A small flock of Eagles members joined hands in prayer Sunday in the now-empty club parking lot after Friday’s sudden closure.
Eagles President Deke Cloyd declined to share details leading to the Fraternal Order of Eagles club’s unexpected closure, but six members gathered to pray for the doors to once again open for the more than 700 members at the Aerie, the Eagles’ term for a clubhouse or event building. The club was the setting for weekly bingo nights, meals, fundraisers and dances that provided comfort and socialization, largely for elderly folks and widows, members said.
“It’s their life,” said Judy Payne, a member for more than 20 years. “They look forward to it, especially Friday nights when they have the music and dancing. My husband can’t dance, but all of us girls get out there together to dance.”
Before the closure, Payne visited the club two or three times a week; among her fondest memories is her engagement at an Eagles club dance.
“After we’d danced, I went and sat down and he walked over to the entertainer and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what is he going to do, sing?’ because he is a singer,” Payne said. “He took the microphone and proposed in front of everybody. I just nodded my head, I didn’t know what to say and everybody clapped and they brought us champagne.”
The building in north Spokane is Aerie 2, the second Eagles location to open in the global fraternity’s 125 years. The first opened in Seattle, where the organization began in 1898. Cloyd said the Seattle location has since closed, leaving Aerie 2 as the oldest operating Eagles club before the Friday closure that caught members off guard.
Former President Gary, who declined to offer his last name, rattled off the names of friends he made throughout his 30 years of membership. He fondly recalled breakfasts, bowling and golf with other Eagles.
“We’d play little tricks on each other and stuff like that,” he said. “Just like brothers.”
The closest Aeries are locations in Spokane Valley and Deer Park. Nila Walling, member of 50 years, drove to the Valley Aerie this weekend, but she worries other members won’t make the 15 -mile drive.
“People that don’t drive up there, they’re stuck,” Walling said. “They don’t have any place to go.”
“I’ve been on my own a long time, so I had no choice,” Walling added. “If I wanted to go, I had to drive and I’m not about to sit at home.”
Walling knows her trips to the Valley will end once the snow and ice bring hazardous driving conditions, and Payne has trouble seeing when driving at night.
Despite uncertainty, Walling and Payne are steadfast in their optimism that they’ll once again grace the dance floors and bingo halls of their Aerie. They joined Sunday’s prayer circle hoping divine intervention would lead to their return.
“When it’s snowing I won’t be going; ’course by then it will be open,” Walling said.
“Yes it will, we have to think positively,” Payne added.