Brief History of East Fresno Rotary
By Rick Schoenwald, 1993-1994 President
The 1992-1993 President of Rotary International, Mr. Cliff Dochterman, created the following thirty-one (31) word definition of Rotary:
“Rotary is an organization of business and professional persons united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.”
Rotary was founded in Chicago on February 23, 1905 when a young attorney named Paul P. Harris called together coal merchant Silvester Schiele, tailor Hiram Shorey, and mining engineer Gustavus Loehr, to discuss two objectives service and fellowship. The name “Rotary” was selected because the meeting place rotated from office to office of the members. The following year, 1906, a buggy wheel emblem was adopted. The current emblem, twenty-four cogs, six spokes and a keyway was approved in 1924.
In 1911, “Service Above Self” and “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” were adopted as Rotary mottos.
The west coast of the United States played an important part in the development and growth of Rotary. The second club, San Francisco, was founded in 1908 followed by Oakland in 1909, along with Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Boston. The next year, 1910, the Winnipeg Canada Club was formed, and Rotary became international. In 1911, Dublin, London and Belfast were chartered, and in 1912, the word “International” was added.
In 1915 Rotary International divided its clubs into separate Districts, improving administration and enhancing opportunities for growth. Originally, the region of our initial District encompassed a wide area including the cities of Albuquerque, Berkeley, Fresno, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, Reno, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Stockton.
In 1916, the Oakland Rotary Club chartered the Fresno Rotary Club, which in turn chartered the North Fresno Rotary Club in 1948.
It was the North Fresno Club that chartered our East Fresno Rotary Club. On April 4, 1956, East Fresno Rotary was organized and on April 25, 1956, we were admitted to membership in Rotary International. The twenty-one (21) Charter Members of East Fresno Rotary were:
Walter Aufderheide, Leonard Bowen, Frank Brooksby, Dr. Paul Brother, Herbert Cooke, Donald Durfey, Frank Firpo, R.Ulric Gaberson, Angelo Granata, Rev. Henry Hayden, Leland Miller, Hugh Morris, Earnest Munier, Theodore Newburg, John Ruby, David Shelver, Edward Spencer, A. William Tyrrell, Authur Whalberg, John Wall and Dr, Samuel Wright Sr..
Dr. Paul Brother served as our Club’s first President, John Ruby was Vice President, William Tyrrell was the Club Secretary, Frank Firpo was Treasurer and Angelo Granata was the Sergeant at Arms. “Angie” then served as our Club Secretary for the next forty-two (42) years, with the exception of the year (1966-1967) he served as Club President, resigning as Secretary at the age of 86. Angie was also the District Secretary on two occasions.
East Fresno Rotary’s “Charter Night” was held on Saturday, June 9th, 1956 at the Fort Washington Golf Club, when the Club’s Charter was presented by Joseph Dale, Governor of District 158.
In 1957 District 522 was established covering the area from Sanger / Avenal in the south, Carmel / Monterey on the Coast, Fresno in the east, and Lodi in the north.
On April 18, 1980 in Sparks, Nevada, District 522 Governor Donald R. Foppiano appointed a committee to study regrouping the clubs. The committee was comprised of nine (9) Past District Governor’s, including PRIP Cliff Dochterman, Chairman, District Secretary (and member of East Fresno Rotary) Martin Nelsen, and two Area Representatives, and this committee completed its work in 1982. It recommended regrouping clubs within Districts 522 and 524 to form District 523. Rotary International approved the change on July 1, 1982. East Fresno Rotary Club Member and Past President (1973-1974) Martin Nelsen served as our first District 523 Governor. Jack Oberti was the President of East Fresno Rotary that year.
District 523 clubs were all within Fresno, Kings, Monterey, and Tulare counties. In 1991, the District number was changed to 5230. New clubs have continued to be chartered on a regular basis since.
Rotary International is governed by a President and a Board of sixteen Directors. Today, there are over 30,000 clubs and more than 1.2 million Rotarians in 200 countries and geographical regions. For administrative purposes, Districts are governed by a District Governor who serves for one year. East Fresno Rotary is proud to have four (4) of its Rotarians serve as District Governor. As mentioned, Martin Nelsen was our Charter District Governor, followed by Ray Rahn (1998-1999), Tom Stahl (2001-2002) and George Wade (2011-2012).
Presently, there are fifty-eight (58) clubs within District 5230. East Fresno Rotary founded and chartered the Clovis Rotary Club in 1960, the Fresno Sunrise Rotary Club in 1983, the Auberry Inter-Mountain Rotary Club in 1996 and the Fresno River Park Rotary Club in 2001. East Fresno Rotary co-sponsored the Fresno Latino Rotary Club in 2007, and founded the Fresno Airport Rotary Club, also in 1996, but this Club has now disbanded. East Fresno Rotarian and Past District Governor George Wade was the Charter President of that Club. Currently there are ten (10) Rotary clubs in the Fresno / Clovis metropolitan area.
In 1992, membership in District 5230 grew to a record high of 3,181 Rotarians. East Fresno Rotary had 129 members during that year. In 2002, our Club membership was at our record high of 142 Rotarians. Bill Thompson was the Club President that year, and Past President (1993-1994) Rick Schoenwald was the District 5230 Membership Chair. The District Governor that year was East Fresno Rotarian and Past President (1997-1998) Tom Stahl.
Due in part to the unfortunate nation-wide recession, the membership in the District declined to a current 2,700 Rotarians, and East Fresno Rotary has dropped to just under 100 members.
For decades, the weekly Wednesday lunch meetings of East Fresno Rotary were held in the former “Billiards Room” of the Cedar Lanes bowling facility, located on the southwest corner of Cedar and Shields Avenues. As membership swelled, we moved our meetings in 1999 to Pardini’s Banquet facilities on West Shaw Avenue. Because of our desire to represent “east” Fresno, we moved our weekly meeting site to “Love of Garlic”, located at the Elk’s Lodge on Diana Court, east of Blackstone and south of Barstow Avenues. When Love of Garlic left, this then became the temporary home of Rotarian John Chiminello’s catering and banquet operation. Due to financial issues with the Elk’s organization at that location, East Fresno Rotary moved to Tornino’s Banquet Hall, where we currently reside.
Rotary International has established and developed five “Avenues of Service”, which reflect the elements and object of Rotary itself. These avenues are:
- Club Service
- Vocational Service
- Community Service
- International Service
- Youth Service
East Fresno Rotary is active and dedicated in its commitment to service in each avenue. Every year at the annual District 5230 Conference, Clubs are recognized for their excellence and achievements in the various avenues. East Fresno Rotary has been recognized countless times, and during the 1993-1994 Rotary year, we swept the awards in every service avenue, and were named the Most Outstanding Club of the District.
For nearly sixty (60) years, East Fresno Rotary has been a dynamic group of diverse professional and business individuals, involved in community, national and international activities. This is a Club that enjoys abundant fellowship in conjunction with commitment to serving many worthy and needy recipients. All members are “Proud East Fresno Rotarians”.