By Seth Daniel
The minute she was eligible to join the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Auxiliary, Everett’s Lee Spatafore took out the papers to join in honor of her late grandfather – whose membership in the VFW allowed her to join what was then called the “Ladies Auxiliary.”
“I applied at the age of 16 and under the eligibility of my grandfather, began my path of service that’s lasted more than 30 years,” she said recently. “It was a way of honoring a celebrating the service and sacrifice my grandfather gave…We have three generations of Auxiliary members now in our family, my mother, myself and my daughter.”
Spatafore is a 1980 graduate of Pope John High School and a lifelong resident of Everett. She said she began her membership at Everett’s Lt. Joseph Wehner Post, which is now defunct, under her grandfather – Newton O. Williams.
She now operates out of the Malden Auxiliary #639, but has held many national and regional positions. She was the Auxiliary President locally in 1982 and eventually rose to become the Eastern States Conference president, which represents the original 13 colonies and Europe.
This past July, Spatafore attended the 103rd National Convention of VFW Auxiliaries in Charlotte and was elected to another national post. She is the National District Council Member #2, which serves Massachusetts and Vermont for a two-year term. Most of what she does, she said, is take ideas back and forth from the national organization to the local posts, and vice versa.
“I have the ability to bring the positions of the local posts back to the national organization,” she said. “I can be a conduit for the national to give information to the membership and take the temperature of the members about the about that information without having to call a national convention.”
One of the major things she cited as having changed the Auxiliary in recent times, and especially since she joined more than 30 years ago, was the opening up of membership to men. For many years, the Auxiliary was only open to women and members could only qualify through six relationships. Now, she said it has been recognized that women serve in the military and can qualify men for membership in the Auxiliary through their service in a foreign war.
“This change may do great things for the Auxiliary going from six eligible membership relationships to 12,” she said. “I think that the biggest change in all my years is the new eligibility for male membership. That was a huge step. It’s a re-branding…and a paradigm shift. The ability to have new members will bring great energy to the organization. It’s huge, but has wonderful implications for the organization.”