Welcome to the St. Marys Rotary Club!

About Us

and the history of the St. Marys Rotary Club
Glen Steve, a long time Rotarian, wrote on the 25th anniversary of the founding of Rotary in St. Marys about the prevalent attitude at the time of the chartering ceremony:

"At last the time had come. The search was over. The day was here! For many years the good men of St. Marys had sought a way to unite. Many efforts, some strong and well based, but mostly feeble and fumbling, had fallen. They all lacked in some way the Spark--the Spirit--the Service. Then, finally in 1938, came the word. It was 'Rotary'!"

In 1938, Harry D. Poulston, a Rotarian from Lima and a Rotary International officer, with an assist from the Wapakoneta Rotary Club, spearheaded the effort to charter Rotary in St. Marys. As Glen Steve, intimates interested businessmen had considered other organizations but chose Rotary. Poulston presented the charter on a March evening that year along with a bell, which was a present from the Lima club. Dr. Fred Jennings was the first president.

For the first 25 years of the club's existence, the club met in the basement of Koch's Restaurant, then located in the Palm Hotel Building next to the St. Marys River. This room was known as the "rathskeller.� In the early 1960's the permanent meeting place of the club moved along with Koch's (later Matt's Restaurant) to the corner of Chestnut and Spring Streets.

In 1997 the club renovated the back room at Matt's which became known as the Rotary Room. Unfortunately the room went up in smoke along with Matt�s in the spring of 2002. The Club met at the Church of God on Defiance Street and then settled in the large meeting room in the lower level of the Eagle�s lodge on East Spring Street.

Women first joined the club in 1989. Sandy Hunter was the first women member. She is the daughter of long time Rotarian Jim Folk. Evelyn Dennis, Laura Yelton, and Joy Johnson soon followed Sandy as members. Leslie Brady was the first women Club President for 1995-96 and Joy Johnson served as President for 1997-1998. Kimberli Rompilla will lead the club for 2010-2011, followed by Linda Vogel and Robbie Burke who will continue the line of female leadership in our club.

Four Avenues of Service
Rotary International promulgates four avenues of service which Rotary Clubs are to pursue. These avenues are Club Service, Community Service, Vocational Service, and International Service. The St. Marys club has an excellent record in all four avenues of service.

Community Service

In the avenue of Community Service the Club has sponsored many youth activities over the years including a Little League baseball team, the 4-H program, Buckeye Boy's State, Presidential Classroom, and the World Affairs Institute.

One of the first significant Club projects was the Heifer Project. The Club would see that a young farmer received a Holstein heifer on the condition that its first born be passed on to another young farmer.

For many years the Club would invite each MHS senior boy to attend a club meeting. In the early years of the club, when the classes were smaller, a senior would be selected to visit the club for a month at a time. Rotarian Jim Folk relates that through his experience he became acquainted with a funeral director in town who led him to enter the profession later.

In the early 1950's, the club began sponsoring the Halloween Parade, and this has become a permanent fixture in the life of the community. The Club has maintained a parade float which appeared in many of the summer festival parades held through out the area.

When the St. Mary Swimming pool opened in 1958, the Club sponsored a yearly swimming contest for the children in the community. This project later blossomed into the formation of the St. Marys Swimming Team, now known as the Seahawks which actively competes with other area swim teams. In recent years the Club has purchased lane dividers for the team. With the construction of a new municipal swimming pool in 2003, the Club built a Rotary Park next to the new pool in honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Rotary International.

The Club has made contributions to many worthwhile local projects. The Club constructed the gazebo in Memorial Park and contributed $3,000 to build the original tot lot at K.C. Geiger Park. The Club also made a major gift for the construction of the covered bridge over the St. Marys River next to Memorial Park.

In addition to these projects, the Club has a strong scholarship program. For more than thirty years the Club has given scholarships to deserving graduates of Memorial High School. The Dr. Barton Memorial Fund, established by the Club, is available for loans to students interested in the medical field. This fund honors the memory of longtime Rotarian and charter member W.V. Barton, who had 14 consecutive years of perfect attendance.

In recent years the Club has spent time picking up trash for a designated part of the US 33 bypass and helped start a show choir invitational for Glitter and Gold, the Memorial High School show choir. Members have traditionally been a part of the Goodfellows organization which delivers baskets to the needy at Christmas. The Club also sponsors the �Rotary Summer Concert Series� in the summer which makes good use of the Memorial Park gazebo.

In the educational field the Club has promoted literacy by donating dictionaries to St. Marys elementary schools and several Rotarians have served in the Ohio Reads program as well as the Host program working with elementary students in an one-on-one basis. The club has donated a dictionery to every fourth grader in the St. Marys school district for many years.

Club service

The St. Marys Rotary Club has a strong tradition of camaraderie and takes pride in conducting enjoyable and informative weekly meetings. In the late 1940's, Emil Limbacher began the tradition of weekly singing as a part of the opening of Club meetings and the Club has been singing ever since. For many years the theme song of the St. Marys Rotary Club was "I Want A Girl." While this song has declined in popularity with the advent of women members, the club continues to sing such favorites as "Vive La Rotary" and "In the Good Ol Summertime." Over the years, club meetings were brightened by jokes and news reports of Ollie Stout, John Slonkosky and "Bun" Shuffleton. Members are able to announce significant events by giving Happy Dollars and everyone looks forward to the weekly queen drawing which helps raise funds for scholarships.

