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Our Club, chartered in 1941, was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Roselle-Roselle Park.  The first meeting was held December 7, 1941, during World War II on the day now known as “Pearl Harbor Day.”  Our initial membership of twenty-five charter members was soon reduced by virtue of the need to furnish members to the war effort. The first years also established a strong and faithful bond with the community and the nation. There’s a rich history still evident in our club – Warren Hehl, who joined our club as a 35 year old whippersnapper, was President in our heyday of 1970-71 when we had 97 members. He started our annual Regatta in Barnegat Bay under his reign, which continues to this day. 1971 was when Dex Force joined our club, following his father’s footsteps, later serving as president in 1978-79.  Jim DiGiovanni’s dad, Marco, joined our club in 1945, later serving as President and then as District Governor.

 

THE FIRST TWENTY-FIVE YEARS

Our first president was Franklin Hardcastle who served from December 1941 to June 1943. Each member pledged to buy a war bond each week and that continued during the entirety of the war. The club, although new, sent a delegate to the two R.I. conferences in 1941 and 1942 and held a “Ladies Night.” During the first 20 months, the club met in 4 locations, indicating a strong spirit of fellowship from the beginning of our club’s history. The meeting place settled for a while at St. Luke's Church, where the Ladies Auxiliary provided the meals. 

Rudy Mangels presided over the club from 1943 to 1944. Eleven new members joined, some left, with a net membership of 28. Attendance was robust, attributed to an attendance contest that year. An annual “RotaryAnn” event was continued. A bond drawing continued. The attention of the Community Service committee was focused on the rehabilitation of returning veterans.

In 1945-46 Albert Smiles (later to be a District Governor in 1947-48) and Marco DiGiovanni (also to become a District Governor in 1959-60) started to formulate plans for a District Bowling League. Those plans were completed and the League was formed due largely to the efforts of Marco in 1946-47. It became the largest, most successful League in Rotary history eventually having thirty-four teams, three from Union alone. Union's fifth year was so successful that the Club was awarded the President's Award for the Best Club in the District at a banquet attended by over four hundred people at which twenty-one Club Presidents in the District were in attendance; and it was noted that Union's attendance record had been in excess of ninety percent for the past two years. The Club met at Ryan’s Restaurant on Springfield Road and at the Hitchin’ Post Inn on Route 22. 13 new members were inducted that year. “A Rotary Thought for the Day” was given at each meeting to inspire service.

In 1946-1947, President George Reimer incorporated the idea of the Vice President being assigned the duty of Program Chairman, a practice which has continued until present. The Rotary Bowling League was started through the efforts of Marco DiGiovanni. 8 new members were inducted that year.

1947-1948 marked the year in which Union had its first District Governor, Albert R. Smiles. The Club, under the leadership of Judge Ervin Fulop, devoted its year to the support of the Governor's program and the District Conference which was held that year at Buckhill Falls, Pennsylvania. The club tried unsuccessfully to start a YMCA that year. 

The Cog was then printed by its editor and the members wrote the copy. Copies of it were sent to all newspapers circulating in the community and to every club in the District. Additional publicity was obtained by erecting signs along the access roads to Union giving the date and place of the meeting and pencils inscribed with the legend a "Rotary Club of Union, NJ" were given out at appropriate times and places. A flag was flown at the meeting place stating a "Rotary Meets Here Today."

Dr. Leroy Spilatore presided over our club from 1949-1950, when the first major community project was planned and executed which was the raising of funds for purchasing and donating a Conn organ to the new high school auditorium.

All the while the Club was continuing to involve itself in the community, the schools and the District, as well as Rotary International. Its membership fluctuated between thirty and forty members, but its attendance record was uniformly high. Letters were sent to absentees, reminding them to make up and the result was nearly ninety percent attendance. The Club provided Union High School with its flagpole, sent a paraplegic to an out-of-state hospital for treatment and later purchased a wheelchair for him.

In 1950, our club was lead by Richard Vastine. John Deitrich was president 1951-52 and recalls having 60 members in the club at that time, meeting at the Hitchin’ Post on Route 22 East. The club devoted, erected a stainless steel flat pole at the high school with pomp and circumstance.  In 1952, under the leadership of Marco DiGiovanni, the Club started a Junior Patrol at the High School and presented its members with badges and belts and formed safety classes for them with the head of the police department as instructor. We sponsored the biggest Inter-City meet ever held with seven Clubs and over four hundred people in attendance at the Chi Am Chateau.. We also started the Nurses Award Program at the High School with 49 members. By 1954 we had sixty members and our Club was active in bringing a hospital to the community. President Albert Leeberg made very generous personal donations to the Memorial Osteopathic Hospital and marshaled community support for its move from Elizabeth to Union. It became Union Hospital (part of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System), and a pavilion was named in honor of Mr. Leeberg. Our Club pledged $10,000 to the hospital building campaign in 1955 under the leadership of John Albiez. Membership was 55 as the club continued to meet at the Hitchin’ Post.

