Imlay City Rotary Club members gesture to show how close Rotary International is to eradicating polio during club’s 75th anniversary celebration on Thursday, February 28. photo by Tom Wearing.
March 06, 2013IMLAY CITY — Carlton Van Wagner, Willard Onyon, Jim Morrice, Al Norlin, Dick Wheeler, Bob Churchill, Spike McKillop, Les Cole, Art Placeway, Jack Schonfeld, Neil Blank, Gary Nolin, Bill Mason, Fr. John Dunn and Gene Coscarelli.
The names read like a "who's who" of Imlay City businessmen and community leaders.
Those mentioned above excelled in their respective professions and each of them lived with a sense of purpose. They also shared a common bond predicated on giving back to the community.
Indeed, they were all members of the Imlay City Rotary Club.
While the aforementioned are no longer with us, dozens of other men and women have stepped in to fill their shoes, doing all they can to perpetuate Rotary's promise of giving back.
On Thursday, Feb. 28, the current collection of Imlay City Rotarians gathered at the Countryside Banquet Center to mark the service club's 75th anniversary.
It was a celebration both lightened and made heavy by a steady barrage of humorous anecdotes and heartfelt recollections of Rotarians who have come and gone, but will not be forgotten.
Keynote speaker Randy Jorgensen, a Rotarian for 31 years, spoke of the contributions of those who came before him.
"The Rotary Club is what it is today because each and every generation of our members have carried on the ideals of Rotary," said Jorgensen. "My association with Rotary and its members has helped me in life and in business many times over."
Jorgensen acknowledged his many mentors and those many fellow members with whom he has shared the Rotary Club's "Service Above Self" motto.
"I think of Marty Heim, my father-in-law, who insisted I join Rotary," Jorgensen recalled. "I used to love hearing the stories Gene Coscarelli would tell, as only he could. And I fondly remember listening to Fr. Dunn as he recited the 'Mighty Casey at the Bat.'"
Jorgensen spoke of the nearly $200,000 the Imlay City Rotary Club has donated to international programs; including Rotary's "Polio Plus" campaign, which has helped eradicate the disease worldwide.
And he alluded to the nearly $500,000 Imlay City Rotarians have given back to the community over the years.
That money has funded student scholarships, local food banks, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Little League baseball, the Polly Ann Trail, Coats for Kids, Teen Ranch, the American Cancer Society, Christmas food baskets, Boys and Girls State, the downtown clock, the annual Retirees Luncheon and countless other worthy projects to benefit the community of Imlay City.
Jorgensen noted that at one point, the Imlay City club ranked fifth in the world for members who had become Paul Harris Fellows. Today, there are 115 Paul Harris Fellows in the club.
He also acknowledged Rotary's incorporation of women members, whose inspiration and leadership have been invaluable to the Imlay City club's continued success.
"In the spirit of Rotary, you don't do those things for the credit or recognition," said Jorgensen. "Doing those things is part of being a member of a community and a member of the grand Rotary Club of Imlay City.
"We all are very proud of our rich history of service to the community," he continued. "At the very heart of our club is a commitment to volunteerism. It's our responsibility to pass our history and commitment on to others."
Incoming Imlay City Rotary Club President Mike Guerin was on hand to salute eight members whose participation in Rotary had reached 25 years or more.
With Rotary District Governor Tom Robaitaille doing the honors, Guerin announced and shook hands with longtime members, John Lengemann, 44 years; Karl Iloncai, 42 years; Ron Rickard, 38 years; Randy Jorgensen, 31 years; Dr. Clif Clendenan, 26 years; and Sandy Iloncai, 25 years. Longtime members Joyce Nolin-Capman and Dr. Galen Ebert, both of whom have served 25 years, were not present for the ceremony.
Perpetuating Rotary's tradition of giving back, outgoing Rotary President Dr. Gary Richards passed out $500 checks to benefit the Lapeer County Family Literacy Center, Habitat for Humanity, Imlay City Christian School, Inspiring Hearts for Autism, Stone Soup Food Pantry and Lapeer County Future Farmers of America.
Before concluding the ceremony, Dr. Richards reminded the attendees of their shared common goal; that they are individually and collectively making a significant and profound difference in the lives of others through their service.
"Please do not discount your contributions — no matter how small or insignificant they may seem," Richards told his fellow Rotarians. "You are touching someone's life in a very meaningful and powerful way. The world is a better place because of all of you."
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.