Greenfield Rotary Club: serving community since 1922
Thanks to Rotary, many positive changes have occurred in an around Greenfield since 1922. The very first Rotary club was founded in 1905, when an attorney named Paul Harris called together the first meeting of a small group of businessmen in Chicago. The club was called Rotary because the site of its meetings rotated as various members hosted the meetings. These early Rotarians developed a simple platform based on service, high ethical standards in business, and the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations. Rotarians were encouraged to apply the ideal of service in their personal, business and community lives. Within a few years Rotary clubs began springing up all across the country, and eventually in other nations as well, and Rotary International was born. Rotary came to southern Ohio and experienced the same growth as in other parts of the country. In early 1922 a Greenfield man, Walter Gray, attended one of the weekly luncheons of the Chicago Rotary Club while he was in that city on business. He was so favorably impressed with the activities and fellowship of the club that, upon his return home, he proposed that a similar organization be established in Greenfield. A club had already been established in Chillicothe, and Washington C.H. had followed in 1921 with the Chillicothe club acting as sponsor. By 1922 the time was right for a Rotary club in Greenfield. The Washington C.H. club assisted in the Greenfield club's formation by acting as sponsor. Merrick E. Hitchcock of the Washington C.H. club prepared a survey of the city of Greenfield and sent it to Robert Patterson, governor of the 10th District. Patterson sent the survey to the central office, and on the basis of his recommendation and the survey results, the Greenfield Rotary Club was established as of May 1, 1922. The installation dinner was served by the ladies of the First Presbyterian Church in the gymnasium of McClain High School. Approximately 200 men were present, representing Rotary clubs from surrounding communities. Rotarian Frank Parrett of Washington C.H. served as presiding officer, and charter No. 1177 in the International Association of Rotary Clubs was presented by Governor Robert Patterson to James A. Harps, who was the first president of the Greenfield club. The 18 charter members of the Greenfield club included: President, James A. Harps, a local farmer; Vice President, Charles Mains, president of The American Pad & Textile Co.; Secretary/Treasurer, Frank W. Norton, partner in C.C. Norton's Sons seed company; William A. Stinson, president, the Burton Fork Oil Co.; Dwight O. Miller, president, Highland County Bank; Oscar Heidingsfeld, proprietor, S. Heidingsfeld & Son; Oliver Styerwalt, partner, Styerwalt Milling Co.; Dean T. Waddell, partner, The Waddell Co.; George H. Morehouse, general manager, J.A. Harps Mfg. Co.; Dr. Robert J. Jones, surgeon; Walter A. Gray, partner, the Gray-Wolfe Co.; Dr. Gilbert H. Edwards, dentist; Cassius M. Hobart, editor, the Greenfield Printing & Publishing Co.; Edward E. Kendle, proprietor, the Harper Hotel; Charles M. Uhl, realtor; David F. Gray, life insurance; Ernest E. Ellis, manager, the Ortman Motor Company; and Charles F. Mains, general manager, Springo Suspender Co. During the early years of the club, members supported welfare work, public school health work, the Red Cross, and twice sponsored fund campaigns for the benefit of Greenfield Hospital. One of the highlights of the club's history was the privilege of participating in the silver anniversary of the Columbus club, at which the guest of honor was the beloved founder of Rotary, Paul Harris.
The 1930s In the 1930s the club helped send students to Buckeye Boys State and sponsored athletic banquets. Local educator F.R. Harris provided many an interesting Rotary program with tales of his travels around the globe. In 1936, Rotary was instrumental in the placing of traffic lights at the intersections of Jefferson and Fifth Streets and Jefferson and Sixth Streets, providing students with safer access to the local school campus. That same year the club helped secure a community playground. The year 1937 saw the formation of the Highland County Crippled Children Committee with active involvement from the Greenfield Rotary Club. This type of work continues to today as a joint project of the Greenfield and Hillsboro clubs.
The 1940s During World War II the club and its members contributed much to community life and the war effort. Every War Bond and Red Cross Campaign chairman who served in the Greenfield District was a Rotarian, and the outstanding record of community support inspired pride in club members. The Greenfield club received special recognition in 1942 for being first in attendance in the entire district, and again in 1946 for outstanding club service. When the club celebrated its silver anniversary in 1947, three charter members remained active in the organization, and the club continued to ride a crest of success based on its outstanding fellowship and service. Charter member Dean T. Waddell served as general chairman for Greenfield's outstanding Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1949, which set a new standard for community celebrations. The sesquicentennial year also marked Rotary's contribution of funds earned from a community lecture series to help purchase an X-ray machine for the Greenfield hospital.