1956 was the year we started the Al Brunner Scholarship Awards program under the leadership of Roily Cassella, to honor the memory of our deceased Past President (1948-1949) and we also began an annual picnic program which continued for many years.  The COG was re-designed, our directory changed and we held a joint meeting with the Lions Club. Traditional events including the Christmas party, bowling league, teachers luncheon were held. The nursing scholarships awarded each year were named the Albert Brunner Memorial Awards and two scholarships were awarded. $100 was donated to the Putnam Rotary Club of Connecticut for flood relief and $100 was contributed to a local resident, Robert Ormsby, who broke his neck while diving at the shore. We contributed $121 to the Rotary Foundation. President Howard McMurray led a busy year in 1956-57. A contest was started at the High School invoking talented students to design a Club Banner; the club organized camping facilities for the Union Girl Scouts, we invited a high school student each week to our meetings as our guest; organized a joint Union Service Club to promote closer cooperation between the individual members of all service clubs in town; we purchased a wheelchair for Robert Ormsby. The club enjoyed a theater party to the Lambertsville Music Circuit to see the show “Teahouse of the August Moon” attended by 50 people. President McMurray, no doubt a devotee of F.D.R., finished his banner year with a deficit exceeding $1,000!  A decision to revise the dues structure was promptly made. The deficit was to be made up under the careful conservative Club management provided by his successor in 1956-57, Edward Casey. Ed was always interested in and devoted to nature – so it came as no surprise that the Club took on the honor of providing a new seal for the new Municipal Building on Morris Avenue. It was decided that the seal would be carved from the wood of ancient oak trees which had stood in Union on the site of Friberger Park. The seal was completed and hung in the Town Hall Meeting Room. The banner contest was finalized and the final banner is a composite of three winning designs, ready for distribution in January 1958. The Club was also incorporated in that year as a charitable corporation through the efforts of Ervin S. Fulop, a charter member, past president and the only lawyer in the club at the time and his able assistant Francis Simone.

The Club’s efforts also resulted in the organization of the Boys’ Club of Union. Ernie Tretola (Steve Hehl’s uncle), Joe Marketta, Marco DiGiovanni and Howard McMurray did the leg work and worked out the solution to major obstacles to brining the Boys’ Club to town. Of course, time has proven the inestimable value of this resource to the community and the town greatly benefits from its existence.

1958 marked the year in which Ernie Tretola involved the Club in the sponsorship of s Rotary Little League Team, “The Giants.” We sent 20 violins through the efforts of member Christian Kratt to Silliman University in the Philippines; sponsored a Trade Show at the High School, conducted a drive for the Girl Scouts, purchased a flagpole for Burnet Jr. High, gave awards to nurses, and continued our traditional activities.

In 1959-60 our Club began inviting 2 high school students to each meeting. We ran a youth week program, acquired 14 new members, and redesigned the Cog which made President Jim Cappeto very happy. Our members started an intraclub activity they called the Back Nine. The members would golf together once a week. 

By 1960, under the leadership of Walter Eckhard,  the club had grown to 68 members, almost all of whom, with their families and guests, had a wonderful Ladies Night that year at Suburban Country Club at which the District Governor, our own Marco DiGiovanni, was the guest of honor. 

In 1962, John Roessner was president and we succeeded in sponsoring the introduction of the YMCA into the community. (In 1948 Judge Fulop was unable to muster up enough community support for the project, but by 1962 times had changed and the renewed effort by the Club paid off). We also supported Memorial Hospital by making substantial contributions to its needs.

In 1963 a Union Rotary Ski Club was founded by Parker Van Dien and others and many of our members enjoyed the activity together. No serious injuries were reported until John Mulligan decided to ski an icy slope on Mt. Tremblant, Canada and broke a leg, which never discouraged him or the others. The Club was among the first ten in the district attendance records and our members were present in force at every event. Fellowship abounded.

Club President Bob Ohaus arranged in 1964 for our Club to the the host Club for a daily Rotary meeting held at the New York World’s Fair. 58 of our members went and hosted the meeting at which Rotarians from all over the world who were visiting the Fair attended as a make-up. Bill Kalbhenn and Herman Schlesinger were the Co-Chairmen of the event. Also busy that year were Ed Casey and Jack McDonnell, raising over $4000 for the purchase of a newer Cadillac ambulance for the Callmen of Union. In 1968 that very ambulance came to the resuce of Francis Simone who had suffered a heart attack. The success of the project was guaranteed by John Mulligan who got the ambulance through his firm, L&S Chevrolet.

After the manager of the Hitchin’ Post was murdered and our meeting place was locked up by the Sheriff, we changed our meeting site to the Cider Mill.

In 1966, our 25th year, Herk Boardman appointed a committee to find a new meeting place, and we moved to the Four Seasons Bowling Lanes and met at the newly decorated Golden Branch Room, enjoying the wonderful hospitality provided by its owner, Mark Anzalone. Our Club also sponsored a Sea Scout Explorer Ship 96, donated beds for children at the Children’s Country Home, purchased and donated a bus to the YMCA, established Rotary Park, and compiled the history of the first 25 years of Union Rotary Club.

In the first 25 years the club survived an initiation on Pearl Harbor Day, the ensuing war and went from 35 members to over 90 and founded the rock of fellowship upon which it continued to grow during the second 25 years of our Club’s history.

THE SECOND TWENTY-FIVE YEARS

The second 25 years began under the guidance of Bill Lathers who monitored the good works of 78 Rotarians, then meeting at the Cider Mill on Vauxhall Road. During the first half of his term we completed the work on Rotary Park on Stuyvesant Avenue, donated typewriters to the handicapped, supported the war effort and sent packages to our troops in Asia. We co-hosted the District Conference in Atlantic with the Hillside and Spring Lake Clubs and carried on all of our traditional activities. 

In 1967 Marco DiGiovanni arranged that 8 Rotarians and their spouses, along with 13 other people attended the Rotary International Convention in Nice, France. In 1967-68 Roland Lewan took over the reins and brought the Club membership in the 90’s. In order to inspire the members that year, we started vocational study field trips which were enjoyable for many years thereafter. We chartered the Interact Club with Lon Tull doing most of the work. We continued our sponsorship of the Sea Explorer Ship (Doc Cappeto acted as Ship Surgeon), sponsored the Little League “Giants” team and the new teachers’ luncheon and kept up with the Retarded Child Program at the YMCA.

