With helium-filled gold foil balloons forming the numeral “90” behind the lectern, the Jackson Rotary Club celebrated a milestone in its history — one decade shy of a century — on March 26 at the Jackson Civic Center.
The Jackson Rotary Club was chartered March 27, 1929, sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Rotary Club. That event was held at Hotel Jackson (where City Hall now sits) with 22 members present.
Today, the club has grown to 48 members.
Following a dinner catered by Tractors, T. Ron Hahs and T. Wayne Lewis presented a slide program and discussed the history of the club.
Rotary International was founded 25 years prior to the Jackson club (on Feb. 23, 1905) in Chicago, IL, by Paul Harris. He thought it was a good idea for business leaders to meet together and form a service club to help their community. Each member represented his profession. The name came from the early practice of rotating the meeting locations, Hahs explained.
In 1910, the Chicago club sponsored the St. Louis Club, which, in turn, sponsored the Cape Girardeau Club nine years later (1919). It was the Cape Rotary that sponsored the Jackson club in 1929. (Cape Rotary will celebrate its 100th anniversary next month.)
The charter president of the Jackson club was M. G. La Pierre. Fred Kies was vice-president and Lawrence Snider was secretary-treasurer. The first year saw 11 new members join the club.
To this date, the club has met at 15 locations: Hotel Jackson, Lutheran School, Masonic Hall, New McKendree Church, City Restaurant, Mrs. Abbott’s Home (Highway 25 South), Catholic School, Presbyterian Church, Terrace Restaurant, Oak Ledge Tavern, Allen House Restaurant, Wayside Steak House, Mercy Hill Church Building (Highway 25 South) and two locations of Delmonico’s Steak House.
Originally, women were not allowed to join. Wives attended activities with their husbands and were nick-named “Rotari-Annes.” Once women were allowed to join, it was speculated that their husbands might be called “Rotari-Andies.”
Any resistance that men had to admitting women soon passed. Allowing women to join was “one of the best things that ever happened,” said Hahs.
Today, the district governor is Jackson’s own Linda Puchbauer, and Brigitte Bollerslev of Jackson served as district governor in 2015-16.
Lewis explained some of the projects Rotary has been involved in over the years. The first club project was sponsoring Boy Scout Troop 11, which it sponsors to this day.
Other projects include taking tickets for the annual Jackson Band Festival, helping build the swimming pool in City Park, and building the first foot bridge across Hubble Creek.
By far the biggest project was building Rotary Lake in 1977, followed by a picnic shelter near the lake and walking trails around the lake.
Another major project was in 2005-06, when Jackson Rotary combined efforts with three Cape Girardeau Rotary Clubs to build a Habitat for Humanity house in Cape Girardeau.
Rotary also supports the local community with Jackson High School scholarships, American Legion Boys State and Girls State, hosting an annual luncheon featuring the top 10 percent of Jackson High School seniors, and hosting senior student Rotarians at each weekly meeting. For years these students were called “Junior Rotarians” but now they are called the “Interact Club.”
The longest standing fund raiser is Pancake Day, started in April, 1950, by chairman Melvin Lichtenegger. It has been held in various locations. Ironically, it started in the American Legion Hall, upstairs on South High Street, and it is now held annually at the current American Legion Hall on North High Street.
The Rotary Foundation is the funding arm of Rotary International. Jackson Rotarians have generously contributed some $300,000 to the Foundation over the years.
Individuals who contribute at least $1,000 to the Foundation are cited as “Paul Harris Fellows,” named after the founder of Rotary International. The Jackson club has had 241 “Paul Harris Fellows” in its history.
Brad Kasten recognized three Paul Harris Fellows during this meeting: Sue Martin, Angela Seabaugh and Steve Horst.
The Jackson Club has been very supportive of the International Youth Exchange program, having sent 60 local high school students to other countries for a year and hosting 44 students from abroad since 1966.
In addition, seven local students have been named “Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholars” with funding for a year of university study, mostly in foreign countries.
Current officers are Derrick Biri, president; Tom Ludwig, president-elect; Ryan Blattel, secretary; Jeff Long, treasurer. The club meets every Tuesday noon at Delmonico’s Steak House.