Rotary celebrates 90 years

Published 10:20 pm Friday, June 8, 2012

Members of the Suffolk Rotary Club gathered for a picture last week during a celebration of the club’s 90th birthday. In the front row, from left, are Hugh Cross, Kent Weber, Leroy Howell, John Harrell, Kenda Council, Randy Hicks, Mac Birdsong, Betsy Totten, Bob Marr and Jack West. Middle row from left, Jennefer Ambrose, Paul Conco, Jack Nurney, Judy Raymond, Everett Birdsong, G.S. Hobbs, Ralph Howell, Chris Dowd, Margaret Gellas. Back row from left, Corey Russell, Chris Holloway, Bob Anderson, George Birdsong, Bob House, Mitch Wilcox, Wayne Scott, Billy Hill, Blake Baker, Ashley Greene, Jeff Persons, Robert Baker, Dixon Rollins, Harry Cross, David Love, Scott Nash, Gina Pitrone, David Holland, Patrick Belcher, Kent Spain, Billy Chorey, Jackie Cherry, Rob House, Susan Blair, Lydia Duke, Chris Robinson, Tom Williams, Don Luzzatto, Wayland Pond, Deran Whitney, Ellie Holland, North Suffolk Rotary Club member Josh West, Ralph Nahra, Richard Savage.

The Suffolk Rotary Club celebrated its 90th birthday last week.

The service club was founded May 1, 1922, and has been holding fundraisers and doing community projects ever since. It currently has about 90 members.

“I think to have 90 members and be around for 90 years doing good works in the community says a lot about the quality of the folks in the club and their commitment to it,” current club President Kenda Council said. “We’re just pleased to be a part of the Suffolk community and want to continue to do good works for 90 years to come.”

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The first president was Mac Cross, current 38-year member Harry Cross said. He was Harry’s great-uncle.

The club had notable presidents throughout the years such as Judge J.L. McLemore and Planters Peanuts founder Amedeo Obici. The club originally met in a dining room on the second floor of the old Suffolk Hotel, Cross said.

Member Jack Nurney Jr. said he joined Rotary after coming back home from school and military service.

“I wanted to contribute in the community and be a part of the community,” the 55-year member said. “I was delighted to join Rotary.”

Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self.” The Suffolk club tries its best to live up to that motto through a number of activities.

The club has annual fundraisers including a vehicle raffle that has featured cars, motorcycles and golf carts; a holiday auction; and the Suffolk First Citizen reception, for which it has partnered the last few years with the North Suffolk Rotary Club.

Proceeds from the events are used for a myriad of programs and organizations, including the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club, Sister Cities, the YMCA, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, Suffolk Literacy Council, the rescue squad, scholarships and more.

The club also does community service at least once a quarter, Council said. The projects include ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, caroling at retirement homes, participating in blood drives, packing teacher supplies for tornado victims, staffing a free dental outreach and more.

Other long-serving members include Frank Sheffer and G.S. “Pistol” Hobbs, who both have more than 55 years of service, Nurney said.

Rotary meets at 1 p.m. every Thursday at the Elks Lodge on Constance Road.