In 1968-69 Bill Buchanan led a very active Club of over 90 members in its community involvement.  In 1969-70 Fran Simone led to the club to Host Farms for the District Conference. Union sponsored a Group Study Exchange of 8 Australians, and put on a fashion show developed by Dotty Simone and her friend Marge George, in which Dotty and 3 other Rotary Anns modeled everything from bikinis and mini skirts to wedding gowns as part of a Secretary Day program.

In 1970-71 the club expanded to 97 members under the administration of Warren Hehl. Warren stressed community as an intra-club activity and among the many other functions he inspired was a Regatta of Rotary Club members and their boats in Barnegat Bay – with the rendezvous being at Bill Buchanan’s bayside home. 

1971-72 was the year that Bob Freeman decided to expand our Club's activity in community service and involved the Club in the Union County Volunteer Probation Officer Program. Ernie Tretola volunteered immediately and seven other Rotarians joined him in the first drive. The program involved the volunteers dealing with probationers weekly at their homes and sought to guide them back into society. It worked! The next group numbered eighteen Rotarians, and finally by the third term, twenty-seven of our members were involved in this work. Its impact on the county was appreciated and especially by Bob Hacke and Lon Tull, made this possible

In 1972-73, John Mulligan was President and presided over our second Regatta of Rotary Club members on Barnegat Bay. Our Vocational Service Field Trip was to Luftansa's Air Freight Terminal located at Kennedy Airport. The vocational part of the trip was very instructional, but it was overshadowed by the excellent hors d'oeuvres and cocktails served by Luftansa's staff. As in the past, the YMCA was our project for the year. We contributed $2,000 to help finance the Geodesic Dome at the Five Points YMCA.

Lon Tull took over the reins in 1973 to 1974. During the year, we had two vocational field trips. One trip was to Supermarkets General and the other to Sealand, Inc. Dexter Force was appointed our first Sergeant-at-Arms on a trial basis. We have had one ever since. We changed our meeting place from the Four Seasons to the Town & Campus where we remained for many years. The highlight of the year was our District Conference at the Marriott in Philadelphia and Bud Bemko's Band run-in.

During the year 1974 to 1975, Bob Miller served as President. Our major community service project this year was the contribution of $1,200 to the Union County Cerebral Palsy Center for their work with handicapped people. The Membership Development Committee brought in twelve new members during the year. In February we had our annual Vocational Field Trip to the United Nations in New York.

In 1975 to 1976 Sandy Greenwood led a very active Club. One of our fundraisers this year was to sell bicentennial license plates, flags and coins at the Festival on the Green. The Club hosted a female exchange student from Chile who stayed at the home of the Andersons. During her stay we sent her on a cross country tour with the rest of the exchange students who were in our country. We also housed a young man from the Philippines at Bill Kalbhenn's home, while he was in our country with the Group Study Exchange Team. The District's second and last Conference to be held at the Philadelphia Marriott was a great success, thanks to Bud Bemko and his Kazoo Band.

President Joseph Kuhnen, for the years 1977 and 1978, focused on raising money for a METS Unit for Memorial General Hospital (Union Hospital). With the help of Francis Simone and Bill Maresca, $6,573.16 was raised with a Souvenir Program Book and Concert. A donation of $2,500 was also made to the Union Boy's Club (Boy's & Girl's Club) for the purchase of a new diving board.

The main underlying theme for 1978 to 1979 evolved around one word which remained constant "ft is our membership," recalled President Hugo Barth. Ten new members joined Union Rotary with three additional proposals pending at year's end. Hugo also worked to improve the link of communication between our membership and the board. The board meetings enjoyed good attendance and preparedness with the use of a monthly agenda as suggested by Warren Hehl. Membership also meant the ongoing involvement of the Rotary Anns. The District Conference at the Playboy Club was a prime example. Its success was due to the efforts of Joe Kuhnen and Bud Bemko. Over half the social affairs included Rotary Anns this year.

In 1979 and 1980 the Club raised $3,200 for charity with the ever popular Oktoberfest. President Dexter Force began the Club's involvement with a "Vial of Life" program while Rotary International began a Polio Immunization Program in the Philippines. The 3H theme was also pushed : "Health, Hunger and Humanity.' Fellowship activities abounded with a Back Nine Golf Outing in September, a Dinner Show at Watchung View Inn in November and Ladies Night with the Hillside and Kenilworth Clubs at the Chanticler in January .Other highlights of the year included a visit by a Group Study Exchange Team from Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a donation of camping equipment to the Union Boy Scouts.

Many of our activities and traditions continued in 1980-1981 under the leadership of Howard Livermore. A membership development program with a survey of Union business was instituted. The Oktoberfest continued its fine tradition, raising $4,000 for charity. Support of Union's youth was evident this year as we sponsored two high school students' trip to the Presidential Classroom in Washington, D.C. Four scholarships were given to graduating Union High School seniors through the faculty. The Interact Club grew to approximately forty-five members who all actively helped provide community service.

The Union Rotary Club continued a year of friendship, fellowship and service in 1981 and 1982 under the leadership of President Howard Schwartz. The Charitable Foundation, instituted by Past President Howard Livermore was solidified and funds were actively sought. Howard felt great personal pleasure in presenting Past President Herk Boardman the Paul Harris Fellow pin and certificate. We completed our donation to the NJ Collection at Kean College, This was an unusual collection that scholars from many places, including out-of-state visited. 

In 1982-1983 Jack Anderson was installed as President. A successful Oktoberfest was held and the proceeds were donated to Drug Abuse Counseling, School Scholarships, EMS and other fine causes. Once again, two deserving High School students went to Washington as part of the Presidential Class Room sponsored by the Club. This was the year a good friend of Union Rotary Club, Clifford M. Peake served as District Governor and President Jack Anderson represented our Club at the International Convention in Toronto, Canada. The highlight of the year was a presentation of a Paul Harris award to Francis J. Simone. Fran, in turn, presented his wife Dorothy with a Paul Harris fellow establishing her as the first female associated with our Club to receive this most prestigious award.

