Early in 1918 several Kearney men gathered to join an international movement taking hold – a new service club started by Chicago attorney Paul Harris called Rotary.
 
Named after the group’s “rotating” meetings among offices of its members, the grassroots service club began in February 1905 so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities. Today, Rotary links 1.2 million members to form an organization of international scope, with a foundation that has invested $3 billion in life-changing, sustainable projects.
 
Kearney’s Rotary legacy will be celebrated at a centennial luncheon at noon March 12 at Ramada in Kearney. All are welcome to attend. Lunch price is $20 at the door – reservations to Tammy Jackson at 308-236-4010 or tjackson@kearneyramada.com. Program will be Rotarian Don Barlow of Belleville, Illinois, founding member of “Belize Children’s Program” that has been active over 40 years.
Early in 1918 several Kearney men gathered to join an international movement taking hold – a new service club started by Chicago attorney Paul Harris called Rotary.
 
Named after the group’s “rotating” meetings among offices of its members, the grassroots service club began in February 1905 so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities. Today, Rotary links 1.2 million members to form an organization of international scope, with a foundation that has invested $3 billion in life-changing, sustainable projects.
 
Kearney’s Rotary legacy will be celebrated at a centennial luncheon at noon March 12 at Ramada in Kearney. All are welcome to attend. Lunch price is $20 at the door – reservations to Tammy Jackson at 308-236-4010 or tjackson@kearneyramada.com. Program will be Rotarian Don Barlow of Belleville, Illinois, founding member of “Belize Children’s Program” that has been active over 40 years.
 
“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves,” founder Paul Harris said many years ago. Rotary members have not only been present for major events in history — they’ve also been a part of them. The Kearney of 1918 was so very different than the Kearney of 2018, but 100 years of Rotarians have created lasting results. 
 
Steve England, 43-year member and chairman of the 100-anniversary committee, said: “Rotary’s Kearney history is one of making a difference. It may be starting the Nature Barn at Cottonmill Park, supporting ‘Walk for Alzheimers,’ donating $50,000 to a new Veteran’s Memorial from Kearney’s Dancing with the Stars or making Paul Harris Fellow donations to Polio Plus at Rotary Foundation to eradicate this terrible disease.  Kearney Rotary members continue to help Kearney and the world.”
 
Rotary Charter 361 in Rotary International of Kearney was presented by C.E. Alison of the Lincoln Club on Jan. 3, 1918, and John W. Patterson was installed as the club's first president. Patterson was one of Kearney's first implement dealers, mayor, and prominent in community affairs. He moved to California in 1923 leaving his business with E.H. Staubitz. There were 15 charter members: A. H. Berbig, S.H. Burrows, C.H. Fox, W.J. Hutton, C.W. Kibler, A.C. Killian, W.O. King, N.P. McDonald, Dan Morris, J.W. Petterson, L.T. Rogers, W.J. Scoutt, C.W. Shahan, O.E. Tollefsen and L.L. Wernert.
 
According to a 40th anniversary publication written by Albert Tollefsen: "At the beginning the Club rotated from home to home for meetings. The housewife prepared the meals and each meeting was truly a banquet. Later as the Club grew in size, it was necessary to abandon this plan... and meetings have been held in the Midway Hotel since. However this plan of meeting at the homes of members was continued by the Board of Directors for many years." Gender-specific clubs were the practice of most prior to the 1980s, with women admitted to Rotary clubs beginning in 1989. Bobbi Olson was the first female member and later served as President of the Noon Club.
 
Kearney Dawn Rotary began in 1995, and several other Kearney Rotary clubs have come and gone since 1918. A new club is being initiated. “Rotary After Hours” will be meeting for the first time Monday, March 12 at 6 p.m. at Cunninghams. The after-hours club will accommodate more professionals, said Bret King, Kearney Noon Rotary President.
 
“Kearney Rotary has had such a strong, visible presence in Kearney over an entire century. That’s significant,” King said. “It will be exciting to be part of conversations about what the next 100 years will bring.”
King and England said the luncheon may be of keen interest to past members, family members and ancestors of the founders and past members, and especially anyone who appreciates Rotary’s service to Kearney or wants to know more about joining.
 
Kearney Noon Rotary meets at noon Mondays at Kearney Ramada, and Kearney Dawn Rotary meets Wednesdays at 7 a.m. at Alley Rose. Rotary International is a 110-year-old international service club with 1.2 million members. It focuses on creating lasting change in communities and around the world, starting with members and clubs at the local level. Rotary focuses on Five Avenues of Service:  Club Service to build fellowship through training and hospitality; Vocational Service by enhancing vocations and ethical standards; Community Service to improve community life; International Service through humanitarian work around the world and New Generations Service to engage youth and young adults in leadership.