The 1950s The year 1951-52 was a special one for the Greenfield club, as a young man named George M. Waddell was elected District Governor. In addition to visiting and serving the clubs in the district, Waddell attended international assemblies and conventions. He was rewarded with many lasting friendships and became known locally as "Mr. Rotary" for his dedication to the organization. Through the remainder of the 20th century and up to the present, no other Greenfield Rotarian has ascended to the governorship of the district. In the 1950s the club operated concessions at the Fourth of July Fun Fair, turning proceeds over to the Greenfield Recreation Commission. Many interesting Rotary programs have taken place over the years, some of a serious nature and others more lighthearted. Perhaps the most memorable program in the minds of those who attended was the speech by Countess Maria Pulaski, a British World War II agent. After an evening of spellbinding intrigue from this fascinating speaker, this joint meeting with the Lions Club and Business and Professional Women ended with Countess Pulaski removing her disguise to reveal -- a female impersonator! Lowell "Fizz" Wilkin cemented his legend as a practical joker by arranging for the program. Other local Rotarians who were sought-after on the speaking circuit included Mack Sauer, Dr. Willis B. Kilpatrick, and F.R. Harris.
The 1960s In the 1960s, the club inaugurated a fish fry in the fall, with proceeds funding various Rotary charities. In the project's early years, Rod Rich flew to Lake Erie and brought back fresh fish for the dinners. Past Rotary International President Herbert Taylor, author of Rotary's acclaimed Four-Way Test, spoke at a McClain school assembly in 1960. The test encourages truth, fairness, good will and beneficial conduct. In 1962, club President Robert Head instituted an awards program to recognize high school students who exemplify the teachings embraced by the Four-Way Test. A plaque containing the names of the student recipients honored over the years still hangs in the high school. Over the years Rotarians have sponsored programs to develop the four avenues of service: club service, vocational service, community service and international service. Club programs have honored scout leaders, civil servants and community leaders whose vocations or avocations have served our society. For years, Business-Industry-Education Day at McClain High School sought to acquaint students with the workaday world. Luncheons, club or school assemblies and other programs have been presented. A highlight occurred in 1960 when Wilson L. Moon instituted the popular "Office Gals Day" in 1962 to honor co-workers. Moon, who had a flair for organizing special events and leading the club in singing, often came up with humorous lyrics for familiar tunes. A notable Rotary project in the 1960s addressed the need for a constructive place for teenagers to spend their free time in a safe environment. Rotarian George McMasters helped spearhead this effort, which resulted in the purchase of a building in the 400 block of Jefferson Street in Greenfield for use as a teen gathering place. Benefit dances and other fundraisers, including concerts by Marian Spellman and Ronnie Dale, helped the club realize its goal of establishing Teen Town, which served the community's young people for several years. Some may remember the facility by another name, as it was later christened the Tigers' Den.
The 1970s The club's golden anniversary celebration in 1972 took place at the First United Methodist Church. Recognition was given to a pair of living charter members, Dean T. Waddell and Charles M. Uhl, both of whom remained active in their respective businesses and in the club. Toastmaster G. Robert Mehl recognized George Waddell for his accomplishments in Rotary, and District Governor William Strautman addressed the audience. A barbershop quartet from the Xenia Hospitality Chorus provided entertainment, and the club presented a flagpole and plaque to the Greenfield Historical Society honoring the late F.R. Harris. Fizz Wilkin moderated a program called "Golden Memories." That shining evening was commemorated in a beautiful program printed by Wilson Moon's Greenfield Printing and Publishing Company, die-cut in the shape of a Rotary wheel. In 1972, Rotary rallied to help provide better health care for the Greenfield area. A shortage of physicians had caused the local hospital to close some of its services, such as the maternity ward and the surgical unit, and the hospital and community were in desperate need of physicians. The Rotary Doctor Fund raised approximately $35,000 for the purpose of attracting new doctors to the city. The fund was a huge success, and helped bring quality health care back to Greenfield. Through the years, Rotarians have continued their involvement in community projects. The club owns and operates the former Ohio National Guard Armory, now known as the Ralph W. Phillips Community Recreation and Civic Center. The facility originally was purchased by the Greenfield Jaycees and later transferred to Rotary. A member of both organizations, David Moon, was instrumental in getting the state to sell the armory to the Jaycees, and Moon managed the facility without fanfare for many years.