In 1983 and 1984 the Oktoberfest was a huge success thanks to Peter Fischer, Fran Simone and other members too numerous to mention. President Bud Bemko led the Club through a year which also included the Flea Market at the Springfield Rotary and the Chinese Auction. Those benefitting from our fundraisers included the E.M.S. Ambulance Service, two students for the Presidential Classroom, the display of American Flags on Morris Avenue, the Little League and the Union High Tennis Team. As always, the C.O.S. T. Program was a gratifying experience. Dex Force was made a Paul Harris Fellow at Ladies Night at the Chanticler Chateau by District Governor Jim Collins, Mike Vieira rejuvenated the Interact Club and constructed a beautiful Rotary sign for Rotary Park on Elmwood and Stuyvesant Avenues. The District Conference this year was held at the Southampton Princess Hotel, Bermuda. The highlight of the year, as remembered by Dexter, was attending the International Convention in Birmingham, England. Union Rotarians and Rotary Anns attending included the Cappeto's, the Livermore's, the Simone's, the Spilatore's, the Mulligan's, the Bemko's and the Boardman's and Vernon Jackson from the Cayman Islands. Rotary fellowship continued after the convention with fourteen people in two vans touring Scotland and Ireland. The year concluded with the annual picnic at Swanstrom Place.

The Club named four Paul Harris Fellows in 1984 and 1985. President Oliver Young presented the awards to William Kalbhenn, Al Leeberg, Warren Hehl and Michael Vieira. In memory of one of Union Rotary's finest members, the scholarship awards were renamed the Union Rotary Robert Hacke Scholarship Awards.

The goal of raising funds in a check matching program was met and a check for $30,000 was presented to Union Memorial Hospital. Others receiving our help during the year included Polio Year 2005 (later Polio Plus), Senior Citizens, the Day Care Center, Interact, the Annual Scholarships, Supportive Friends of Elizabeth, Union Little, League and Rotary International. Lou Giacona helped the Club institute our first annual Pancake Breakfast.

President Michael Vieira focused the Club in 1985 and 1986 on raising funds to help the community. The Union Rotary Club kept the wheel of Rotary moving to help those in need by raising $24,180 and then contributing to: Princeton Corridor Chapter Night, the Rotary Rose Bowl Float, Union Little League, Union Library, Sithoeun Tes, C.O.S.T. Program Awards, Boys & Girls Club Backboard, Anneliese Kiendl who had open heart surgery, Wheel Chair Gallery, Scholarships, Jerry Trailer Foundation, Union resident Art Lange who was an accident victim, Union Memorial Hospital Cardiac Unit, Center for Hope Hospice, Union Township Community Action Organization, Senior Citizens, U.T.C.A.O. Kid's Unit, Presidential Classroom and Sister Jacinta.

The Rotary Foundation was also supported with the naming of five Paul Harris fellows: Hugo Barth, Bill Eiff, Frank Cusmano, Bob Miller and Olivet Young. President Mike's display at the District Conference, Host Farms, Pennsylvania was the talk and admiration of all attended including District Governor Weyman Steengraafe who congratulated Mike personally. The COG was also redesigned this year by the editor and one of Rotary's newest members, Ray Worrall. It was with deep regret the passing away of lifetime Rotarian Earl Yeide on July 2, 1985. Earl was a great pillar of Union Rotary.

The year 1986 to 1987 was an unusual one. President Peter Fischer began the year as President, however, because of poor health he had to resign and Richard Fisher took office as President. The Rotary theme for this year was "Rotary Brings Hope." With these simple words Rotary International launched a worldwide program to stamp out Polio by 1990. The campaign was called "Polio Plus". Union Rotary pledged a minimum of $12,000 toward that goal with an immediate deposit of $1,500 in the bank to earn interest.

Our Club experienced a new first in the history of Union Rotary. We admitted two women members, Nancy Derr and later Isabel Pizzolato. The Oktoberfest again was a huge success with Peter and Marianne Fischer guiding the event. Union Rotary Interact Club was greatly enhanced and rewarded with the teaming up of Lucianne Slomkowski and Stephen Hehl. The Interact Club became one of the largest in the State of New Jersey. In keeping Rotary's motto, "Service Above Self, the Union Rotary Club provided assistance to Ronald McDonald House, Union Township Community Action Organization, Union Little League, President's Classroom, Union High School Scholarships, Township of Union Chemical Intervention Program, Union Township Library, Girl Scouts of Union, John and Mary Ryan and Family, Robert Hacke Scholarship and the Jason Griggs Foundation.

In 1987-88, despite all the grumbling about too many chicken lunches, poor attendance at affairs and lost trampoline sets, we managed to raise and donate $9,685 under the continued leadership of President Richard Fisher. This was the year when two or more lawyers that were seated together at the same table were subject to fines. Members were also subject to a penalty if they were unfortunate enough to have their picture appear in the paper. The fines were finally suspended and a special dispensation was granted to Nancy Derr-lssenman due to her popularity with the local press. The Polio Plus effort of raising $120 million was helped by our Club raising in excess of $17,000. Another major event which happened quite unexpectedly occurred March 24,1988 when Hugo Barth sang a Happy Birthday solo to Steve Petrik. A special note should be made about an anonymous donation which our Club matched with the proceeds going to the "Union Township Recreation Special Needs Program".

It should be noted that President Rich served almost nineteen months which had not happened since Franklin Hardcastle served from December 1941 to June 1943.

