by Max Marbut
Just 363 days before its 100th anniversary, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville gathered Monday for a preview of the slate of events scheduled for the club’s centennial year observance, celebration and an ambitious philanthropic project.
The club’s first meeting of its 99th year was marked by officers and committee chairs in period dress from the early 20th century and a sing-along led by club member Willis Page that included “Shine On, Harvest Moon” and “Let Me call You Sweetheart,” tunes popular during the club’s history.
An exhibit of archival photographs from the club’s collection and the Jacksonville Historical Society was on display
Founded on Feb. 12, 1912, at the Windsor Hotel on the west side of Hemming Park, the Rotary Club of Jacksonville was the 41st Rotary Club in the world and the first in Florida.
Club member and webmaster Howard Kelley presented the club’s redesigned website, www.jaxrotary.org, which has taken on a vintage look. Kelley said it was a challenge to design a website that looks like one would have 100 years ago. He researched newspapers of the day and even discovered the club’s original logo, which is featured on the website.
He also brought the club’s original gavel, carved from ivory and inscribed with the names of each club president from George Clark (1912-13) until the gavel was retired in 1925 when there was no more space for names to be inscribed.
Kelley said that while the Windsor Hotel was demolished many years ago, a building of the same era, City Hall at St. James, will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. It was designed by Henry Klutho, one of the original members of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville.
President-elect Howard Dale previewed some of the events scheduled for the club’s centennial year, including a golf and tennis tournament at Timuquana Country Club and a Centennial Gala at the Hyatt Downtown.
“This club has a long and glorious history of giving to others,” said Dale, who then announced the club’s centennial gift project.
Inviting other area clubs to participate, Dale said Rotarians will raise as much as $500,000 to purchase and equip a mobile health clinic that will be staffed and operated by St. Vincent’s HealthCare.
It will travel to neighborhoods to provide immunizations and other health care services to people who might not otherwise receive such care, he said.
Each week the club invites a keynote speaker. In honor of the centennial kickoff, Joe Wiegand, who has portrayed former President Theodore Roosevelt in many venues across the country including the White House in Washington, D.C., went to the podium to announce his candidacy for president in 1912.
“My candidacy for president in 1912 didn’t go as well as your founding,” said “Roosevelt,” who gave advice to the club members and guests.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick and you will go far.”
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