Portland Rotary Centennial Celebration

Portland Rotary:  100 Years of Service above Self


The Beginnings of Rotary in Portland, Maine
The world-wide Rotary movement began in 1905, when Paul Harris and three business friends in Chicago met for lunch to discuss the concept of a club that would meet weekly in a spirit of camaraderie to enjoy each other’s company and enlarge their circle of business acquaintances.

The Rotary Club of Chicago was created on February 23, 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member. 

Ten years later, a similar group of businessmen in a coastal Maine city began the process by which, in September of 1915, led to the creation of The Rotary Club of Portland, Maine.

The world in 1915 was on the verge of a cataclysmic event to be known as The Great War. The political and military tenor of the time was fast changing, and framing the social, technological and cultural landscape.

Prelude to Charter
On December 10, 1914, a Thursday, an informal “get together” lunch was held at the Falmouth Hotel in Portland to hold preliminary discussions to explore the potential for a Rotary Club in Portland, Maine. The following week, on December 17, a second meeting was held at Forest City Trust, where a list of potential members was presented for consideration.

This list of approximately 33 Portland businessmen included names such as  Robert Braun, Wilfred G. Chapman, Dr. J.B. Drummond, John J. Nissen, Edward A. Hay, Edward Hannaford, Fred F. Lord, A. H. Ford to name but a few. On January 15, 1915, “members” gathered at the Falmouth Hotel on Middle Street and there began a schedule of weekly meetings. It was determined that “the charter would remain open” until 50 members were obtained and a membership fee would be determined at a later date.  

On June 18, a farewell speech was delivered by President Robert Braun and the new President, Frank Rawson, was welcomed by the club. Membership numbered 100 and attendance averaged 75%. The Club continued to attract notable speakers including, on August 16, Rear Admiral Robert E. Peary, the renowned explorer of the Arctic region. Admiral Peary was made an Honorary Member of the Club on August 20, 1915.

The Rotary Club of Portland, Maine

The official charter of the Rotary Club of Portland, Maine was granted on September 1, 1915. The first official meeting as a chartered club was held on September 10 at Mitchell’s in Scarborough featuring a clambake, followed by a lively baseball game between the “farmers and the city guys”. Farmers won, 18-14.

By the time that Portland Rotary was established the early emphasis on fellowship and business had already evolved, to add the all-important concept of community service, and early forms of the motto “Service above Self” and “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” had already been born.   

As the years went by, Portland Rotarians increasingly used their fellowship and vocations as opportunities for service to the greater Portland community, to youth and to the world. And they had fun doing it! 

(To view a larger image of the club charter, click on 'Portland Rotary Charter' at left.)

WWII to Present
One of the most impressive service projects undertaken by the Club occurred in 1948, when post-war Europe was suffering from severe poverty and food shortages. In response to the crisis, Portland Rotary loaded a fishing trawler that had been built by Bath Iron Works for the French government with tons of food and clothing. In coordination with the Rotary Club of Nantes, France, the cargo left Portland to great and boisterous applause and docked in France to an equally raucous reception. The cargo was distributed to the poor fisher folk who had lost their boats, jobs and livelihood as a result of the Second World War. And later that fall, a second boat – named by Rotary the “Bateau de Pere Noel” – carried a second cargo of nothing but baby food and toys to the children of the area!

This international service project was followed by other major efforts to help the third world, including the donation of well over $100,000 by the Club and its members to the Polio Plus initiative by Rotary International. This ongoing effort to eliminate the scourge of Polio worldwide was spearheaded in the late 1980’s by Past President Naj Lotfey and continues to the present day under the determined leadership of Amy Chipman. 

A major change in the Club occurred in the Rotary year 1987-88, when the Club first admitted women members. Jane Shurz, Judy Cavalero, Loretta Rowe and Meredith Small were among the pioneering first women members. They and those talented and industrious women who followed them have enriched the club and become vital leaders in Rotary. Their addition has to be ranked as one of the most positive developments in the history of this wonderful organization.

