A century of ‘Service Above Self’
Rotary Club of Steubenville marks its 100th year
STEUBENVILLE — The names William J. Alexander Sr., John Belknap, Fred Clarke, Guy Jacobs, Charles Simeral and Harry Welday may not ring familiar to most people, but they’re important in the life of the Rotary Club of Steubenville.
The visionaries were among the 25 charter members who laid the foundation for the “Service Above Self” organization in Jefferson County that on paper marked its 100th anniversary on April 1.
The centennial milestone was celebrated without fanfare at the club’s May 5 meeting, its members enjoying cake and camaraderie at the Jeffco Training Center, where weekly luncheon meetings are held every other Wednesday. A presence of members through Zoom capabilities is a reminder that the past year has been anything but normal, given COVID-19 brought pandemic-related in-person gathering restrictions.
It also derailed planning for an anticipated April gala in honor of the club’s special year with the fall hoped to put back on track a celebration that will be grander in fashion.
The passing of 100 years is occasion to consider club accomplishments and club history, including how much has changed in the last century, since the club’s founding in 1921.
“When you needed to travel in town then, you climbed aboard a streetcar,” reflected Ross Gallabrese, club president. “If you needed to go to Pittsburgh, you boarded a train or, if you were fortunate, you, or a friend or neighbor, could jump in a car and make a more-than-90-minute drive on two-lane roads that wound their way through rural Western Pennsylvania,” he noted. “There was no grand entrance from the west then — you simply came through McKees Rocks and followed the Ohio River to the West End or Point bridges.”
There were multiple editions of newspapers produced daily, and people sent telegrams, not texts. “Television was still a little way off, but if you had a radio, you could listen to news and music on KDKA-AM, which had gone on the air just five months earlier.”
Mills on both sides of the Ohio River worked 24-hours-day, seven-days-a-week to produce iron and steel that would help build the nation.
And it was the year when people were in the throes of recovering from the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 and World War I.
“It truly was a different world on April 1, 1921, when what was then known as Club No. 881 officially became a part of Rotary,” Gallabrese explained. “That brought an end to a process that had started several months earlier when members of the Coshocton Rotary Club had contacted area residents to discuss the formation of a club here.”
What was described as a “splendid banquet” in the ballroom at the Fort Steuben Hotel downtown served as the backdrop for the presentation of the club’s charter on May 20, 1921. It was a night featuring speakers, including Judge Carl Smith, who said that the club “… had already absorbed some of the real spirit of the international body … with the spirit of service shown in this community on every occasion that it was called on.”
The club was successful from the beginning — membership stood at 61 at the end of the second year and climbed to 128 in 1966 before steadily falling to the 40 members who remain true to its mission.
“We’ve seen many changes along the way — from the admission of female members on Aug. 25, 1989, to reorganization at the international level which led to a shuffling that caused our club to become No. 3609 — but the basic principles of Rotary have remained the same,” Gallabrese emphasized.
“Whether we are giving a dictionary to a pupil, providing scholarships that help young people continue their education, helping to purchase and distribute coats to children who are most in need, looking for ways to help preserve our region’s history or working to beautify an entrance to the community, Rotary — and our club — continues to set a high standard of service for others in the community to follow,” Gallabrese said.
“Alexander, Belknap, Clarke, Jacobs, Simeral, Welday and Smith were among the 25 men listed as charter members of the Rotary Club of Steubenville, and their world of 1921 would be as foreign to most of us who are alive today as the world of 2021 would be to them. One thing they would likely recognize, though, is the spirit of the organization, and the knowledge that, just like then, Rotary Opens Opportunities,” Gallabrese added.
The club makes it presence known locally in a variety of ways.
Community projects, for example, include ringing the bells to aid the Salvation Army of Steubenville in its annual kettle campaign fundraiser; providing new coats for youth through the Urban Mission as part of Operation Warm; hosting a Christmas party for mentally challenged students in the Steubenville City Schools; sponsoring the Interact Club at SHS with Rotary member and SHS teacher Scott Lane serving as its adviser; presenting Service Above Self Scholarship awards to Jefferson County high school students; and maintaining the gardens at the North Fourth Street exit off state Route 7, a newer undertaking.
Larger projects of the past involved the Rotary Club mural behind Huntington Bank and park benches installed at the fountain area at Historic Fort Steuben.
A monthly drawing and a golf tournament proceeds provide funding for the local Steubenville Rotary Foundation. Through it, the club supports local agencies who meet the Rotary Areas of Focus and also funds the Service Above Self Scholarships.
