(The following narrative is the first in a series of how a member was introduced to Rotary and subsequent memories. If you would like Rotary to be part of your life's story, please contact Joyce Cave at caveclan@yahoo.com.)


Rel Kempf

Rotarian since October 15, 1979

September 2020



Hank Buhrmann, an insurance client of mine, reversed our normal role and asked me to lunch. He made it a surprise Rotary meeting in Foster City. After a raucous time and much laughter, Hank asked me if I wished to join. More on a lark than anything, I agreed. Little did I know then, nearly 41 years later, it would be one of my best lifetime decisions.

Memories abound. Back then, the club only had a couple dozen all male members; lunches were $10; the meeting locale was not set; and fundraising was a true challenge.  One year, our meetings were held in booths at the Customs House. I was the finemaster for every meeting that year, and members competed in getting the “goods” on a fellow member and ratting him out prior to the lunch. It is posited we had more laughter and collected more funds from fines than any year prior or since. Some of the earliest meetings were at the Hillsdale Inn – the now defunct tripod edifice just west of 101 on Hillsdale – where, with a strong wind blowing, one feared eminent collapse of the building.

The year after Greg Kuhl's presidency, Tom Befumo, Jon Grant, and I spoofed Greg's lack of hunting prowess at his debunking. We did such a horrible job, Greg decided then and there to take charge of all our debunkings thereafter. OK, maybe the 4 way test is being bent a little.

It is with pride I participated in many milestones with our club. Being one of the first clubs to admit women, and one of the early adopters of a woman president stand out. Helping thousands of people, many driving from neighboring cities, to have their kids enjoy Halloween Safe Streets is prominent. Helping serve food and drinks at Art & Wine Festivals while raising thousands of dollars for our community projects is memorable. Always appreciated riding around with Mike Hoffman in his military jeep after serving pancakes for our holiday breakfast events.

Several Foster City Rotarians are personal heroes. One lunch had me chocking on a piece of meat whereby Greg Kuhl, with help from Gigi Carter, performed the Heimlich maneuver and likely saved my life. Soon thereafter, from that episode, it was discovered I had an manageable esophageal condition. Another is Jon Grant. When I was about to move to a new home in Foster City, I asked several people to help. Not only was Jon the only one to appear, but he provided a truck and tools. We were both totally wiped out at the end of the day. A true friend is one who helps you move.

Rotary has provided many “goosebump” moments over the years. One year, returning from a scuba trip from Roatan and passing through the Honduran International airport, an elderly lady was moving around on a wheelchair with the RI wheel on the side and I felt the pride of connection. Another moment was in Mazatlan with a young Mexican boy, hardly big enough to hold a pail, eagerly trying to help us pour cement for the bases of the playground slides and swings. Being part of the first evening meal with freshly caught fish cooked outdoors over the open flame hosted by the Yurok Nation was unforgettable.

Words fail to truly express how proud I am to be a Rotarian. We do such good in the world. Plus, being associated with the professionalism and outstanding consistent work of the Foster City group is immensely satisfying and gratifying. With luck, I will go to my grave as a member of this august second family. Thank you, fellow Rotarians.