The Rochelle Rotary Club celebrated its 75th year in 2016. 

Rotary’s mission was started in 1905 when Paul P. Harris — a Chicago attorney — formed the world’s first service organization, the Rotary Club of Chicago, as a place for professionals with diverse backgrounds to exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships.

The Rochelle Rotary Club was granted its original charter on Feb. 27, 1941. The charter was presented at a ceremony held at St. Patrick’s School Gymnasium. Roger T. Welsh, president of the sponsoring Rockford Rotary Club, conducted the 1941 Charter Night ceremonies. The Charter was presented to the club’s first president, Philip W May, Sr., by Mannel Hahn, Governor of Rotary International District 147.

Charter members of the Rochelle Rotary Club were Frank L. Blumenshine, Rev. Frank Campbell, Frank C. Carne, Vincent Carne, Louis Cacao, Fred E. Gardener, William E. Helms, C. A. Hills, H. R. Lissack, Phillip W. May, Sr., Forrest T. Miller, Ed W. Morgan, Dr. C. E. Motlong, Calvin D. Neve, Dr. C. H. Shaller, Vernon R. Smith, Frank Tierney, Charles P. Unger, William H. Wottrich, and Keith E. Wehner. All charter members are now deceased.

From the beginning, three key traits have remained strong throughout Rotary:

The clubs are truly international. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today Rotary clubs are working together around the globe both digitally and in-person to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.

Rotarians persevere in tough times. During WWII, Rotary clubs in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Japan were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally and following the war’s end, Rotary members joined together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.

Rotarians’ commitment to service is ongoing. Clubs began the fight against polio in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. By 2012, only three countries remain polio-endemic—down from 125 in 1988.

As Rotary grew, members pooled resources and used talents to serve their communities. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

Four-way test

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test. The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

The Four-Way Test of the things we think, say or do:

First, is it the TRUTH?

Second, is it FAIR to all concerned?

Third, will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?

Fourth, will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

History of the Bandshell

A major club project was the Rotary Bandshell in Cooper Park. The early history shows Lou Moore, president of the Kiwanis Club at the regular luncheon meeting (Aug. 1949) appointed Walter B. Hohenadel chairman of a committee, to contact organizations concerning the erection of a band shell in Memorial Park on the site used as the stage at the recent Farmers’ Picnic.

The shell plan had been suggested a year previously at a meeting between Chamber of Commerce representatives and the heads of various organizations in Rochelle, with the band shell to serve as a war memorial.

In April 1952, Lloyd Pfoff, director of instrumental music in the Rochelle Public Grade School system was named chairman of a committee appointed by Mayor Leo Ripp to supervise the construction of a band shell in Rochelle. Other members of the committee included Earl Breyman, John O. Turkington, Mrs. Elmer Boltz and Mrs. Floyd Bienfang.

Eventually, Rochelle Rotary took on the project and the Rotary Bandshell was erected.

Rochelle Rotary Club representative Leonard Carmichael asked the city council for $25,000 in revenue sharing funds for a new band shell. The club picked the project to commemorate Rotary International’s 75th anniversary this year. Carmichael said the $10,000 from the Municipal Band fund and $10,000 to $15,000 from the local Rotary Club would be available (sic). He said Price Brothers Prestressed Concrete in Rochelle has been offered the group price cuts. “With $25,000 from the city, the band shell could be built. It can be built for between $45,000 and $50,000.  If it was put out to public bids, it would be $85,000 to $100,000,” Carmichael said. Mayor Bill Cipolla said the city could raise the Municipal Band tax rate, which is presently about one-half of the allowable rate. “But I suggested we use Revenue Sharing Funds,” Cipolla said.  Since a Revenue Sharing hearing can’t be held until April, the city council agreed if funds were available they would be given to the band shell. This gave the club the green light for the project. (From The Rochelle News, Tuesday, January 15, 1980)