HISTORY OF TOPEKA WEST ROTARY
EARLY HISTORY OF THE TOPEKA WEST ROTARY CLUB
The Topeka West Rotary Club was organized as a "provisional" club on December 13, 1950 when the Topeka Rotary Club (now known as the"Downtown Club") released an area in the western part of Topeka and Shawnee County for membership recruitment. The area bounded by the south and west borders of Shawnee County, the Kansas River, and the alley between Lincoln and Lane Streets extending from the south county line to the Kansas River. Washburn University campus, however, was retained as the exclusive domain of the mother club. The mother club further retained the privilege of accepting new members from the clubís geographic area. (Note: Territorial limits have since been removed and the club can recruit members from all of Shawnee County.)
The name chosen for the club was West Topeka Rotary Club and its first officers and directors were:
President Lloyd C. Raish Newman V. Treger
Vice President William H. Mifflin Harry A. Forsell
Secretary Donald M. Williams Edwin E. Newman
Treasurer Raymond B. Long Bill Dawson, Jr.
Sergeant-at-Arms Tom Mix Lester E. Painter
Henry P. Wolff
On December 19, 1950, application was made to charter the club as member of Rotary International. The charter in turn was issued bearing the date January 23, 1951. The club became the 7,690th chartered by R.I. and the 32nd club in then District 180. The charter was presented at a joint event attended by both clubs (with Rotary-Anns in attendance) at the Roof Garden of the Jayhawk Hotel on February 15, 1951 by then District Governor Will Gibbons of Howard, Kansas.
Principal speaker at the charter presentation meeting was Jeff Williams, a past Director of R. I. and from Chickasha, Oklahoma. While the fellowship inside apparently was warm, the conditions outside were quite the opposite. One member in attendance described it as "snow everywhere and cold as Hades."
Charter membership is listed in various places as 34 or 35 members. By strict interpretation of rules, the lower figure is probably correct. Lloyd Raish and Lewis Henderson were both listed as pharmacy owners and given the same classification "which isnít Rotaryís way of doing things." Since Raish was already elected president, Hendersonís membership appears to have been held up until he was given another classification after the charter was issued.
This history would not be complete without acknowledging people, in addition to the charter members, who put forth special effort in organizing the club. In accessing the scope of the undertaking, it must be remembered that while Topeka Rotary sponsored our club, all charter members were "new" Rotarians recruited from the assigned geographic area. None were transferred former members of the mother club. Further, the survey required by R.I. to support the charter application, and made of the area listing schools, churches, hospitals, industries, etc., was obviously no simple task. The name most often appearing on letters and documents, including the survey area, is Harry Turner, Sr. He not only was designated by the mother club to spearhead the effort, he also served as the direct representative of then District Governor Will Gibbons. Don Geyer, President of the Topeka Rotary Club, must also receive special credit for the organization effort.
In 1978 West Topeka requested a change in territorial limits of the club to include all of Topeka. Rotary International, in turn, strongly suggested the name be changed also. Hence the name "Topeka West Rotary Club" was chosen at a regular meeting on March 9, 1978. (Note: The name probably had to be changed to be listed alphabetically in R.I.ís Official Directory.)
Again the records are limited, but our club from its inception obviously supported many worthy causes, such as The Rotary Foundation, District Scholarships and local charities. There are records of financial support for Washburn University and Kansas University scholarships, the Boyís Club, Girl Scouts and tours conducted at Christmas time for the elderly at the Methodist Home, as well as other places.
This early history of Topeka West is not intended to be all inclusive, but to serve as a basis of information for members and for further reference. It is a follow-up to a program presented on February 26, 1991 celebrating the 40th anniversary of our clubís chartering. Newman Treger, Don Williams, Harold Pellegrino and Mel Meyer participated in the presentation. Harry Turner, Jr. was a special guest in honor of his father who made great early efforts on behalf of the club. President Monte Nelson chaired the meeting and Secretary Don Moses declared the attendance and make-ups made a "one hundred percent attendance week."
For the record, as of this writing, Don Williams is the only surviving charter member of the Club. Don and his wife Carol are enjoying retirement.
Thanks to Mel Meyer for compiling this information in March 1991. Parenthetical notes were added July 1, 1998.