First communion dress becomes family tradition

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By Desiree Williams

Purchased 57 years ago, the Ortman family’s first communion dress has become tradition.

Cindy (Ortman) Meyer was the first to wear the family’s communion dress in 1962. (Submitted photo)

Betty Ortman bought a white dress made with lace and an organza-like material for her daughter, Cindy (Ortman) Meyer, to wear as she received the Catholic sacrament of Holy Communion in 1962. Betty, 87, has since witnessed seven other girls in the family wear the dress.

“I wore a little petticoat slip under it, so it kind of stood out a bit,” Cindy said. “It’s got a little overlay with a bit of lace on the bodice and that overlay continues over the sleeves, too, so you would have like a regular little cap sleeve, maybe just a little longer than a cap sleeve, but then this little bit of lace was like a second layer.”

Cindy received First Communion on Easter Sunday at St. Patrick Church in Kokomo.

Cindy is the oldest, and only girl, of seven children. Her parents married in 1953 and called Kokomo home. Her mother was a nurse and her father started Kokomo Grain, which five brothers have operated since their father’s passing nearly five years ago. Now, the Ortman siblings are spread between Kokomo, Peru, Lafayette and Carmel.

Cindy kept the dress in her closet for years and used it to play dress up with her cousins before it was worn again. She said she’s surprised the dress has survived this long, but it remains in good shape. It’s collected a few new ribbons and buttons in recent years.

Brookelynn Ortman of Carmel dons the communion dress worn by members of her family for nearly 60 years. (Submitted photo)

“We use an antique linen wash to soak it in, and then I have a drycleaners in Lafayette whose been in business for years and years and years, and I leave it with them to press,” Cindy said.

Brookelynn Ortman, who received First Communion May 5 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Carmel, is the third daughter of Timm and Nancy Ortman to carry on the tradition.

“Brookelynn, being our youngest girl, will be our last daughter to get to wear the dress,” Timm said. “Hopefully, the dress will continue to be shared among little girls, going through their own special ceremonies, who will add their names to the story for generations to come until the dress becomes too fragile to be worn anymore.”

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