There have been different activities through the years for the members and their families. This writer remembers one such trip in 1958 where the club and family members journeyed to Flint, Michigan to watch the assembly of Chevrolets. In the 1990's, Club members and their families visited the Honda assembly plant in East Liberty. It has been a tradition in the club to bring children and grandchildren to a Club meeting during the Christmas season for a visit from Santa Claus. The Club has also held many parties for members and their spouses (formerly known by the now banned term of Rotary Anns) These have always been enjoyable experiences. In the 1960's the club made trips to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, arranged by Frank Dicke, a member from New Bremen and Club President. In watching another form of racing in 1997, the Club had a special night at the Auglaize County Fair and cheered on Ron Gorby's horse.

In November of each year the Club holds its major fund-raising event, a white elephant auction. This has been ably called by Jon Hall and has raised thousands of dollars for Club projects.

The Club has had several members who have been active in Rotary on the national and international level. Foremost among these was Robert Kuck, who served as District Governor of our District in 1968-69. A particular highlight of this time was the District Conference held in St. Marys in April 1969. Frank Dicke and Robert B. Orphal were the Conference Co-Chairmen. Famous lecturer, author, and personality Lowell Thomas spoke to the conference. Jim Heinrich served as District Governor for District 6600 for the 2009-2010 Rotary year, which was capped off by his District Conference hosted by our club in Perrysburg.

Vocational Service

In pursuing the avenue of Vocational Service the Rotary Club has invited many different leaders of local industry to give programs concerning their particular business. Further, Rotarians have visited several local factories and facilities such as Crown Equipment, Parker, Minster Machine and Goodyear. Club members have participated in Career Nights at the high school and other vocational forums with youth and members have always been available to counsel young people who may be interested in that member's vocation. We have also encouraged students to participate in the District Four-Way Test Contest.

International Service

There is no question that one of the strongest areas of service of the St. Marys Rotary Club has been in the international area. Beginning in 1955, and for every summer thereafter, the Rotary Club has sponsored a summer student through the auspices of the Experiment in International Living located in Putney, Vermont. The first student who participated in this program was Jacques Broquisse from France. Now retired, he had a successful career as a noted attorney in Paris. Several other students in this program have gone on to make their mark in the world. Dr. Abbo Kalbhen of Germany was an early visitor in this program and became a noted world expert on arthritis. Over the years club members have had the occasion to visit these former students in their homes in their respective countries. This was a very enriching experience for the members of the St. Marys Rotary Club.

Recognition as a Paul Harris Fellow for a member�s financial contribution to the Rotary Foundation, has always been an important part of international service. The Club's first Paul Harris Fellow was Al Heinrich. The second and third Paul Harris Fellows were Frank "Bun" Shuffleton and Emil Limbacher who were each sponsored by the Club. Since then there have been many more St. Marys Paul Harris Fellows. Several Paul Harris awards were presented at the 50th and 60th anniversary dinners.

The Club has been very active in the MESA (Medical Emergency Supplies Abroad), which is sponsored by District 6600. This program transports used medical supplies to various countries in Central America where they are much needed. Robert Kuck will be remembered for his leadership in helping to start this program. Bob led several trips to Central America and became well known with national leaders in that area. The Club has purchased several fire engines and other supplies and through MESA, has had items shipped to Guatemala and other countries in the region. Club members have visited these countries in order to observe this equipment in use.

Many remember the visits to St Marys of contingents of Japanese working youth which were sponsored by Dr. Kenzaburo Hara, a prominent Japanese political figure. The first visit was in 1977. These visits started when Barry Kemp was visiting a friend in Colorado. He was told of an individual in Japan who was organizing a trip of working youth to the US. This group wanted to stay for a few days in a small town. When it was suggested that St. Marys would be an ideal candidate for this visit, Barry got in touch with Nori Fujii, the individual organizing the trip, suggested St Marys Rotary as a sponsor. Upon their arrival in St. Marys, these students stayed in the homes of Rotarians. During their weekend visit, they demonstrated their cultural skills at the Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall to the community, Rotary members and their families. Another group came a few years after that initial visit. Out of these trips, grew the Sister City relationship with Hokudan-chu, the hometown of Dr. Hara. Dr. Hara passed away in November, 2004, but his legacy is continued by this relationship. These relationships also helped attract new Japanese owned industries to St. Marys.

Local involvement in Rotary International Group Study Exchanges has been another aspect of international service. A Rotarian leader from our district heads a small group of non-Rotarian young professionals or business leaders which visits a district in another part of the world and that district responds by sending a group to visit District 6600. The exchange group tours the district and visits industrial, commercial and cultural sites. Ron Gorby participated in a Group Study Exchange to India in the late 1980's and Jeff Squire was a team member with a group that visited Zambia in 1996. Both Ron and Jeff later became members of the Club. Joy Johnson was the team leader for a group from our district that went to France in the spring of 1995. Later that year, the Club hosted the team from France.. Joy's visit to France resulted in an informal two month visit to St. Marys of the daughter the President of the St. Etienne, France, club. In 2001 we hosted a group from Italy and in 2002 we hosted an exchange team from Paraguay.

The Club has sponsored youth exchanges through the Rotary International student exchange program. A student from the Canary Islands spent a year with Dr. Leslie Brady and a Diego Telles from Brazil spent the year with several club members. In 2004-2005, Nina Aoudjhane from Lille, France was a guest of the club. 1999 Club sent several members to Haiti to investigate the possibility of using solar ovens to assist that impoverished country.

It is safe to say that the St. Marys Rotary Club has had a significant impact in the community and in the world since its formation in 1938. Equally important, however, is the fact that it has been a club with great spirit and fun, and has pursued the Rotary Motto "Service Above Self" with a sense of excitement.