The 107th Annual Congress of the DSDI came to order in Philadelphia on July 3rd, 2014, opening with a meeting of the board. President-General Lawrence Croft opened the board meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance, with 12 board members present.
Officers give reports and we voted on new memberships, discussed future meetings and voted on our donations to historic sites. After the board meeting, DSDI members walked to Christ Church for the dedication of a beautiful granite bench honoring seven Signers buried at the site. Following the dedication, 48 members and family dined at the Omni Hotel. Our speaker, Kevin Kissling, COO of Eastern National, the nonprofit entity that runs the gift shops for many of the National Park sites, including Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, thanked DSDI for contributing to the republishing of the National Park Service’s book on the Signers of the Declaration. Kevin concluded his remarks by handing out copies of the newly published books to the attendees.
Independence Day began with the junior members selected as Bell Tappers having their practice at the Liberty Bell. The Bell Tappers were then introduced to 74 other members and guests at a brunch at the Omni Hotel and presented with Bell Tapper pins. The Bell Tappers, descendents of John Hart and George Reed, were Isaiah Bainbridge, Jacob Bainbridge, Justin Bainbridge, Erin Daily, Kenneth Daily, Alexa Scholl, Charles Wahlig, Rory Wahlig and Elizabeth Welch.
These fine young members, the future of the DSDI, were escorted to the Liberty Bell pavilion to witness the Oath of Citizenship, administered to the two new young citizens who would join in the ceremonial tapping: Maria Urdaneta Bey and Estefania Urdaneta Bey, of Venezuela.
At 2 p.m., the Bell Tappers performed the ceremonial tapping 13 times for the 13 colonies, joined by Mayor Nutter of Philadelphia. The tappers were presented with replica Liberty Bells, couresy of the DSDI and the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the Revolution.
DSDI members participated in the parade to Independence Hall, joining in the festivities in the park. The DSDI members then met at Independence Hall, as they have for 107 years for the Annual Congress. Introductions were made and President-General Croft read the Declaration of Independence. It is a moving experience to be in the same place where our ancestors made the pledge to give there lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in the pursuit of liberty, then signed the Declaration of Independence. Eighty-five members and family particpated in the meeting.
President-General Croft read the slate of officers and members voted to approve. The meeting closed with a roll call honoring both the Signers and their Descendants.
Members returned to the Omni for the formal dinner in the Azalea Room. We charged our glasses as L.D. Shank gave a toast to the Signers. I gave the blessing then we enjoyed our meals. After dinner we were honored to have Thorny Lockwood, holder of many titles in our Society, speak to us on the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration. Thorny took us through the years and events that left the colonies no choice but to send a Declaration to the king. It was an excellent presentation.
Thanks are owed to Grace Staller for all the time she puts into our Annual Congress, Bell Tapping program, and the Signers Grave Dedications. Her hard work makes these events possible. And we thank the National Park Service Rangers for helping us with these events.
Donald C. Ward Sr., Pennsylvania Governor and Past President-General