Also, present-day Portland Rotarians are very proud that, under the leadership of Dr. Roger Fagan, his wife Liz and John Curran, for many years have carried out the “3-H” (hearing, hands and H2O) project, which brings and installs hearing aids, prosthetic hands and water filters to underprivileged people in the cane fields of the Dominican Republic.

But as proud as the Club is of these and many other international service efforts, the major emphasis of Portland Rotary has been community service right here in greater Portland, Maine. Rotarians have tirelessly volunteered their time, talent and treasure to help senior citizens, youth, the poor, and our community in general. Members have raked lawns, cut brush, replaced light bulbs, built wooden bridges, tutored and read to kids, fed the homeless, visited the aged, etc. in a myriad of projects over the years. 

Permanent monuments to those efforts include Rotary Grove on the Eastern Prom Trail, “The Armillary” statue on the Waterfront, the Rotary Clock in Monument Square, the elevator in Merrill Auditorium, and the Maine Children’s Cancer Program, which received a major contribution from the Club during our 75th Anniversary year.

To view an image of the District Family Tree, click on 'District 7780 Family Tree of Clubs' at left.

Charter Members

Ackerman, Percy S.
Adams, Silas B.
Albion, Rev. James F.
Allen, Charles G.
Allen, Frank C.
Anderson, Thomas H.
Ayer, John P.
Ayers, Walter E.
Bachelder, Elmer N.
Bailey, Charles J.
Bailey, Scott G.
Baker, Harry E.
Bird, Maynard S.
Bigelow, Harry M.
Bigelow, James F.
Beves, George E.
Borden, Philip H.
Braun, Francis J.
Braun, Robert
Brockway, Walter B.
Brown, Natt W.
Calhoun, David A.
Chapman, Wilford G.
Clark, Franklin P.
Clark, Seth F.
Clay, Herbert A.
Connolly, Judge Joseph E.F.
Cousens, William T.
Crosman, George L.
Cummings, A.L.T.
Daggett, Willie L.
Dana, John W.
Davis, Guy W.
Decker, Ernest E.
Dickey, Charles B.
Dodge, Rex W.
Drummond, Joseph B.
Dunton, Guy F.
Dyer, Reuben K.
Ford, Albert H.
Gould, Frank L.R.
Hamilton, Fred G.
Hannaford, Edward W.
Hapgood, Sherman
Hatch, Charles P.
Hay, Edward A.
Hay, Walter G.
Hinds, A. Harry
Hobbs, J. Marshall
Hoegg, Daniel W.
Horan, James W.
Howe, Ralph H.
Jack, James T.
Keith, Willard F.
Lang, Edward M., Jr.
Leighton, Adam P.
Leonard, William F.
Libby, Robert D.
Lord, Fred F.
Lothrop, Harry W.
Low, Frank M.
MacFarlane, Will C.
MacNeally, Harry A.
Mank, Miles B.
Marriner, James E.
McDonald, John E.
Miller, Francis T.
Moore, Walter G.
Morrissey, Michael A.
Nelson, Gardner L.
Nickerson, A. Eugene
Nissen, John J.
Ohler, William H., Jr.
Perkins, Deforest H.
Phillips, Herbert O.
Pooler, James J.
Priest, Charles H.
Rawson, Frank L.
Redlon, Nathan C.
Richardson, Stephen J.
Robinson, Charles A.
Shaw, Frank L.
Shea, Richard D.
Shurtleff, W. Harry
Smart, Burton
Smith, Arthur N.
Smith, Dr. Harold L.
Smith, Joseph
Stevens, John Calvin
Stockbridge, Robert W.
Susskraut, Herman W.
Sykes, Eugene E.
Thomas, Robert S.
Thompson, Frederick W.
Tobie, Leroy F.
Tower, Frederick L.
Trefethen, Walter S.
Watkins, Ernest L.
Wish, Oliver P.T.
Wish, Oscar R.
Wilson, Harry M.
 1915 Club President
Robert Braun