Yakima, WA, USA

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Yakima Rotary Club

A Brief History (1919-1980)[edit]

In 1980, a group of Yakima Rotarians wrote what was called "A Brief History (1919-1980)". That history was revised and updated in 1999. The history as it was presented to members of the club in 1999 is reproduced here. NOTE: On July 2016, membership in the Yakima Rotary Club was 325, making it one of the largest Rotary clubs in the world.

"A historical review of Rotary prior to the formation of a club in Yakima(Washington)shows that the idea originated in the mind of Paul Harris, a lawyer in Chicago. The name was derived from the practice of rotating meetings from one member's place of business to another's. It remained a Chicago club for three years, 1905-1908, until a 2nd club was originated in San Francisco. Then a year later in 1909 the idea spread on the west coast to Oakland, Los Angeles and Seattle, as well as New York city on the east coast.

Following the organization of the Seattle club, other Northwest cities picked up the service club idea in rapid order with Tacoma, Portland and Spokane establishing Rotary Clubs in 1910. Vancouver and Victoria, B.C. followed soon after in 1913.

Smaller cities were handicapped somewhat by a Rotary ruling that new clubs must have 25 members with separate distinct classifications. But the idea spread north from Seattle and we note a Rotary club formed in Everett in 1916 and in Bellingham in 1917.

It did't take long for the Rotary idea to spread across the mountains to Eastern Washington with both Walla Walla and Yakima forming clubs in 1919. Wenatchee came along soon after in 1921.


Yakima Rotary Club

In the fall of 1919 Mr. T. L. Monson of Seattle appeared in Yakima to promote the formation of a Rotary Club. A meeting was called of some twenty men on the evening of October 27 to discuss the advisability of a club here in Yakima. After an explanation by Mr. Monson, and a general discussion, the group decided to institute the club, setting Monday evening November 3rd as the organizational meeting, with a banquet at the Commercial Hotel. Twenty-two visiting Rotarians from Seattle, Spokane, Everett and Walla Walla were present as guests.

After reading of the form of constitution and by-laws suggested by Rotary International, it was decided to go ahead with the organization. The following were elected as trustees: Rundstrom, Richards, Bell, Miller and Fechter. These trustees at their meeting selected the officers of the club -- President, W. A. Bell, Vice-President, Robert Rundstrom, Treasurer, O. A. Fechter. O. F. Soots was named temporary secretary, afterward made permanent.

The charter members were the following men with their classifications:

  • Bell, William A. Hardware-wholesale,
  • Cardiff, Ira R. Fruit processing,
  • Ditter, Phil A. Dry goods,
  • Eberle, Fred Fruit selling,
  • Fechter, Oscar A. Banking,
  • Gibson, Omar D. Meat packing,
  • Harford, Robert T. Grocery-wholesale,
  • Helton, Alfred J. Physician general,
  • Huebner, Albert H. Lumber-wholesale
  • Huston, Thomas F. Undertaking,
  • Janeck, Louis O. Loans,
  • Kohls, Joseph F. Shoes,
  • Lemon, William L. Men's furnishings,
  • Meigs, Leonard C. Attorney,
  • Miller, Alex Building owning,
  • Raymond, Fred M. Ice manufacturing,
  • Richards, Nathan C. Street railway,
  • Robinson, William D. Minister,
  • Robertson, Wilbur W. Newspaper,
  • Ross, Fred S. Life Insurance,
  • Rundstrom, Robert W. Furniture,
  • Soots, Orpheus C. Commercial secretary,
  • Talcott, Carl M. Musical instruments,
  • Tuesley, Walter F. Bookbinding,
  • West, Edmund S. Surgeon

The charter was presented December 1, 1919."


The first regular meeting of the club, thus organized, was held on Tuesday, November eleventh, at the Commercial Hotel. Proposals for membership by the membership committee were made, the committee consisting of George C. Sawyer, R. D. Rovig and H. C. Lucas.

The meeting day was changed to Thursdy beginning with the first Thursday in December.

The first community service, proposed by Joe Kohls (shoe retailing) was to have proper street signs put up, so that people would not get lost in the city, and so that deliveries could be made from the stores without wandering all over the city. It was not indicated how many shoes Joe sold not delivered by the customer walking home with them.

