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
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.
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
Wikoff in turn presented the new charter to the Fayette club’s first
president, Anson B. Barber, who was superintendent of schools here. [other
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
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
Recently, the annual Art and Wine Auction has been one of the group’s
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
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