“Rotary Club members have donated more than $159,000 to the Rotary International Foundation that provides grants for not only local projects, but worldwide projects such as new water wells and other sanitation facilities, vaccines and maternal and childhood health, vocational education, building better communities through new business and enterprise and promoting peace,” Gallabrese noted.
In addition to Gallabrese, the club’s current board of directors is Randy Cottis, treasurer; Lori Fetheroff, secretary; Kathy Musso, membership chair; Curtis Mullins and Peter Rosaschi, community service co-chairs; Jim Baber, foundation chair; Larae Messer, communications; and Rich Delatore, Marty Hauser, Carolyn Glaub, Robyn Hill and Michael Mehalik.
Other charter members of the club were D. Walter Miller, Howard Morrow, Earl Richards, George Robinson, Carl H. Smith, George Spies, Harry Wintringer, George Wisener, Urban Wolpert, John Beiswanger, John Bernert, Edgar Bower, Emmett Erwin, Everett Ferguson, John Hawley, Harry Lane, Arthur Martin, Maurice McCoy and H. Earl McFadden.
Charles Simeral served as the first president of the club, the seeds of which were planted in the late fall of 1920 by emissaries from the neighboring community of Coshocton, Ohio. The Rotary Service Club met at the Fort Steuben Hotel, the charter members as unique as their professions — retail lumber, coal operator, architect, Protestant minister, ice manufacturer, retail shoes, National Bank official, retail hardware, newspaper, attorney, farmer, pottery manufacturer, steel manufacturer and retail grocer.
Simeral would go on to serve as governor of the 22nd Rotary District which then comprised the southern half of Ohio. Steubenville was one of the 32 clubs in the district.
By 1947-48, the local club was one of 52 clubs in the northeastern quarter of the state, which then comprised District No. 158. Wheeler J. Welday was governor of the district that year.
Another club member serving as district governor was Samuel J. Pollock, 1956-57, when the district was then known as No. 230 and comprised Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Holmes, Jefferson, Mahoning, Stark, Trumbull, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
In 1924, the Steubenville Rotary Club served as the organizing and sponsoring club of Club No. 1747 of Carrollton, chartered in April of that year. That charter presentation would include the singing of popular Rotary songs — “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and “I’m A Little Prairie Flower.”
During the early years few outside speakers were brought in, according to club history, with most of the meetings devoted to listening to talks by various members of the club on their respective vocations. But as the club grew, “outside talent for the weekly speeches” was recruited.
“In its beginning, the club was looked upon as sort of a fad by many persons — even by some members — and it was freely predicted that it would not last the year out. Soon, however, Rotary membership became one of the most highly prized possessions of every member,” the history notes.
In the early days, there were many “lively activities, particularly on the social side.” This included “Ladies Days” and family meetings. There also were inter-city meetings with neighboring clubs and on several occasions, large delegations from the club journeyed to Pittsburgh to meet and hear the international presidents who were guests of that club.
Through its Welfare Fund, Steubenville Rotary contributed to the financial campaigns of all local service agencies, maintained a Boy Scout troop, annually sent a boy and a girl from each of the local high schools to the World Affairs Institute in Cincinnati and sent a representative to Boys State each year.
A Student Loan Fund was organized within the Steubenville Rotary Club in July 1950 to make loans, not gifts, to students deemed worthy after careful investigation, primarily in their later years of college study, and who were unable to complete their education because of financial difficulties, according to club history.
Other highlights in Rotary history follow, as recorded in “The Contact”:
— 1928-1929: A fine piece of service was rendered by Bill Alexander in erecting the bandstand at the North End Field. On May 31, the club paid its annual honors to the Grand Army of the Republic and was pleased to have as its guests three of the survivors of the Union Army of the Civil War.
— June 23-27, 1930, has been set for the 25th anniversary celebration of Rotary International. One of the outstanding features of this convention will be the presence of Paul P Harris, the founder of Rotary, who will address the convention.
— 1931-1932: Mr. John A. Fox, field representative of the Mississippi Valley Association, urged the development of a terminal in Steubenville and told of the advantages it would mean to the city and industries. He pointed out that Steubenville had an advantageous position on the river and should take advantage of it.
— 1933-1934: Fifty-four handicapped children attended the annual Christmas party luncheon, after which the play “Christmas Carol” was given and following this, John Criss Jr. stepped from his role of Tiny Tim to present each child with a present.
— 1938-1939: We regret to announce that the Rotary Clubs of Italy have come under the ban of the dictator. This order closes 34 clubs with a membership of 1,633.