The 1980s In 1987, when it became apparent that there would no longer be a Greene Countrie Towne Festival, the club began sponsoring a community festival that became known as the Wheels of Progress Festival, and eventually returned to the name Greene Countrie Towne Festival. The festival has experienced continued growth and now rivals the festival it replaced in size and scope. When the Greenfield Area Medical Center sought to raise funds for a renovation/expansion project in 1989, Rotary was there to contribute money, and numerous Rotarians worked on fund-raising committees.
Women and Rotary The importance of women to Rotary has never been seriously questioned. Through the majority of its existence, the organization had been open only to males, but the wives of Rotarians ("Rotary-Anns") have played an important part in the success of the club through their behind-the-scenes support. The role of women began changing in the late 1980s, at which time several ladies were accepted for membership in the local club. In 1988, the club made Marjorie Johnson an honorary member. The longtime pianist had been attending club meetings faithfully for years and for all intents and purposes was considered a member. The "honorary" designation was applied so that Marjorie could be exempted from having to pay dues. Soon afterward, the first dues-paying "regular" members accepted into the club were Shari Royse-Bellar and her sister Pam Royse, who quickly made an impact by co-chairing the local festival. Many other ladies have distinguished themselves as Greenfield Rotarians, including Judy Spargur, who became the club's first female president on July 1, 1999 for the 1999-2000 Rotary year.
The 1990s In the 1990s, club members helped erect bleachers at Mitchell Park, worked on the Imagination Kingdom playground at Greenfield Elementary School, and worked to help the Greenfield Area Life Squad build a new headquarters. Each December, as he has for many years, Rotarian Pat Hays spearheads the Needy Kids campaign to finance Christmas items for impoverished families, while a springtime highlight is the immensely successful telethon for the Highland County Society for Children and Adults. Improvements to the Rec-Civic Center and the erection of a decorative fountain in front of Greenfield's City Hall have been other 1990s highlights of Rotary service. Fish fries and pancake suppers of past years have given way to spaghetti dinners and special projects like the "Game of Greenfield" that was sold in 1996. The funds raised, and the manpower provided by club members, help make positive things happen in our community. Internationally, the Greenfield club and others have joined forces to provide for youth exchange programs, safe drinking water, and the eradication of polio and other diseases. In 1997, the club celebrated its 75th anniversary with a prime rib dinner at Buckeye Hills Country Club. With District Governor Charles L. Sweeting of Urbana on hand and special entertainment to commemorate the occasion, including the McClain Show Choir and ventriloquist Mark Wade, the club celebrated a legacy of service to the community and looked forward to continued success in the years to come. Other highlights included the presence of Past District Governor George M. Waddell, recognition of former presidents, remarks by 1997-98 President Herb Deatley and recognition of Wib Seilkop as the Greenfield club's oldest living member. Many area residents have contributed greatly to the success of Rotary. One was Ralph W. Phillips, a local attorney who served as president, chaired many special projects such as the Highland County Society for Children and Adults fundraising effort, and was a longtime board member of the Recreation and Civic Center. Like many Rotarians, Phillips did not limit his public involvement to Rotary activities. He served on a number of boards and organizations, and his life of service to others reflected on his personal values and those cherished by Rotary. In honor of this outstanding Rotarian and citizen, the Greenfield Rotary Club on September 24, 1998 re-named the former armory facility as the Ralph W. Phillips Community Recreation and Civic Center. Another way of recognizing those who have made outstanding contributions to Rotary is the Paul Harris Fellowship, named after the founder of Rotary. Beginning in 1985, the club has designated one or more Paul Harris Fellowships nearly every year by making a $1,000 contribution to the Rotary Foundation in the name of those to be recognized as Paul Harris Fellows. The first such recipient was Past District Governor George M. Waddell; other recipients are listed elsewhere on the Rotary website.
