Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2023

Woman rises to top post at Elks Lodge

Boulder City Elks

Richard Brian

Kate Kubernach, exalted ruler of Boulder City’s Elks Lodge, poses in front of a map marked with pins that show various Elks lodges around the country.

Click to enlarge photo

Kate Kubernach, exalted ruler of Boulder City's Elks Lodge, helps deep fry tortillas during taco night at the lodge.

Beyond the News

For more information about the Elks, call the lodge at 293-2457.

Following 63 framed portraits chronologically lining the walls of the bar at the Elks Lodge will soon come a radically different 64th.

The local Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks made chapter history this April by electing its first woman as Exalted Ruler.

When Kate Kubernach’s picture takes its place beside Exalted Rulers before her, however, she won’t just represent the fairer sex, but another good leader, one dedicated to volunteerism and brotherly love, she said.

“I’m here for a reason,” she said from the Nevada Highway lodge Aug. 14. “I’m an Elk.”

The Elks is a charitable fraternity of nearly 1 million across the United States. Nationally, the private club admitted women in the mid-1990s.

Since 1945 in Boulder City, men have served one-year terms as the lodge’s leaders, and the first local woman joined about 2000, past Exalted Ruler Bob Morwick said.

Kubernach, who joined in 2003, said integration in Boulder City was slow, but now it’s “not that big of a deal.”

“It was a hard-fought battle, but it was time,” she said.

Still, a woman couldn’t “just walk in and become Exalted Ruler,” she said, although a few men have been able to skip lower offices and shoot straight to the top position.

Kubernach, who retired from 21 years in the Air Force in 1994, for five years made her way through offices before her appointment.

Less than half a year after she joined, she was asked to be Inner Guard, the member who allows entrance into secret Elks meetings. She continued up the chain until she ran, uncontested, for Exalted Ruler earlier this year.

Kubernach has never left any of the hard work to her male counterparts, she said.

“I never let a guy do anything I couldn’t do,” she said of her career painting airplanes. “If it took two people to lift something, I was one of them. If it took one, I was the one. I could match ’em stroke for stroke and most of the time beat ’em.”

Her responsibilities as the veritable chief executive officer of Elks include overseeing the budget, leading the committees, working with officers, trustees and board members and, not at all least important, serving every Taco Thursday.

At the weekly dinner, Morwick, a past state president of Elks and Kubernach’s mentor, said members were reluctant to accept female members eight years ago. The club lost two Elks over it, though one returned.

“Some of us old-timers resented the fact that here we had a fraternity of men, and women were coming in,” he said. “But it’s been a boon to us.”

When it comes to charity, women Elks have worked more than most of the men have, he said.

“We’re very proud of Kate,” Morwick said. “She’s done a tremendous job, and I really appreciate her dedication.”

Walter Graham, another past Exalted Ruler and state president, said he’d never taken issue with Kubernach or any other female member.

“I was glad to see women in here,” he said. “In my opinion, they helped keep us going. More power to ‘em.”

He noted that in the first month of Kubernach’s reign, the chapter won first place in its division at a statewide Elks ritual competition.

Somebody asked Kubernach recently what legacy she hopes leave when her successor — man or woman — takes over in April 2009.

“I don’t need a legacy,” she said. “What I hope to do is to leave the lodge in as good of shape or better than when I got it. I hope membership increases. I want people to be wanting to come to the lodge as a place to relax and have a good time, and for the charitable work. I don’t want to let anything fall down and not have it done. I want to know that I was fiscally smart.”

Cassie Tomlin is a reporter for the Home News. She can be reached at 702-948-2073 or [email protected].

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