In the early days of the club the program was usually furnished by one of the members presenting a paper, or talk, followed by general discussion, or criticism as the case might be. One of the first was a talk by Bill Robinson on the Ideal of Rotary, about which he did not know more than anyone else.

One program consisted of telling stories, which continued for several weeks. Each member was called on for a story, from his own experience or from his imagination, by which he often tried to provoke a ripple of laughter, or stir up a response of sympathy, or of wonder.

The club agreed to embark on a surprise venture--for some of the members--by observing Rotary week in the form of attending the Congregational Church on Sunday February 22nd, to hear a sermon by Bill Robinson, minister. There was no report of how many of the boys stayed awake, but at least the affair went off without disturbance.

The first dinner for wives and sweeetharts was held on the evening of February 26th, 1920, celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of Rotary. Much good cheer was indulged in, even though H. C. Lucas, who was supposed to deliver the toast to the ladies was so overcome by the presence of so many ladies that he forgot his speech. Also Oscar Fechter presented a scholarly address on Washington and left the Father of his County half-way accross an ice-filled river.

A fund for Boy Scouts work was approved, and the club agreed to raise $4000.00 for the cause, by voluntary gifts, over a period of two years. So, it would seem that the Yakima Rotary Club was off to a good start in community service. Gordon Smith has recorded some of the accomplishments during the past 60 years.

Since it was chartered almost sixty years ago, the "Avenue of Service to the Community" has been of paramount importance to the Yakima Rotary Club, and has been very responsible in the raising and distributing of funds. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid to aid various programs for handicapped individuals.

The first major program was The Crippled Children Program carried on through the Children's Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle through contributions to the hospital and contributions to carry a local program of supplying shoes and appliances for children here in the Valley and for travel expenses to and from Seattle. This program is still carried on, with changes to fit today's needs. Annually, the Handicapped Committee of Rotary spends $6000.00 to $8000.00 a year to meet some of the needs of the handicapped that cannot be supplied from individual or community funding.

In the early 1970's a committee of Rotarians studied the need in Yakima for a facility to care for individuals with hearing and speech difficulties. The result was the estblishment of the Yakima Valley Hearing and Speech Center. $85,000.00 was given by the Yakima Rotary Club (a substantial amount of this was made possible by the O. D. Gibson estate) for start up costs and to supplement the Center's earnings until other funds were developed in the Community. Including funds from the Handicapped Committee, Rotary's contribution is close to $100,000,00!

1969 and the 70's so far have seen some great support from the community in several fund raising projects--RotaRee!! number one, RotaRee!! number two, RotaRee!! number three, the Palmer Golf exhibition and two Giant Garage Sales provided the dollars to take care of these kinds of community needs: Alternative School Program. "The Place" received its first funding of $10,000.00 from Rotary and later received $6,000.00 more to give it the head start it needed to become a regular part of Yakima School District.

Boy Scouts and the Y.M.C.A have received almost $20,000.00 for the development of camp properties. Sports for young people have benefited from these Rotary contributions:

Yakima Youth Baseball $5,000.00 for improvements at Parker Field. Athletes in Action, inspiration program for young people received $1,000.00. Supporting and sponsorship of the Pee Wee Baseball play-offs since the inception of this program in 1953. Special projects for the handicapped was a recent beneficiary of Rotary help. $15,000.00 for a new building (This was a part of a $75,000.00 local match that will provide over a quarter of a million dollars for the new building). Operation Coalition, the camaign to produce the local funds necessary to build the Southwest Yakima Center was helped by $5,000.00 of Rotary funds. Child Care Centers have been aided to secure needed funds for operation and capital improvements to the extent of $3,000.00, A youth center was started in the south east Yakima area with a $5,000.00 grant from Rotary and the program was picked up and funded by State Law and Justice funds for the next three years.

A Senior Citizen Health Care program recived $1,500. The Retired Senior volunteers Program has received $750.00 in the past two years.

The Red Cross, the Yakima Valley Hospital, The Museum. the Southeast Yakima Health Clinic, The Capri Program ($2,500 for start-up costs) have received amounts up to $3,000.00 for the programs they bring to Yakima. In addition, for health care training of Yakima Valley people, two Resusci-Annies have been purchased by the club. A contribution of nearly $400.00 was made to Mountain Rescue Council toward the purchase of a piece of equipment.

