Gold Star Wives, Gold Star Service: Organization holds national convention in Western Washington

By J.M. Simpson on July 18, 2014

Suzanne Gerstner summed up neatly the reason for standing in front of the flagpole at the heart of the Tahoma National Cemetery.

"We're here to pay tribute to our fallen spouses," said the Gold Star Wife from Florida. 

The gold star on her lapel is representative of having lost a spouse serving in the military.

"We will not forget them."

The Gold Star Wives of America, a non-profit, was founded before the end of World War II.

Its purpose remains to provide support for the spouses and children of those who lost their lives while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States.

>>> Incorporated on Dec. 15, 1945 the Cold Star Wives have 10,000 members nationwide with more than 60 active chapters. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

Eighty-six wives from around the country are meeting this week in Seattle for its 69th National Convention.

The Tahoma Chapter hosted the three-day convention, which held a short ceremony this morning at the Tahoma National Cemetery.

"What a beautiful day," enthused chaplain Andrena Taylor.  "And this is a beautiful place to lay our loved ones."

>>> Eighty-six Gold Star Wives from around the country attended the 69th Gold Star Wives National Convention this past week.Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

On April 5, 1945, four widows - who did not even receive a flag or letter from the government for their sacrifice - met in Marie Jordan's apartment in New York City and began the organization.

Not long after, Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of President Franklin Roosevelt, joined the group and became one of the original signers when the organization was chartered as a non-profit.

Today, the organization holds a Congressional Charter under title 36 of the United States Code under public law 96-497.

Over the years, Gold Star Wives of America have worked quietly to support each other and their survivors. 

They have also worked for and received greater recognition.

On April 5 of this year, Congress designated the day as "Gold Star Wives Day."  The intent is to publically recognize the sacrifice made by service members and their spouses in support of the nation.

"This day provides an opportunity to honor the members of Gold Star Wives of America, a volunteer organization that has assisted widows and survivors of fallen service members," said Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina).

"By designating April 5, 2014 as ‘Gold Star Wives Day,' this resolution promotes awareness of the dedication and sacrifice of the families of America's fallen soldiers and veterans."

>>> Gold Star Wife and National Chaplain Andrena Taylor thanked the Tahoma Chapter for its hospitality and hard work. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

The organization has a strong local connection.

"You have here today the spouses of service members who gave their lives in all of this country's war since the organization was founded," said Arlene Murray, president of the Tahoma Chapter.

"We are honored to be able to serve and remember those who have served."

The local chapter meets every third Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. at the AmVets Post #1 in Tacoma.

For more information about the Gold Star Wives of America, visit

For more information about the Tahoma Chapter, email Murray at