The Lions Club of Hillsville’s 75th anniversary celebration on Sept. 22 at Hillsville First United Methodist Church balanced celebration and dedication, fitting for an organization whose motto is “We Serve.” Club President Jim Parker reminded participants the local club was chartered on August 31, 1940.
“These past events through time call the past into the present,” said Parker. He likened Lions International to a prism “which distributes light into different colors representing the many talents and resources of club members.” He said each member is driven to be positive change-engines and servant leaders to their community.
Distinguished guests at the event included Lions First Vice Governor William Cahill, Past District Governor Eural Clippard, District Governor Priscilla Hall, Past International Director Wayne Davis, Past District Governor Ray Templin, Past District Governor Jim Nichols and Second Vice District Governor Joe Mack Taylor.
Lion Bill Webb told the group Hillsville’s club was sponsored by the Lions Club of Galax. He said the charter night dinner was held on Oct. 8, 1940 in the Carroll Recreation Center with tickets priced a one dollar and fifty cents. Theatre operator Leonard Branscome, who transferred from Floyd, was the club’s first president.
Webb reported charter members in 1940 included Commonwealth’s Attorney John Alderman; bookkeeper Homer Austin; attorney Rufus A. Fowler; bank clerk J.S. Fulcher; barber Eugene Gardner; auto sales person Fred Gardner, state trooper B.M. Giles; J. Howard Kegley, who ran Hosiery Mills; Veterinarian Dr. H.L. Lyon; gas and oil station operator I. J. Nolan, school board cluer Charles H. Pruitt; grocer B.O. Quesinberry; variety store operator Charles E. Ridge, Jr.; commissioner of Revenue N.E. Semones; auto dealer W.G. Stoneman; farmer Robert E. Wilkinson; eye, ear, nose and throat Physician W.C. Williams and Deputy County Clerk Conner Webb (who is Webb’s uncle). Guest speakers at the charter meeting were President of the Rotary Club J.L. Tompkins and Lions District Governor Terrill J. Bowman.
He told members Lions Club founder Melvin Jones was disillusioned with local business clubs in 1917 and decided to launch a club which inspired members to work for the betterment of their communities and the world at large. He said Lions International now has more than 30,000 clubs worldwide.
“The club today is an ongoing tribute to those before us,” Webb said. “We need to go back to 1925 when Helen Keller spoke at the Lions Cub Convention.”
Webb was referring to Keller’s speech during the ninth Lions Club convention. Accounts from the time indicate the club was in its infancy, deciding its purpose.
“The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: To foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind,” Keller reportedly said. “Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided? I appeal to you Lions, you who have your sight, your hearing, you who are strong and brave and kind. Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”
Guest speaker Past International Director Wayne Davis referenced Dr. Jitsuhiro Yamada, of Minokamo, Gifu, Japan, current president of Lions Clubs International. Yamada is a neurosurgeon who not only operates hospitals in Japan but was inspired to create rehabilitation centers for patients. (This allowed recovering victims to remain true to local culture and not burden their families.)
Davis said Yamada stresses dignity, harmony and humanity as the clubs’ method of service, respecting people’s dignity, building harmony in communities and empathy for the less fortunate. Yamada is quoted as telling members serving their community is not a duty but responsibility.
“A lot has been said about your 75th anniversary and all you’ve done,” said Davis. “You’ve done an exceptional job for the community in your 75 years of service.” Presidential Certificates of Recognition (the fourth highest honor given by Lions Clubs) were awarded to Lions Kitty Smith, Jerry Varner and Bill Webb.
The dinner was catered by the Lisa Beachy family and entertainment was provided by Crooked Road Performing Artists Willard Gayhart and Bobby Patterson.
Local and district services the Lions are involved in include a regional eye clinic, vision screenings in schools and health fairs, hearing aids, the LEO Club Program, the Lions Club International Foundation Peace Poster Contest, youth camps, Bland Music Contest, school supplies for youth, supporting the Southwest Virginia Training Center and books for children.
David Broyles may be reached at 279-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.