For the first time in the 54-year history of the Tracy Elks Lodge — once a male bastion — a woman is the lodge’s leader.
Ina daCosta was installed as exalted ruler April 3 and already has conducted her first meeting.
“Oh yes, there might have been a very few members who were slow in accepting the prospect of a woman becoming the exalted ruler, but the support I have received has been overwhelming,” daCosta said.
She explained that after being elected lodge chaplain five years ago, she “moved up the chairs” in recent years, so her election to the top seat was anticipated.
“When it came time to elect a new exalted ruler, everyone’s hand went up,” daCosta recalled.
The 77-year-old former Tracyite, now a resident of Manteca, has followed her husband, the late Leonardo daCosta, as leader of the Tracy Elks Lodge.
“Leonardo served as exalted ruler in 1981-82, so I really saw what the job was all about,” Ina daCosta said. ”While doing work for the lodge, he was run over by a tractor and badly hurt.”
Her husband, a retired railroad engineer, died in 2005, and by then Ina daCosta was already an active Elk, after the lodge dumped its all-male membership criteria more a decade ago.
“We now have 15 women among our (373) members,” she said. “They don’t come to lodge meetings, but they participate in many of the activities,” she said.
DaCosta said her motto for the year is “Yes We Can.”
“I’ve been practicing with our ritual team, and we want to do well in district competition,” she said. “We’re also getting going on our Purple Pig project to raise money to help crippled children.”
And while those activities are important, the central core of the Elks Lodge is fellowship, daCosta emphasized.
“We have twice-monthly family dinners, a monthly members’ night (formerly men’s night), and a number of special weekend dinners and events,” she said. “Getting together with friends is what it’s all about.”
Although a Manteca resident, daCosta has deep Tracy roots. Born in Oklahoma, she came to Tracy with her family in 1940 and attended Tracy schools, graduating from Tracy High in 1951.
Over the years, her mother, Faye “Mom” Jackson, operated a number of Tracy restaurants, including Mom’s Kitchen in Ten-Bee Village, and her mother-in-law, Marie daCosta, owned a women’s store in Tracy.
Leonardo and Ina originally moved from Tracy to Manteca in 1970 and lived in Pismo Beach for several years before returning to Manteca.
“We have members from Tracy, Manteca and Patterson, so our lodge has a regional reach,” Ina daCosta said. “I’m just happy to be part of such a great organization.”
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