To honor our Centennial, at each week's meeting during the 2013-2014 Rotary year, we featured a "Centennial Moment" highlighting significant moments in our club's history.  Scroll down to read each week's "moment".

Tuesday December 10, 2013 -  Read by Lois Kercher

One hundred years ago, on December 11, 1913, five men from Norfolk met at the Monticello Hotel to talk about forming a local Rotary Club. They had heard about the “Rotary Movement” while on business trips to other cities. They invited Samuel Rosendorf from the Rotary Club in Richmond to join their discussion. The five men from Norfolk were:  Moe Levy, Eugene Graves, Robert Johnson, Ernest Weeks, and C.J Mains.

On that historic evening, they drew up a list of prospective members. We are not sure what they had to eat or drink, or if they sang songs together, but we do know they decided the first step was to recruit other men who wanted to become members. They agreed that once twenty-five other men were on board, they would proceed with formal organization of the Rotary Club of Norfolk.

This is the first of a series of sound bites you will hear over the next four months leading up to our centennial. Each week, we will highlight the work of Rotarians in our Club over the past 100 years. We hope you enjoy these snippets of our rich history.

Tuesday January 7, 2014 - Read by Ann Sullivan

Last month, we told you about five men who met in December 1913, and decided to recruit 25 others and establish a Rotary Club of Norfolk. By January 1914, they had recruited 10 other men, and decided that was enough to seed the club. They elected officers and developed an action plan.

The Certificate of Incorporation was acquired in March. By May 1st, the Club was chartered as “Club Number 114” by the International Association of Rotary Clubs - the antecedent of Rotary International.

Clearly these guys were on a mission. Next week, we’ll tell you more about their early meetings. When did they start the singing? Stay tuned…

Tuesday January 14, 2014 – Read by John Searing

The earliest meetings of our Club were convened once a month over dinner at the Fairfax Hotel. Then they added one lunch meeting each month. By the end of 1915, the Club was convened every week. All meetings were at lunchtime, except once a month when they met for cocktails and dinner.

Unfortunately, we don’t have much detail about how they interacted and conducted business back then. There is reference to “bits of horseplay” in historical documents. And there is one quote from 1939 which reads “Rotary would not be Rotary without its lighter side!” Some things don’t change.


Tuesday January 21, 2014 – Read by Julie Keesling

In 1916, two years after our Club was formed, the Executive Secretary of the Boys Club Federation of America was invited to speak. He talked about how his nonsectarian organization offered services to underprivileged boys from “neglected and deteriorated neighborhoods”. The boys were offered access to gymnasiums, swimming pools, craft shops, libraries and healthcare.

Immediately upon hearing this national speaker, our Club began the work of introducing the Boys Club movement in Norfolk. The startup was financed by a fund-raising campaign by and among members. The first Boys Club in Norfolk used the Parish House of St Paul’s Episcopal Church for club activities.

For each of the first five years of the Boys Club operations, our Rotary Club raised funds in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 annually to support the endeavor.

We take pride in our 100 year history of helping our community, and we anticipate more of the same in the years ahead. 

Tuesday January 28, 2014 – Read by Adrien Latta

Last week, Julie Keesling told us that in 1919, our predecessors started a local Boys Club. For several years, they raised 10 to 15 thousand dollars annually to support it. There are many other examples of how generous our Club was in their early years:

·       They started a Student Loan Fund and seeded it with $1,000.

·       In 1933, given the economic conditions of the time, the Club cancelled a major social event in recognition of the grim living situations of Norfolk’s less fortunate residents. Instead of spending it on a party for themselves, our Club allocated the money to a Relief Fund for those in need.

·       Financial records from our early years show constantly recurring entries, running from $500 to $3000 annually, given to assist people in the community.

By the way, $1,000 in 1920 would be the equivalent of $12,000 today.

A quote from our 25th Club Anniversary Book reads,

  “Rotary has always contributed of its

manpower and money in every worthwhile movement”


Tuesday February 4, 2014,  Read by Jim Clary

When our Club was formed in 1914, we were sponsored by the Richmond Rotary Club. Two years later, we were asked to be the Sponsor for Newport News. After that, we went on to Sponsor 8 more new Clubs:

1.     Portsmouth

2.     Elizabeth City

3.     Virginia Beach

4.     Northside Norfolk

5.     Port-au-Prince in Haiti

6.     Chesapeake

7.     Princess Anne, and

8.     Norfolk Sunrise

Those Clubs went on to sponsor dozens more new Clubs! Within our District, there are more than 30 descendents of the Rotary Club of Norfolk!

Randy Keaton, former president of the Elizabeth City Rotary Club related to me this story of their founding. Several distinguished Norfolk Rotarians headed by train (as was customary in those days) to Elizabeth City to start their club. Unfortunately their train car somehow became detached from the train, and the gentlemen from Norfolk were so involved in Rotarian style fellowship (and libations) that significant time passed before they realized they were no longer attached.