Many, many contributions have been made in the area of education. An annual scholarship program of $2,500.00 helps graduating seniors from Yakima area high schools; an innovative program by the Yakima Schools for children at Hoover School was funded (4,062.50): the School Boy Patrol is supported each year for needed equipment: Junior Programs: Music Weeks: Vocational training programs: a special reading program for Washington Junior High School students: Music camp scholarships: Y.W.C.A campships: American Heritage tour scholarships: $8000.00 for the Sunfair Band.

Regularly, Rotary responds to the requests of committees that need assistance in publicizing school and park bonds and levys. Up to $1,500.00 has been granted to a project and there have been many from $200.00 to $500.00.

In addition to these community service contributions many thousands of dollars have been given from club funds for Rotary International Student Exchange, for Rotary Foundation, for Rotary World Service needs and others for the promotion of International understanding.

This is not a complete list. However, it does demonstrate that the Yakima Rotary Club has been responsible in returning dollars raised in the community back to the community, withour one dime of it spent on administration.

Like in all new Rotary Cubs the members had very little knowledge of a service club's function and especially what Rotary had accomplished in developing business principles and ethics since 1905. So we note in the 1920's that there were numerous occasions when portions or complete programs were given over to Rotary education. William Bell, Yaklima's first president, along with Ralph Williamson and Reider Rovig were some of the members who spoke frequently on Rotary and its place in the community. But "sky-pilot" Bill Robinson was perhaps the leader in the Club on Rotary Education.

We might characterize the 1920's as a time when the rural aspect of life was perhaps more dominant in the minds of the Yakima Rotarians than the considerations of city problems. The club had strong leaders like H. M. Gilbert, O. D. Gibson, Stanley Coffin, Ben Perham and others that gave the Club a very strong agricultural outlook.

Names and Events taken from some of the early club records:

O. D. Gibson put on a beefsteak picnic dinner at Soda springs. (Steaks were cheaper in 1920). Rotary Quartette of Barber, Talcott, Keeler and Dunbar got into action. H. M. Gilbert, C. M. Holtzinger and O. K. Conant told the club about the history of growing apples in the Northwest and their problems. Yakima Quartette went to St. Louis National Convention. A Crippled Children committee was named by President Ralph Williamson. Crippled Children's Clinic held in Yakima. 14 children examined by Dr. C. F. Eikenbury. Roary Minstrel Show raised $6946 for the Crippled Children Fund. Mary Cassidy joined Rotary in their project of crippled children and support of the Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. The second annual Crippled Children Show---$8325 raised--John Phillip Sousa was the speaker at the January 28th noon meeting. Charter night at Sunnyside. The Rotary Quartette still singing together. Big intercity meet of Rotarians of 101 with Jim Beatty, District Governor and Tom Davis of Bute, RI Director as speaker. Another Crippled Children Benefit netted $3320.

It was during the 1930's of course that the Club was feeling the effects of the "Great Depression." However, there was a feeling that one gets from the meager recorded reports during that period that the major project of Crippled Children should go on regardless of the apparent hard times.

Here are the few names and events that we have gleaned from the records: A Club Bulletin was issued with Clearence Ernst as first editor. Alex Miller set up Trust Fund for the benefit of Crippled Children Project. Intercity meetings with Seattle, Spokane and Sunnyside. Reider Rovig became president. Also celebrated 23 years of service as secretary, Yakima's 23rd birthday and his own as well. Guy Finley, president. 200 cases of Crippled Children reported as treated from Yakima County at Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle. $1500.00 cash donated to Crippled Children Fund by Alex Miller.

The 1940's could be called a transition period. There was a war going on during some of the period. Our district 101 was being broken up due to the increased membership, which applied to our club, now well over 100 members. Some highlights:

RI Convention in Havana, Cuba. An Ice Carnival was the feature of the year, 1940-1041. 107 members in Yakima Rotary Club. There was a war going to and we had many visitors. $1023 was raised from club members for Crippled children Project. We lost Reider Rovig as Secretary. Old Rotary District 101 was being divided, the new one for us was 153. All money being raised still going to Crippled Children. Babe Hollingberry gave Rotary its first showing of the East-West Shrine Game. Clarence (Ernest) is the next District Governor and the District Conference is held in Yakima. Cooperative Minstrel Show with the Sunnyside Club. Yakima names 100% in Rotary Foundation and first Rotary Fellow speaks to Club--Peter Manning-Smith.

