lives on in the kids and grandkids of those who are no longer with us.

The Kappa Delta clan in January of 2015

The way I understand it, the KDs wanted to continue getting together after graduation, so decided they had to come up with a reason. That turned out to be a regular Bridge competition. Nowadays, we’d call it a game night, but then it was all about cards. They rotated homes every month. When going to these gatherings my mother would tell us they were going out to the “Bridge Club.” That name stuck with my family, though nearly everyone else just kept the Kappa Delta moniker. Before long, they did more chatting (and drinking) than the cards. There was just too much to keep up with, especially as children started entering the equation.

My dad may have felt a bit left out, as the earliest get togethers included only the women. The guys soon decided that for this to last, they would need to get along as well. So, not only were they invited to the gatherings, but they started doing some of their own. My dad used these guys as free labor to help with some of the annual work needed for our Northern Minnesota lake home, The Timbers. He started inviting the KDs on the many trips that he organized. Pretty soon, the men were nearly as tight as the women. My dad coined their group, the Kappa Delta Gentlemen’s Auxiliary. It stuck.

Kappa Deltas are part of my earliest childhood memories. Our families got together regularly, whether at the Watson’s pool in the Summer, hotel parties on New Years’ Eve, girls’ or boys’ weekends at the Timbers, various travel getaways, riding on someone’s boat or snowmobile, weddings and funerals, and more recently, the Annual KD party around MLK Day weekend. We’ve even shared each other’s dogs over the years!

Not only were the KDs interested in keeping each other’s company, but he Kappa Deltas were a group of strong women with a desire to raise strong daughters. They definitely did! One special tradition was an attempt to create strong relationships with the girls’ fathers. My sisters often told me of how much they respected and appreciated not only their own father, but all the KD men. The role models they provided for each others’ daughters were invaluable to those girls. A big part of that bonding was when the KD fathers brought their daughters to The Timbers every Fall. That meant ONLY the girls and the dads. Boys and mothers were strictly forbidden that weekend. Not to say that the boys were left out – we certainly were not – but this was special. Several years later (after a lot of complaining by the boys), there was a separate weekend for just the boys. That was nice, but not nearly as successful as the girls’ weekend.

The girls also got something that the boys did not: the wedding circle. Though I’ve never experienced this, my sister Jenifer (and likely Pam?) did. The Kappa Delta women gather around the bride on the dance floor and sing a Kappa Delta song to her. I don’t know the details of the song – or if included some sort of wedding prayer – but know that it was an important and moving moment for my sister.

Most, but not all, of those Kappa Delta women stayed married to the same man their entire lives. So, not only did I have a great example of my parents, but an even larger society of married parents with the KDs. In my mind that was incredibly powerful. Most of the kids are following the same pattern. Amy and I recently celebrated 37 years, so that is a pretty good testament to the example the KDs provided to me!

There were different relationships between the families, but we considered all of the adults as equal parents. Any parent could discipline any child. We probably listened even more closely when it was NOT one of our parents! They also looked out for all of the kids. No one had to worry too much about the trouble their kids were getting into knowing that there were plenty of adults around with their eyes open.

The families mostly lived within the Twin Cities, though a few ventured away for jobs or other pursuits. Some lived closer than others, so we may have seen some a bit more often. The Watsons took our dogs for several months as we diagnosed my sister Pam’s allergies. They later got a boxer. When that dog had pups, we got the pick of the litter for turning them on to boxers. We still share photos of our dogs like grandmothers show their grandkids!

Helen Watson, Dick Grayson, Carol Grayson, and the Boxers!

Though the dogs may have cemented that connection, Helen and Lee (Kicker) Watson truly became second parents to us over the years. When we were growing up, their kids, Sheri, Matt, and Katie, were closer to us than our cousins. I can say the same about the Andersons, Yasminehs, Linnes, Fagerstroms, Laings, Hadd/Barringtons, Neumans, Halkos . . . .

KD Clan at the Watson’s holiday party

Not only can I point to the Kappa Deltas for influence and mentorship in my life, but by their demonstration and commitment to their friendship. The KDs are always there for each other when needed. I can’t think of another group with so much common care and trust as the KDs have for each other. When we lived overseas, we regularly received letters from Kappa Deltas. When someone needed help, KDs were there. Kappa Deltas are godparents for each other’s children. After my dad and Joan Yasmineh died, it was only natural that my Mom and Walid Yasmineh grew closer. They never went beyond friendship, but they certainly enjoyed each other’s company, as well as common religion and political views.

I’ve seen other long-term relationships throughout my life, but none as close as the KDs. My wife, for example has an ongoing relationship with several high school friends. We often get together as couples – and support each other in various ways – but we just don’t have the melding of extended families like the KDs. I’ve come to recognize the uniqueness of this group and continue to awe at the many years this has continued.

This all could not have happened without some instigators (community activists?). They changed a bit over the years depending on who had time, but one organizer was definitely my dad. It was Dad who cemented the Gentlemen’s Auxiliary. He was the one who got The Timbers weekends started. He was the one who planned several of the group trips (including a surprise 60th birthday party for my mother in Jamaica).

Dad was also the one who kept them all entertained! Every once in a while someone would get dad to start rolling on his Minnesota State Fair Carnie act. He’d be off chattering about the Minnesota State Fair Midway freak show from the 1950s, screaming about exciting motorcycle barrel where the walls were “straight up and down,” bartering tickets, or selling hot dogs. “Weenie, weenie, weenie, RED HOT, he would shout, “a loaf of bread, a pound of meat, and all the mustard you can eat. Weenie, weenie, weenie, RED HOT!”

One of Dad’s regular off-color jokes was about the Polish socks. Thank goodness I don’t have a photo, but here is the gist of the joke: My dad would ask, “How does a Pollock pull up his socks?” He then proceeded to drop his pants (revealing his tighty whities), grab his socks and pull them up, then pull his pants back up. That was my dad in a nutshell. Prominent attorney who never lost his sense of humor, though many of his antics would get his bar card revoked today!

That isn’t to say that there were not other instigators in the group. There were, but I’ll let others add in the comments if they are not too afraid to share!

Suffice it to say that the Kappa Deltas have been an extremely influential part of my life. They are truly lifelong friends, as I’ve known them longer than I’ve known anyone. We don’t get together nearly as often as we used to do, but we still keep updated address, phone, and email lists of both the “adults” and the “kids.” There is no doubt in my mind that the “kids” will still keep in contact once the original KDs are gone. In the meantime, I look forward to the next get-together!

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