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Fayette, Missouri 65248
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 Fayette Rotarians mark 70 years

This community’s oldest service club is observing a significant milestone this month as Fayette Rotarians begin their eighth decade of “Service Above Self.”

A charter from Rotary International, was received here on Feb. 18, 1937, after several months of groundwork had been laid by local business and professional leaders.

The club actually had its beginnings with a Kiwanis Club which had been active and then folded. Many of those former club members became members of the newly-formed organization.

Rotary International, organized initially in Chicago in 1905, is the oldest of the nation’s traditional service clubs, with Kiwanis, Lions, Optimist and so forth coming along in later years. So, the parent organization already was 32 years old when Rotary came to Fayette.
     While the charter was granted on Feb. 18, the big day to kick off the new club really came on March 23, 1937, when more than 200 Rotarians, Rotary wives (it was all men in those days), and friends gathered for a gala 6:30 p.m. banquet in the Methodist Parish House basement on the Central College campus.

L.E. Ziegler of the Boonville Club, which had been instrumental in getting a club going here, opened the event and introduced Rotary District Governor Lester B. Wikoff of Wentworth Military Academy in Lexington.

Wikoff in turn presented the new charter to the Fayette club’s first president, Anson B. Barber, who was superintendent of schools here. [other Club Presidents]

Barber in turn pledged that Fayette Rotarians would live up to the ideals embodied in the motto, “Service Above Self.”

Central music professor Frank Banyard led the group in singing of “America” which, to this day, opens every Wednesday noon meeting in the CMU Student and Community Center.

The 1937 banquet also included music by a Central College string quartet and a reading of poetry.

About a dozen other clubs from across Missouri sent representatives to the gala affair. Represented, in addition to Boonville and Lexington, were Columbia, Kansas City, Moberly, Jefferson City, Fulton, Slater, Sedalia, Brookfield, Rolla and Chillicothe, among others.

Later, the group adjourned to the Fayette Armory in the old Opera House, now the site of the Country Stampede bar at Main and Morrison. The armory was a huge room on the second floor, with a third floor balcony. Rotarians and guests danced that night to the music of Charlie Armstead and his orchestra.

The club’s charter members were a cross-section of the community’s business and professional leadership, including such well-known names as druggist Marvin Turner, ladies ready-to-wear shop owner Urless Clatworthy, men’s clothier Charles H. Lee, college Dean E.P. Puckett, and shoe store owner Robert Ricketts.

Surprisingly, prominent banker L.W. Jacobs Jr. was not a charter member, but joined shortly afterward. He was president in 1940-41.

No charter members are alive today. The last charter member to pass away was Jim Weathers who died around seven years ago.

Nat Tracy and Fulton Moore were early secretary-treasurers. Fulton served five years in the post, the beginning of several long periods of service which included Jim Sutton, 11 years; George Kline, 16 years; Jim Steele, 3 years; and then Robert H. Bray who served for a whopping 25 years until retiring in 1998. At that time the office was divided.

For many years of the club’s existence, members would sing at each meeting, including such “memorable” tunes as “Roll, Rotary, Roll” and “R-O-T-A-R-Y - That spells Rotary.” Singing at meetings is now but a distant memory.

For many years, the club met each week at Mrs. Clifford’s Tea Room which was located in the Sam Major home which how houses Main Street.

Later locations included the Gas Light Inn, housed in the now-closed Pizza Hut location; Cornbread’s, now the location of Cafe Mosaic; and the Methodist Parish House.

In more recent years, the club — with a current membership of about 45 persons — has meet at noon on the Central Methodist campus, first in the Holt Hall East-West Room (later Missouri Room) and most recently on the fourth floor of the CMU Student and Community Center.

Over the years, club members have taken part in countless service projects.

Recently, the annual Art and Wine Auction has been one of the group’s major fund-raisers.

Proceeds from the Rotary budget each year support a wide array of community projects and scholarships. Other monies from dues and contributions support work worldwide of the International Organization, including the significant Polo Plus program which has nearly eradicated the disease worldwide.

Current local officers include Keith Keeling, president; Larry Leech, vice president; Don Cuillimore, secretary; and Charles Moore, treasurer.

Locally, women members were added to the rolls after the parent body gave the green light in the mid-1980s. Fayette’s first woman president was Julee Sherman in 1993. Six others have served since.

The club’s only member to become a Rotary district governor was the late Ralph L. Woodward who served in 1973-74. He was then the recently-retired president of Central Methodist College.

Currently, the club’s most senior member of Ray Kimmel who served as president in 1953-54.

A banquet featuring a mystery dinner presentation Feb. 24 will commemorate the 70th anniversary.

James H. Steele

Feb 16, 2007  © Copyright 2002-2005 by Wood Creek Media, Inc. All rights reserved.