1988 was a historic year for Rotary and for Polio Plus. They raised $219 million which nearly doubled their original campaign goal of $120 million.

President William Saunder's goal in 1988-89 was to increase membership by ten percent and we were able to induct thirteen new Rotarians, which was an increase of twenty-six percent. Mike Vieira was nominated as District Governor and also honored as Man of the Year by Bethune Temple for his contributions to the community. This year a total of $2,500 was sent to the Rotary Foundation to make three members of our Club Paul Harris Fellows. The recipients were Richard Horn, Peter Fischer and Richard Fisher. There were many successful fundraising activities this year including our annual Oktoberfest, Pancake Breakfast and our special ad journal. These funds were used for a variety of purposes, but one project that deserved special mention was the "Teen Help Card." Fellowship activities included our Annual R.O.W.G. tournament, Bowling and a Volleyball game that created a number of bumps and bruises.

Horst Kruse took the reins in 1989-90 with three basic goals for the year: to increase membership, to raise funds for charitable purposes and to achieve a stronger bond in fellowship among members. A total of five new members were added this year and the fund raising efforts raised over $20,000. A special note should be made of the Oktoberfest which was highly successful, the Spaghetti Dinner and the happy bucks, all which contributed to the year's success. A new Scholarship was established this year in the amount of $2,000 which was used to purchase books over a four-year period for a worthy High School student. The Spaghetti Dinner was the highlight of the year and with the cooperation of the members, the Interact and the Rotaract, the Club enjoyed the true feeling of Rotary spirit. Another milestone during this year was the fact that our Club established the first Rotaract Club in the 751 District. In addition, we completed our commitment to the Polio Plus Program bringing our total to 170% of our original commitment. This year included a number of fellowship activities in which the Club participated in their first interclub's Softball game, our annual R.O.W.G. tournament as well as a volleyball game with Roselle Park Rotary. Unfortunately, that game ended in a tie, but there was a standing challenge for the following year. The annual District Conference was held at Host Farms which we co-hosted as part of our responsibility to support the incoming Governor. That conference was once of the best attended in Rotary history and everyone had a great time.

During 1990-91, we saw a little of the old, a lot of the new and a few of the tried yet unproven under the guiding hand of Stephen Petrik,. Our big fund raiser for the year was the Rotary Roast, a joint project with Elizabeth Rotary Club in which we honored Kathy Dunn of the YMCA and an Elizabeth Rotarian. With her commitment to the project, we grossed over $23,000. During this year, membership was also increased and each Rotarian was asked to sponsor a new member. Ultimately, we invited twenty-five individuals to join our Club of which fifteen were inducted as new members. A new project for the year was a Rotary bingo and with the help of the Boy's and Girl's Club we netted over $2,500, The Club continued the annual R.O.W.G, tournament. Our volleyball game with the Elizabeth Rotary Club was a romp in their favor and it cost our Club a $100 donation. Mike Cramer's efflorescent display of horticultural colors could have been called the most unusual Rotary tie and winner of our special Tie Contest. A highlight of the year was the Rotary District 751 Convention not only because it was held in Orlando, Florida, but because our Club was the Host Club. Over thirty members participated and everyone worked hard and also enjoyed the conference. The last fellowship event was a tour of New York Harbor on the 'Spirit of New Jersey' with over forty-five attendees. Probably the most outstanding aspect of the year was that our own Mike Vieira served as District 751 Governor. His efforts were numerous and his success speaks for itself bringing honor and prestige to our Club.

 

THE THIRD TWENTY-FIVE YEARS

The 1991-92 year began with a very successful Installation Dinner attended by over 10 Rotarians and friends at the Costa Del Sol Restaurant. Stephen Hehl was installed as President, Gary Wiener, Vice President, Isabel Pizzolato, Secretary and Ray Worrall, Treasurer. The Club immediately began plans for the 50th Anniversary Celebration and everyone in the Club participated and was a member of the 50th Anniversary Committee. The Club was also extremely active in community affairs including the highly successful Festival on the Green with an ice cream sale wherein all the proceeds were donated the Cystic Fibrosis campaign. A softball game was also held between the Union Rotarians and the Knights of Columbus Chapter and although the Rotarians lost the game, everyone had great time and the Club has received much publicity in its charitable are civic projects. Sharon Patel took on the responsibility of being the editor and publisher of the Cog and redesigned the masthead and format of the publication.

The highlight of the 1991-1992 year was the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Union Township Rotary Club. The celebration was held on Saturday December 7,1991 with a dinner at L'Affaire Restaurant, Mountainside, NJ. Highlights of the evening were greetings from the President of the Club, Stephen F. Hehl with guest speakers, Michael M. Vieira , Past District Governor, David Linett, District Governor, and Rotary International Director, Dr. William P. Cadwallader, Jr.

THE NEXT TEN YEARS

Gary Wiener was installed as President for the 1992-1993 Rotary year. That year, Rotary made a commitment to the young people in Union Township and the community by becoming a charter member in the "Hands Across Union." The club also collected food for the victims of Hurricane Andrew. Monies were also raised for food, blankets and clothing for Bosnia. The Union Rotary Club was also one of 37 clubs to receive the Presidential Citation Award from the President of Rotary International.

For the year of 1993-1994, Raymond Worrall was installed as the President of the Club joined by officers Isabel Pizzolato, Nancy Issenman, Manny Vieira and Sharon Patel. Ray's year saw the advent of the "Tools For Change" program where quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies were contributed each week to Isabel Pizzolato's bulging briefcase and this change subsequently went to a vocational scholarship program. The club also continued its successful programs of ROVVG Golf Tournament, The Rotary Regatta and the Spaghetti Dinner. The Rotary year however was not without sadness as the club lost two important cogs in the Rotary Club wheel. Our first inducted member, Rolly Cassella and charter member Rudy Mangels were historical monuments of the club and fixtures at our weekly meetings. Their passing in that year changed the spirit of the club forever, however they will always be remembered as part of the club.

