A Giving Organization’

Cary Rotarians celebrate 50 years of service

On any given day in Cary, families visit the Cary YMCA and the Cary Community Library, enjoy picnics under the shelter at Harold Ritter Park, and check the time via downtown’s clock.   

Boys Scouts earn badges, students earn scholarships, we all look forward to Lazy Daze and Pig Pickin’ in the Park … and for each of the above, we can thank Cary Rotarians.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Rotary service in Cary, via five clubs and 300 service-minded members. Each weekday in Cary, one Rotary Club meets.

“I watched my boss go to his Rotary Club meeting each week, but I didn’t really know what Rotary was,” said G. Richard “Dick” Ladd, the visionary behind Cary’s first Rotary Club, and its first president. “All I knew was that he was a good guy who treated everybody right.”

Ladd would learn that those qualities reflect the Rotary motto of Service Above Self, and Rotary’s challenging Four-Way Test:

Of the things we think, say or do: Is it the truth?

Is it fair to all concerned?

Will it build goodwill and better friendships?

Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Once Ladd came to work in Cary, he approached pharmacist Ralph Ashworth of Ashworth Drugs, architect and artist Jerry Miller and others about forming a Cary Rotary Club.

“Understand that in 1964 Cary was just the downtown,” Ashworth said. “There was no hospital, no shopping centers or library. To find 25 gentlemen willing to meet once a week was daunting. It took a year to get that charter.”

“Dick was the main man,” added Miller, “running all over town with his clipboard. We knocked on so many doors.”

Finally, the Cary Rotary Club was chartered on Aug. 1, 1964, with 29 members.

Growing in Service
As Cary grew, so did the number of people interested in serving the community via Rotary. Four new clubs were formed — Cary Central in 1981, Cary-Kildaire in 1984, Cary-Page in 1989, and Cary-MacGregor in 1991 — to provide those opportunities for service.

Exclusive to men initially, the Rotary International Council on Legislation enacted measures allowing Rotary Clubs worldwide to admit women in 1989. The Cary-Page club, chartered that year with 25 members, included Cary’s first female Rotarians: Susan Bristol, Elaine Buxton and Jean Smith.

Today, Cary Rotarians are counted among the 1.2 million members of Rotary International hailing from 200 countries. Founded in 1905 by Chicagoan Paul P. Harris, Rotary is one of the world’s first service organizations.

Rotary’s mark can be seen all across Cary. Rotarians support organizations including Life Experiences, Salvation Army, Backpack Buddies, The Carying Place and Habitat for Humanity.
Late Rotarian Wythe Quarles of the Cary-MacGregor Club even inspired the town’s first public art project, Railroad Man at the Cary Depot.

Ashworth’s favorite Rotary projects are a senior citizens’ ice cream social and sing held each July for more than a quarter-decade now, and a chili dinner benefitting Stop Hunger Now.

Ladd cites the opening of Cary Family YMCA, while Miller notes his favorites as Rotary’s USATF-sanctioned 10K Road Race, which has raised more than $100,000 for local organizations, and Rotary involvement in developing the Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, now in its 38th year.

“We’ve raised so much money over the years through the five Rotary clubs,” Ladd said, “and that’s a source of pride. This is a giving organization.”

Members also support the Rotary Cottage at the Boys & Girls Home at Lake Waccamaw and provide youth opportunities through the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards.

But their work goes well beyond regional borders.

Ashworth notes that local Rotarians are also committed to Rotary International’s global humanitarian efforts, such as the PolioPlus program, which has reduced polio cases by 99 percent since 1985; providing potable water in Nigeria and India; and an annual medical mission trip to Bolivia, serving orphans. 

Notably, 2014-15 Rotary International president, Gary Huang, hails from Taiwan, where Cary has a sister city. 

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rotary in Cary, a public monument to past, present and future Rotarians was dedicated in August, denoting the names and charter dates of each Cary Rotary Club, the Four Way Test, and Rotary motto of Service Above Self.

Tribute to 50 Years
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Rotary in Cary, a public monument to past, present and future Rotarians was dedicated in August, an idea first brought to life on a paper napkin by Miller and Ladd.  

The pentagonal granite piece is topped with the Rotary International seal and motto, denotes the names and charter dates of each Cary Rotary Club, and is installed on the grounds of the Cary Chamber of Commerce.

“The five Cary Rotary Clubs are the backbone of our community, and their support is phenomenal,” said chamber president Howard Johnson, a 28-year Rotarian.

“Much of what Rotary works for, on the business side of things, ties to the chamber philosophy of helping businesses grow and thrive. Many of the same business leaders who started Rotary and have grown it to what it is today, are also charter members of the chamber (which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012). We’re fortunate to have their leadership.”

Cary Rotarians and guests also gathered for the 50th Anniversary of Rotary in Cary Celebration on Aug. 15 at the Cary Arts Center, featuring a mayoral proclamation recognizing Rotary’s impact and a documentary commemorating these 50 years. 

“Rotary is special and distinct, and an important part of our lives,” Ashworth said. “We have fun and accomplish things at the same time; it’s a great combination.”

Ladd agrees: “We’ve been successful. Cary was an active town before Rotary, but I hope that the Four-Way test has affected the town for the good.”

Yet these founders aren’t resting on their 50-year laurels.

“There’s still no art museum in Cary,” Ladd said. “That could be a great Rotary project.”


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