— 1942-43: Typewriters! The government wants 100 of them from Jefferson County. If you have one or know of any, see President Jimmy. He has been commissioned to secure the above number.
— 1944-1945: We were honored with the presence of Judge Weygandt, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of Ohio, who predicted that at the end of this war, the Armed Forces will insist on a fair and impartial tribunal to be established so that international disputes may be heard and decided upon the basis of reason, and not war.
— 1946-1947: The annual golf party was the largest attended and the best we have had. Fifty-four members and 18 guests made up the party. Eddie Worstall as emcee provided many laughs as he introduced the guests. It was rather interesting to note that 60 years intervened between the oldest member and the youngest present.
We received a notice from the hotel management that the price of lunches, which has been $.75, will be increased to $.90 beginning Oct. 11. This charge with the tip per capita and sales tax amounts to $.98.
The Rev. Dr. Daniel Egan, president of the College of Steubenville, brought us an interesting message concerning this new institution. He told of the difficulties they have encountered in getting materials, but hoped to get everything completed with the help of Guy Johnston. He spoke of the advantages of having a college in this community, the savings of time and money.
— 1952-1953: Clifford Ball, superintendent of the greater Pittsburgh Airport, was guest speaker. Among the many interesting facts of this, the world’s greatest airport, is that they sell over 40,000 gallons of gasoline daily. The trip to the airport surpassed the expectations of those who inspected the “plant” from stem to stern. There were 114 Rotarians and their guests who made the trip to the “Wonderland of the Airways.”
— 1957-1958: Mr. J. C. Penney, founder of the great chain of Penney stores, was our speaker. He started his first store in 1902. He said, “free competition is an important factor in our living and we should never give it up without a fight. Competition is a friendly rivalry and not a cutthroat dog-eat-dog proposition.”
— Oct. 5, 1962: This is the day we have been looking forward to for almost 2 years, the day when our Rotary Club Interfaith Chapel becomes a reality! Dr. Perry Epler Gresham will be the dedication speaker. The bus will leave the Fort Steuben Hotel at 1145, lunch will be served by “Pep” Yoder, so you know it will be good.
— 1965-1966: Interact celebrates its third birthday. During these years Interact clubs have spread to 44 countries and boast a total membership of 22,000 high school age boys.
— 1967-1968: Joe Michl reported on the progress of the Jefferson County Technical Institute and introduced Mr. Clair Naftzger, Acting Director, who showed a film which outline the various phases of preparing young people for careers in health, engineering, and business on a semi-professional level.
— 1972-1973: Steubenville Rotary club celebrates its 52nd birthday! Our club was chartered April 1, 1921, with 25 members of whom Guy Jacobs and Harry Lane are the only living members on our roster. Three from our club have served as District Governors. 50 have served as presidents, five men as secretaries, with Lou Donaldson now in his 23rd year.
— 1974: During Dick McGowan’s year as president, we installed seven new members, made Wheeler Welday a “Paul Harris Fellow,” raised our club support to the Rotary Foundation to the 500 percent status in honor of Guy Jacobs.
— 1976: Mr. George Hargraves, Superintendent Jefferson County Vocational School, told us of the plans and purposes of this new educational facility which will go into operation in September. It is primarily intended to serve as a job-training program for 11th and 12th grade students who do not plan college careers.
— 1977: Representative Doug Applegate was our speaker and hit on various subjects, but most importantly, feels president Jimmy Carter should settle down and get to the issues at hand. He also commented on his availability to the people of our area, Carter’s denial of emergency aid to Ohio, and controversy about using Ohio high-sulfur coal.
Some more current Rotary club points of interest include:
— Marty Hauser was the first repeat president for the club, serving from 1982-83 and again from 2009-10, along with Gallabrese, who served 2005-06 and currently.
— Sue Hershey has the distinction of being the club’s first female president, from 1996-97, and James Baber, the group’s first African American leader, serving from 2013-14.
— Longtime members include Jody Glaub, 1974; Dan Keenan, 1980; and Charles Joyce, 1993.
— The group’s newest members are Katie Hildman, who came on board in January 2020, and Jessica Elias, a true newbie as of March.
— Recent Paul Harris Fellowship recipients include George Ash, Jody Glaub and Charles Joyce.
While the club has daytime meetings, prospective members interested in an evening meeting are encouraged to contact the club for details as planning is in progress for a “Monday After 5” satellite club. For information, e-mail Rotary at Steubenvillerotary@yahoo.com. The website is www.steubenvillerotary.com or www.rotary.org. Its Facebook page is Rotary Club of Steubenville.