In 1994 through 1995 the Rotary Club welcomed its first woman President, Isabel Pizzolato. The year's first fund raising event was the Festival on the Green and it was the first year the club decided to sell "Ice Cold Lemonade." The weather was quite warm and the event was a major success for the club. In October of 1994, Rotarians donned cowboy boots and hats and went country western dancing with 8 area Rotary clubs in a combined effort to raise 55,000 needed to sponsor a child in the "Gift of Life" program. That year, the club also worked with the Board of Health to print "Teen Help Line" cards and proudly received the Care and Share Award from District 7510 for that project. The club also continued to support the Union Police Department's Bicycle Safety Helmet Program. The spaghetti dinner was a huge success and newly designated Paul Harris fellow, Doug Reed was working hard again in the kitchen. Fun was had in the summer of 1994 at the Rotary Regatta with Road Captains Warren Hehl, Alan Hardman, Howard Schwartz and Stephen Hehl. Ev Spilatore and Steve Petrik ran the year's golf outing. Several important members joined our club that year including future Presidents, Charlie Minton and Frank Lawrence.

For the year 1995-1996, Jim Brunette served as the President of the Club. The other officers for the club that year were President Elect Nancy Issenman, Vice President Marvin Orella, Treasurer Paul McGrath and Secretary Sharon Patel.

Nancy Issenman assumed the position of the President of the Club for the year 1996-1997. She was joined by her officers, President Elect Marvin Orella, Vice President Paul McGrath, Treasurer Erik Orella and Secretary Sharon Patel. That year, through the hard work of the dub members, tickets were sold for a car raffle that raised over $5,000 for scholarships to high school students that participated in a speech contest that has become a fixture of the club. By the way, the car was won by the mother of then Rotarian, Kim Decker. Christmas gifts were also donated by the needy families that year. The club also traveled to New York on 2 occasions, once to see the holiday show at Radio City Music Hall and then traveled around Manhattan on the boat, The Spirit of New Jersey.

Marvin Orella served as the club President for the Rotary year 1997-1998. The focus of Rotary during Marvin's year was twofold: to consolidate the ongoing plans for the annual high school speech contest resulting in greater Rotary visibility in the community, as well as creating an opportunity for high school age students to learn more about Rotary. The continuing success of the speech contest which Marvin and the club continue to strongly support has resulted in greater exposure of the Rotary Club throughout the community and the area.

Paul McGrath served the presidency of the club for the Rotary year 1998-1999. During President Paul's year, he was joined by a Board of Directors of Charlie Minton, Frank Lawrence, Maria Soni, Isabel Pizzolato, Wilbur Comerford, John Pilek, Kim Decker and Sharon Patel. Through the hard work of Paul and the members of the Club, the Rotary Club ran a very successful Halloween "Tricky Tray." The Festival on the Green lemonade stand was also a great success that year. Future President Charlie Minton organized two nights on Broadway and dinners at Window on the World. Everett Spilatore once again chaired the annual ROWG Golf Outing and Dexter Force was again at the helm of the very successful Past President's Dinner. The Club was also active in community service and saw the Third Annual Speech Contest and, in fact $8,000 was contributed to the 8 winners of the contest for their future schooling. The club was also involved in international service in conjunction with the Kenilworth Rotary Club in contributing over $5,000 of much needed clothing to the victims of the Hurricanes in Honduras.

The millennium year of the Club, 1999-2000 saw Charlie Minton assume the presidency of the Union Rotary Club. His officers were Frank Lawrence (Vice President), John Pilek (Treasurer) and Jack Guidera (Secretary). The major fund raiser of the club that year was raffle tickets for a curio Grandfather Clock which was hand made by the Club's own Past District Governor, Michael Vieira. The club raised over $8,000 in that program. That year, the Club also made 2 trips to Broadway which resulted in great fellowship. The club once again ran a very successful spaghetti dinner and continued the success of the speech contest. There were also significant contributions to the Rotary Foundation during the year and 12 Paul Harris fellows were recognized, including Sharon Patel, Everett Spilatore, Marvin Orella and Paul McGrath. Through the leadership of President Charlie, the Club also began an Early Act Club at Livingston School. The year ended with burying of the time capsule in front of a big brown stone marker at the front of Rotary Park. Memorabilia of the Club together with the history is buried and scheduled to be opened in the year 2025.

Frank Lawrence assumed the position of President of the Club for the year 2000-2001, The year saw 3 firsts for the Union Rotary Club: the establishment of a Sister Club with the Surat East Rotary Club, Gujarat India, the creation of a Union Rotary Club Brochure, and the sponsorship of our first GSE member, Daniel Yureko who traveled to Argentina. It was a year that Isabel Pizzolato and Ray Worrall were given five diamond pins for foundation giving and PDG Michael Vieira was awarded the Distinguished Award from the Rotary Foundation at the Annual Conference and the Union Rotary Club was honored for its years of service to the community by the Chamber of Commerce. Sharon Patel’s editorialship of the COG was recognized at the Conference with a second place award. The year ended with our successful Oratorical Contest chaired by Marvin Orella, $7,000 in scholarships were given to Union High School students. The Club was also credited with giving over $77,000 in support of the Rotary Foundation during the year. Frank's year experienced the sad loss of three Rotarians: Jim Schaefer, Wil Comerford and Bill Eiff.