During the 1950's we see a broadening of the Communityu Service activity of the club. Crippled Children was still a major project but as the club grew in numbers and more money was being raised there was a greater local demand for service to the Yakima Area. It took various directions as will be noted by the review of events and names that have been taken from the records.

We move into the Chinook Hotel. Club contributions to the Salvation Army's Major O'Brien loss--to the amount of $661.00. Within a few dollars of the amount lost. Raised funds with an Aquacade to support swim team travel expenses. Ellensburg put on Minstrel Show at the Capitol for Crippled Children funds of both clubs. District Conference in Yakima, April 27, 28 and 29. Club raised $2500.00 at April 30th meeting for Hoover School (crippled children) support. Supported exchange student from Chile. Grandview charter and celebration. Suit Sale--$7,000.00 raised. Intercity meeting with Valley clubs. Spearheaded community-wide drive for $450,000 bond issue for pools and playgrounds.

Jack Larson elected District governor, 1957-58. Soap Box Derby with others cooperating (KIMA and Wagner Chevrolet). Another suit Sale. First Yakima Rotary Fellow, Ronald Lee. District Assembly in Yakima. Harpsichord Concert during Ladies' night. Projects: Pee Wee Baseball, Rotary Park and Pool, Passion Play, etc. 50th Anniversary year.

The 1960's might be characterized by being a good fellowhsip period and continued growth in the club. The Club was broadening its ideas on International Service as well as its service to the community. As we approached our Golden Anniversary it was with pride that we could look back over the past 50 years with a sense of satisfaction.

The 1960s[edit]

209 members in the club. Ernst travels around the world. 200% in Rotary Foundation. Hoover School kids to the Fair. Suit Sale takes in $3,200.00. Big Yakima Valley interclub meeting at the Chinook. District Conference in Yakima, Bill Luce, DG. Rotary Fellow, Gerald Perryman at Club. Student exchange with Revelstoke, B.C. Miss Cassidy passes. Bert Broad takes over as secretary. New Ways and Means Committee. RotaRee auction. Yakima'Golden Anniversary. Bridge Tournament. Field Days with Golf and Tennis. The end of Miller. Southwest Rotary club chartered and much good fellowship.

With the momentum generated in the 1960's the Club went on to greater heights in the 70's as will be noted in the recorded events. Our increases in the Rotary Foundation under the leadership of Harland Hofer was a highlight in the 70's.

The 1970s[edit]

Terry Rathbun supplies flowers each week. Ernst returns from Europe. "The Place" becomes a project. Field days popular with Golf and Tennis. The second RotaRee. Golden Anniversary of Ladies' Night. Moses Lake has District conference, John Jones, DG. Lawrence Countryman honored for service at "The Place." Wapato surveyed for Rotary Club. YMCA Camp Dudley gets RotaRee funds. Yakima Rotary (Handicapped Committee) recommends the Hearing and Speech Diagnostic Center Project. The group who went to Bolivia from 506 came to Yakima for a report. 25 years of showing Shrine East-West Game by the "Babe." Third Annual RotaRee to support Hearing and Speech Project. Club helps Southeast Community Center. International Student Exchange in operation. Apples for Christmas. Golf Tournament with Palmer and Zarley, pros. Senior Active classification mandatory. "Woody" Miller becomes DG. Bylaws changed regarding selection of president. "The Babe" passes, 1/6/74. Slow-pitch ball provided some laughs and spills. Woody given Paul Harris Award. Justice William O. Douglas made Honorary Member of Yakima Rotary Club. Rags to Riches Sale. Student Exchange Program lacks cooperation from club members. Fireside meetings are a success in 70s.

Ernst given Paul Harris Fellowship Award. We contribute to Guatemala Relief Fund. Guy Finley given a Paul Harris Fellowship Award by his grandson, Bob Sinclair. Fourth RotaRee at Convention Center. Jack Larson, Bill Luce and Secretary Bert Broad are made Paul Harris Fellows. Cecil Clark and Harland Hofer join the ranks of Paul Harris Fellows. Glasses for Ecuador a success story. Terry Rathburn given a Paul Harris Fellowship Award by past presidents. RotaRun raised money for the Handicapped. Group Study Exchange from India, District 306, entertained in Yakima.


