RCOB History
The Rotary Club of Bellingham was chartered September 17th in 1917, #331. The sponsoring club was the Seattle Rotary Club (Seattle was #4). The Clubs in Tacoma, Everett, and Vancouver B.C. sent delegations to the presentation held in the Leopold Hotel.
There were 31 charter members. The first officers to serve the Club were Will J. Griswold, attorney, President; Thomas B. Cole, customs broker, Secretary; J.B. Wahl, department store proprietor (Wahl’s), Vice President; and Henry Jukes, banker, Bellingham National Bank, Treasurer. By May of 1918, the Club had grown to 75 members!
Originally the Club met in the south hall of the Leopold Hotel until 1929 when meetings shifted for the next 50 years to the Crystal Ballroom at the Leopold! In 1979, the meetings shifted to the Elks’ Club on Squalicum Way (now a St. Joseph Hospital facility) until 1988, then to the Bellingham Yacht Club until 1996; and at Northwood Hall until 2020.
Through the years, the meetings have changed in content. In the early years, there were open discussions on many subjects of political and community interest. Early members would expound and debate on a wide spectrum of topics both local and national. Members’ names are a “Who’s Who” of area leaders.
There have been some especially dedicated leaders among the long lists of officers and directors of the Club. James Faul served as Secretary from 1923 to 1944, and was succeeded by Hugh Eldridge “Brick” Carr who served until 1978, 35 years. Sandee Lindhout was hired to help Carr, and has been serving since 1971. The Club has supplied five Rotary International District Governors, Henry Heal, Mentor Boney, Roy Anderson, Curt Cortelyou, and Jim Caldwell. Our Club has also sponsored the creation of the Whatcom North, Bellingham Bay, and Nakhodka (Russia) Clubs.
After a court decision indicating Rotary International must admit women, this Club quickly admitted several; Ann Jones-Richardson (radio broadcasting) was the first, quickly followed by Mary Robinson (university dean) and Sr. Catherine McInnes (hospital administration).
The Rotary Club of Bellingham and Rotary in Whatcom County celebrated their centennial in September of 2017 with a reflection on all we have accomplished together. You can watch here:
The long history of the Club stands as testimony to the hard work of the hundreds of Members and officers who, through the years, have never forgotten the Rotary motto, “Service Above Self”.
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