 During John Pilek’s year, 2001-2002, the Club celebrated its 60th anniversary with a dinner held on February 2, 2002 at Galloping Hill Inn.  The event garnered excellent attendance and was a great night for the Club. It was also a nostalgic night with collages and photographs of Rotary throughout the years.  Once again, the Rotary had a booth at the Italian Festival in September of 2002 and it was a big success. Over $2,000.00 was donated to the fund for the families of Union who had lost loved ones on September 11th.  The Club also sponsored a “Gift of Life” child, Wander Payano Cabrera from Dominican Republic.  Our Club also sponsored the 12th Annual Spaghetti Dinner with the Kenilworth Club.  John’s year also saw 10 Rotarians travel to Philadelphia for the District Conference.

 

The year 2002-2003 saw James DiGiovanni take over as President of the Club.  Jim’s family has great history of the Club as his father, Marco DiGiovanni, was a past President of the Club as well as a past District Governor.  With the assistance of Steve Petrik, Rotary held its annual ROWG Golf Outing in August which was well attended by Rotarians and guests.  Charlie Minton arranged a Broadway night in October 2003 where Rotarians saw the award winning play, “Hairspray”.  Rotarians Bud Bemko and Dex Force planned and ran the Past President’s Dinner and Rotarians that year also attended and supported the District fundraiser, “Eat Drink and Share”.  The District Conference was held at the Lancaster Coast Resort in Pennsylvania. Rotary also held two Bingo nights at the Boys and Girls Club and that along with other fund raisers enabled the Club to donate $2,000.00 towards the cure for Juvenile Diabetes.  Steve Hehl and Ray Worrall, based upon a challenge Ray gave to the Club, raised $2,000.00 participating in the 15 Kilometer Midland Run. 

 

Rotary year 2003-2004 saw President, Isabel Pizzolato, take over again as Club President.  Isabel had previously served as President in 1994-1995.  Rotary once again held its Annual Golf Outing run by Steve Petrik, the Rotary Regatta run by Jim DiGiovanni and the theater night run by Charlie Minton.  Bob O’Connor took over as editor of the COG and this year the topic for the speech contest was “A Deficit of Decency”.  Rotary welcomed new members, John Metta, Dawn Torres and Mike Tyrone. Unfortunately, the Club suffered the passing of Steve Petrik’s wife, Pat, Rotarian Frank Cusmano and Charter Member, John Roessner.  Rotary held several successful Bingo fund raisers. The Club was truly grateful to Isabel for serving a second Presidency.

Rotary years 2004-2006, the club was lucky to have Dan Murphy as President for two terms.  This was a great undertaking by President Dan.  In addition, he held the distinction of being the youngest President in the club’s history.  During Dan’s tenure, the activities and fund raisers included Saturday night Bingos at the Boys and Girl’s Club, appearances each year at Union’s Italian Street festival in Union and the continued development of Rotary Park.  During both of Dan’s years, the tradition of the Rotary Regatta continued as well as the ROWG golf outings. We made a field trip to the Union County Vocational Technical School in Scotch Plains. On a sad note, during Dan’s term, we suffered the passing of Marvin Orella, a past President and a huge contributor to the Rotary Club.   Dan must be congratulated on his dedication and willingness to serve as president for two years. 

Years 2006-2008 saw Dawn Torres as President.  As with Dan, the Club was most thankful to Dawn for agreeing to lead for two years.  Dawn led the Club to increase participation in Club and district events. Six Club Rotarians attended the Rotary Leadership Institute, eight attended the District Assembly and ten attend an intercity lunch where Rotarians met the Italian Group Study Exchange Team.  The Club had a successful Mardi Gras Casino Night raising over $4,500.00 in that event. For the first time, the annual speech contest was televised on Channel 34. We continued with our dictionary project and this year, for the first time, club members teamed up in pairs and personally delivered dictionaries to 3rd grade students in Union. Fran Ryan organized our Angel Tree project at Union Center Bank and we collected gifts for over 100 needy children. We continued our annual traditions of the ROWG Outing and Regatta. 2 new members joined: Jorge and Rudy.

The Rotary year 2008-2009 had Sharon Patel at the helm as President. The year’s Rotary theme was “Make Dreams Real” and Sharon embraced that theme citing the importance of Rotarians’ participation in Rotary meetings and projects. The Club held its annual picnic at Rotary Park and the designs and funding were finalized during her term for the renovation of that park. Our club donated $30,000 to the township which was matched with a $30,000 country grant to finally complete a project worked on over the span of 4 presidents.  Jim DiGiovanni once again ran the annual Regatta in August, Steve Petrik chaired the ROWG Golf Outing at Delaware Water Gap and the Club also welcomed 6 new Members through Membership Chairman Norman Woolley’s efforts: Melynda Mileski, Michael Tyrone, Donna Steinmetz, Genie Weisz, Ron Mowad, Donna Alexander and Melinda Middlebrooks.  Warren Hehl gave the Club a stirring account of his memories of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.  Eileen Birch ran a coat drive, collecting 175 coats distributing to local people in need.  The Club also made a substantial donation to the Township’s food pantry. This year for our Marvin Orella Speech Contest, a new signature fundraiser event entitled “Eloquence Soiree” was created to fund the scholarships awarded, raising over $4400 its 1st year. This event has become an annual tradition. Sharon had great support from her leadership team having the various Directors focus on club, community, international and vocational service.  Fran Ryan organized our Christmas “Angel Tree” project with the Salvation Army, collecting gifts for 60 needy children. Another signature fundraiser started in Sharon’s year, “Automobilia,” a wine and cheese reception at member Herb Singe’s vintage auto museum in Hillside raised over $7000 from that 1st event and presented the Fire Department with a check for $5000 toward their mobile training unit. International Service Director Allen Barkin implemented our micro loan project to budding entrepreneurs in underdeveloped countries and we were able to help 35 people in 17 countries. Vocational Chair Jim Brody organized a vocational field trip to the Liberty Hall Museum, followed by trips to the Arc’s Bright Beginnings and Union County Vo-Tech, thanks to Dan Murphy. Charlie Minton arranged a night at the Paper Mill Playhouse to see Billy Elliott and 11 Club members attended the District’s Vocational Assembly that year.  2009 was the year that all club members started fully participating in the elements of running a successful meeting.