1919-1920 Wm H. Bell 1920-1921 Robert W. Rundstrom 1921-1922 A. J. Helton
1922-1923 Jos. P. Kohls 1923-1924 Ralph B. Williamson 1924-1925 H. Stanley Coffin Sr.
1925-1926 Holland E. Wright 1926-1927 Ben A. Perman Sr. 1927-1928 N. C. Richards 1928-1929 Eli J. Wyman 1929-1930 Albert J. Huebner
1930-1931 A. E. Larson 1931-1932 James A. Louden 1932-1933 Hal H. Skinner Sr. 1933-1934 Angus C. Davis 1934-1935 Charles E. Ernst
1935-1936 Reidar V. Rovig 1936-1937 Guy C. Finley 1937-1938 David V. Morthland 1938-1939 Leon R. Rightmire 1939-1940 Leslie R. Rosser
1940-1941 Ben A. Perham Jr. 1941-1942 Lester B Vincent 1942-1943 John M. Darnall 1943-1944 Robert B. Bragg 1944-1945 William H. McGuire & Bert Broad
1945-1946 Jess E. Barber 1946-1947 Rex S. Matthews 1947-1948 Edwin A. Reinertsen 1948-1949 Leslie W. Dick 1949-1950 John M. Larson
1950-1951 Peter G. MacKintosh 1951-1952 Merritt Bloxom Jr. 1952-1953 Fred C. Palmer 1953-1954 John Noel Jr. 1954-1955 Roert G. Wight
1955-1956 Thomas C. Bostic 1956-1957 James P. Connell 1957-1958 Roy H. Tufts 1958-1959 Sidney Reese 1959-1960 Elwood E. Miller
1960-1961 John Applegate 1961-1962 John Gavin 1962-1963 J Alex Maxwell 1963-1964 Harland G. Hofer 1964-1965 Hans M. Skov
1965-1966 George L. Pinnell 1966-1967 Wray R. Brown 1967-1968 James W. Nolan Jr. 1968-1969 Cliff Miller 1969-1970 Maxwell J. Vincent
1970-1971 Don W. McNeice 1971-1972 Roderick G. MacKintosh 1972-1973 Oliver F. Nelson 1973-1974 Melvin G. Wagner 1974-1975 Robert W. Strausz
1975-1976 H. Harlow Skinner 1976-1977 Edgar F. Johnson 1977-1978 Richard A. Marble 1978-1979 Robert H. Phillips 1979-1980 Walter J. Robinson Jr.
1980-1981 John G. Fairbrook 1981-1982 Robert R. Redman 1982-1983 Melvin R. Lewis 1983-1984 Warren D. Starr 1984-1985 Robert J. Reed
1985-1986 Marvin Sundquist 1986-1987 Don McGuiness 1987-1988 William B. Douglas 1988-1989 Richard V. Pinnell 1989-1990 Howard Elofson
1990-1991 Keith Riffe 1991-1992 Dave Miller 1992-1993 Ceorge Cahoon 1993-1994 Kenneth Marble 1994-1995 Dennis Richardson
1995-1996 Ron Cleveland 1996-1997 Don G. Moen 1997-1998 Jim Smith 1998-1999 Robert F. Sinclair 1999-2000 Murray Judge
2000-2001 Bill Wheeler 2001-2002 Michael Murphy 2002-2003 Deb Krautwurm 2003-2004 Scott Wagner 2004-2005 Darrell Blue
2005-2006 Paul Larson 2006-2007 Stan Martinkus 2007-2008 Jim Berg 2008-2009 Greg Luring 2009-2010 Craig Mendenhall
2010-2011 Charlie Eglin 2011-2012 Bill Rich 2012-2013 David Hargreaves 2013-2014 Dave Dion 2014-2015 John Adkison
2015-2016 Bob DiPietro 2016-2017 W. Kurt Labberton 2017-2018 2018-2019 2019-2020

Meetings and Information[edit]

Please join us at our weekly meeting!
Thursday of each week at 11:45 am
Yakima Convention Center
10 N. 8th Street
Yakima, WA 98901 USA
Contact us at Yakima Rotary Club
P.O. Box 464
Yakima, WA 98907 USA

Phone: 509 452-8332

Email the Club


District 5060

Club Virtual Presence[edit]

Club Website
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Categories And Links[edit]

1905 Timeline
Rotary Global History Fellowship