Dan Crusie and Tammy Wells Dan Crusie, although not a member of Rotary, has been a great help to the organization through the donation of his artistic talents. The former local artist and teacher created a series of remarkable limited edition prints since the early 1990s commemorating the area's history, business and culture. Many thousands of dollars were raised from the sale of these prints at the Rotary auction each year at the festival. These funds have enabled Rotary to operate the Phillips Center and perform other works around the community. After Dan Crusie retired and moved from the Greenfield area, one of his former students, Tammy Wells, has followed in his footsteps quite admirably as creator of commemorative prints for the Rotary auction.
2000 and beyond With the coming of a new century, Rotary continued to adapt to changing needs while respecting the principles of the organization. The club has continued with its local projects such as maintaining the operation of the Ralph W. Phillips Recreation and Civic Center, raising money for projects through participation in the Highland County Society for Children and Adults telethon and the Needy Kids radiothon. The Greene Countrie Towne Festival continues to provide a means of celebration on the third weekend of July. The club has gotten involved in the student exchange program through Rotary International, and several students from other countries have called Greenfield home for approximately one year, staying with host families and learning that they have much in common with Americans. In addition, several Greenfield area youths have stayed with host families in other countries and had experiences that will profoundly impact their lives. In 2004 the club ventured further into the electronic age by creating its own website, www.greenfieldrotary.org, allowing anyone with internet access a chance to learn more about the Greenfield Rotary Club. Ron Coffey uploaded the website and continues to serve as webmaster. In 2011 the club changed the name of its festival to the Greene Countrie Towne Festival, as the community festival was known in the 1970s and 1980s before going defunct after the 1986 festival. The term "Greene Countrie Towne" was used to describe Greenfield by the town's founder, General Duncan McArthur, and harkens back to Greenfield's rich history dating from its founding in 1799. Internationally, the Rotary organization continues to practice the concept of service, working to eradicate polio from the planet, and taking on various projects to help the health and welfare of fellow citizens everywhere. It’s a tradition started long ago by Paul Harris that is still bearing much fruit. As the local and international landscape continues to change and club membership rolls go through their inevitable permutations, the guiding principles of Paul Harris and the early Rotarians continue to provide a useful framework for making the world a better place. The local club has met at various locations including the Greenfield Area Life Squad building, the Greenfield Eagles Aerie, and since 2015, the Catch 22 Sports Bar. Rotarians in Greenfield, Ohio and around the world continue to believe in “Service Above Self” and evaluate their actions by quoting the Four Way Test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? If the first century of Rotary is any indication, the club has established a history to be proud of, and the future looks bright indeed for Rotary clubs everywhere.
A new step for local Rotary club! May 5, 2016 was a day of historical significance in the annals of the Greenfield Rotary Club as it marked the first informational session for a group of Rotarians that will meet monthly for an evening meeting. About a dozen current and potential Rotarians met at the Catch 22 Sports Pub to discuss the idea, with past Rotary President Blain Bergstrom explaining the rationale for occasional evening meetings as a convenience for people who are interested in the ideals of Rotary but unable to attend the weekly luncheon sessions on Thursdays, also at the Catch 22. The new evening sessions will take place on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Catch 22 Sports Pub. Bergstrom noted the long history of Rotary in Greenfield — dating to 1922 — and some of the good works done by the club down through the years, including assistance with equipment for the local hospital, help in recruiting doctors to Greenfield, sponsoring the Greene Countrie Towne Festival, running the Ralph W. Phillips Recreation and Civil Center, and raising money for many good causes both locally, nationally and internationally. Rotarian Larry Hayes and others also talked briefly about the club’s activities and what Rotary has meant to the community. Several potential members completed membership applications before leaving, and all were asked to consider ways they could get involved and help spread the word about the good works of Rotary.
The coronavirus pandemic and the rise of Zoom Rotarians discovered new ways of meeting and accomplishing projects in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic forced major changes in our way of life. Thankfully, new technology offered some alternative ways to help clubs meet. The Greenfield Rotary Club and many others chose Zoom as a means of having virtual meetings and helping to keep members safe. While Ohio is gradually easing restrictions and allowing businesses to open, the local Rotary club plans to continue with Zoom meetings at least until July 2020.