History of
The Rotary Club of Woonsocket

 

The Rotary Club of Woonsocket was founded by the Rotary Club of Pawtucket, whose James F. McCoy was District Governor during the Rotary year 1959-1960. Mr. McCoy approached Carl W. Christiansen founder and CEO of the well-respected accounting firm of Christiansen & Co.

Carl agreed to sound out men in Woonsocket to see if there was sufficient interest to organize a Rotary Club in his city. All the men were enthusiastic and they came together for the first time on February 3, 1960 at the To-Kalon Club in Pawtucket. The Pawtucket Club was the host.

Among the Woonsocket men who attended this meeting besides Carl were Bill Crouse, Steve Abrants, Herbert Cheek, Albert Dauray, C. Arthur Foote, Paul Goffart, William Halliwell, Stanley Mundy, Robert Reichenberg and J. Herbert Sutton.

The Pawtucket Rotarians outlined the aims, objectives and history of the Rotary International. When the group left the meeting, they were enthusiastic about erasing the stigma of Woonsocket being the largest community in the United States without a Rotary Club.

Two weeks later, on February 17, 1960 - The first unofficial meeting of the Woonsocket Rotary Club was held in Howard Johnson's in Park Square, North Smithfield. District Governor McCoy was on hand to get things started and an additional group of men joined the first session, including Rudolph T. Sheahan, Dr. Ernest L. Dupre, Dr. Paul Narcessian, Sidney Goldstein, Roger Lanoie, Joseph Picard, John Kerlew, Emory Richard, Charles Rogers, Lionel Vachon, Harold Voelker, Dr. Louis Beaudet, Donald Valois, Ervin Koerner, Lionel Corriveau, James Gartsu, Alphones Marcoux, Ralph Whiney, John Ansley, Donald McGee, Edgar Aubuchon and Thomas Mundy.

The first officers elected were William Crouse, President; C. Arthur Foote, Vice President; Robert Reichenberg, Secretary; Herbert Cheek, Treasure; and Paul Goffart, Sergeant-at-Arms. It was voted, at this meeting, that henceforth the club would meet at Howard Johnson's weekly on Thursday noon, beginning the following week.

The first formal business took place at the third meeting when plans were made for the Charter Night to be held in May. One would have to classify Charter Night, at the King Philip in Wrentham, as the highlight of the year. Carl Christiansen, who was instrumental in the organization of the Woonsocket Rotary Club, found it impossible to become a member himself. His busy schedule precluded him from becoming a Rotarian. But he was made an honorary member at Charter Night and was renamed an honorary member in succeeding years until his death in 1982.

One of the earliest recorded community endeavors of the Woonsocket club was to provide funds to send six Girl Scouts and three Boy Scouts to a summer Scout Camp for a week each.

The very first members to be inducted after the initial Charter Members were introduced at a meeting in July 1960.

Many business and professional people were program speakers for each meeting in the years follow: Doctors, Lawyers, Police Chiefs, a Defensive Back for the New York Giants, the late (Then Governor) John H. Chafee, and Bob Stewart, American League Umpire (Farther of past Club President, Barbara Josephson).

More than 500 people attended the Club's first Fashion Show in 1967. This success brought on the first Breakfast fundraiser that same year, where 400 persons were served.

In 1971, The Club embarked on a real "hands-on" project - Wielding picks, shovels, wheelbarrows and rakes to build a mini-park in Depot Square on the site of what was McCarthy's Department Store.

In 1973, the club erected the "Four-Way-Test" billboard at the head of the bridge on Cumberland Hill Road, under the direction of Armand Froment. Besides erecting the billboard, a bulletin board was erected at the Woonsocket High School whose message could be changed by inserting letters.

In 1975, The Woonsocket Rotary Club was commissioned to organize a Club in Cumberland. The Club, still in existence, is the Cumberland-Lincoln Rotary Club. In September 1975, the new Club was presented with its charter by then District Governor George Tavares, assisted by Charles Seavor, Drew Palmer and Joseph Picard.

In 1976, we sent abroad our first exchange student - Cindy Seavor, daughter of Past President, Charles Seavor. Cindy went to Australia for a year's study. Golf tournaments were organized in 1976 and the reigning champion member could keep the trophy for the year - Familiar names of today's members are Henry Malkowski, Dave Russell, Fred Corey, Dave Normandin and Gerry Tryhubczak.

In 1979, Rhode Island State Representative Roger N. Begin came to a meeting to suggest that the Rotary Club participate in what was being called "Autumnfest". By August, Autumnfest planning was well with Bill Bucci spearheading matters, Charlie Gould, Security, Ray Grenier, Secretary, Joe Ludovici in charge of concessionaires, Bob Darling in charge of servicing and "Doc" Dupre, personnel and manpower. It was a huge success with the club netting $8,649.

In 1982, The Rhode Island Senate passed a resolve naming the stage, which was financed by the Woonsocket Rotary Club in World War II Memorial State Park, as the Woonsocket Rotary Club Bandstand (That bandstand is still in use today during Autumnfest with some repairs made over the years).

As we continue with our Rotary membership and service to mankind, may we remember the works of members who originated and maintained the Woonsocket Rotary for so many years. This year, 2009-2010, Woonsocket Rotary Club is in its 50th year in existence. Our hope is that those to come after us will continue to enjoy the experience and camaraderie.