Rich Baldwin became President for the Rotary year 2009-2010.  Rich’s year was highlighted by embracing the year’s Rotary theme of “The Future of Rotary is in Your Hands”.  Rich’s personal aspiration was to leave the club in better shape than he found it. The highlight of the year was the dedication of the Rotary Park, the culmination of a multi year project that involved every Rotarian in the club, their families and representatives of Union Township.  Rotary also held its Regatta that year and the fellowship was enjoyed by everyone. Our 2nd annual “Automobilia” fundraiser, a night of wine and cheese at Herb Singe’s vintage auto museum was continued, with proceeds donated toward local causes. Charlie Minton organized a memorable Past Presidents Dinner.  Jim DiGiovanni managed the speech contest once again and the 2nd Annual Eloquence Soiree held that spring was also a great success, raising $5000 for the scholarships awarded to the speech contest winners.   The club also donated $2,500.00 to the local food pantry. When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, our club immediately pledged $1000 to the relieve efforts.  That year also saw Ed Rosenhaft, Sharon Patel and current President, Richard Baldwin, honored as Paul Harris fellows. 

The Rotary year 2010-2011 was led by President Norman Woolley and marked the 70th Anniversary of the Union Rotary Club and he was joined by Board Members Eileen Birch, Charlie Minton, Frank Lawrence, James DiGiovanni, Sharon Patel, Donna Alexander and Genie Weisz. The theme was “Building Communities – Bridging Continents.” Under the direction of Membership Chair, Sharon Patel, we inducted 7 new members: Marie Maguire, Lauren Hayes, Corinna Krasukopf, Julie D’Aloia, Cecil Cates, Sunil Gudhka and Sal Dovi, growing our membership to 40.  Union Rotary created a Facebook page and Twitter page publicize our club and share information.  Our monthly newsletter, thanks to Sharon Patel, won first prize for our district and our website also won 1st place for the district.  We helped build our community with our Pajama Drive and donated over 75 pajamas to needy children in Union County.  No one will forget our Cranes for Kids project as we made origami cranes to send to Japan to be exchanged for clothing for the needy children there.  With help from Livingston School and Our Lady of Mercy School in Jersey City we provided 759 cranes. The Cranes for Kids program ended up receiving 2 million cranes and 1.5 million dollars of clothes were donated to Japan.  We sponsored a child in Equador under the “Homes for Hope” project. Our third annual Automobilia fundraiser was another success as we built on previous years. Again this fundraiser would not have been possible without the venue.  Herb Singe’s “garage” is what makes the event and we thank him for the generous use of his facility.  The proceeds of the event helped local families in need. Our other signature fundraiser, Eloquence Soiree successfully raised over $6200. to fund the scholarships for  the Marvin Orella Speech Contest to Union High School students. Our club participated in a county-wide polio walk-a-thon to raise awareness of what Rotary International is doing to help eradicate the disease worldwide.  Our club was awarded the Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award and Rotary’s Presidential Citation, 1 of only 5 clubs out of 43 receiving that honor in 2010-2011.

The year 2011-2012 during Eileen Birch’s year, the Rotary theme was “Reach Within to Embrace Humanity”.  Under President Eileen’s leadership, the Union Rotary Club certainly echoed that theme.  Marie Maguire, the Community Service Chair led the Club in collecting shoes for the “Soles 4 Souls” program in addition to a pajama drive for needy children and adults. We continued our tradition of collecting non-perishable food on a weekly basis for Union’s Food Pantry. Jim DiGiovanni again spearheaded the Club’s dictionary project, with the club distributing 600 dictionaries to third grade students in Union.  The Club ran its fourth annual “Automobilia – Night at the Museum” at Herb Singe’s garage in Hillside.  This is a great event and the Club sold over $4,800.00 in raffle tickets and raised $4,000 for the needy families in the Township.  It was the fourth year for the “Eloquence Soiree” where the Club announced its annual Marvin Orella Speech Contest winners and raised over $7600  to fund the scholarships. Julie D’Aloia served as Chair of the event.  We welcomed five new members: Paul Hodawanec, Justin Patel, Matt Sura, Gail Nolan and Maria Moschello. Eileen’s year was also marked by Warren Hehl returning to weekly meetings and the Club actively participated in district events including “Eat, Drink and Share”, the District Assembly and the District Conference. Norman Woolley was awarded a Paul Harris Fellow.

After Eileen’s year, the 2012-2013 President is now Ron Mowad.  Ron expressed his passion for the support of the Rotary International Polio Plus Campaign encouraging Members to support that cause throughout the year. For the first time ever, Membership teams were charged with meeting set-up each week, with each team rotating responsibility for set-up, the pledge, 4-way test, introduction of guests, invocation, polio collection, etc. to ensure smoothly run meetings.  We welcomed eight new members Laura Bretzger McGrath, John Crisafulli, Richard Draudt, Vicki Feola, Hermann Miedel, Jim Montemurro, Rob O’Connell, Sandra Rojas, We’ve continued the club’s events including the ROWG outing, the Regatta, Dictionary Project. Although Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of our annual Automobilia event, club members sold $5100 in 50/50’s, raising over $2500 to help fund community donations. Our 5th annual Eloquence Soiree, chaired by Sharon Patel and Norman Woolley netted over $8,000 this year – the most successful to date, with 125 guests in attendance. The event was also attended by a visiting Rotarian from India.