Organized on June 9, 1925, the Milford Rotary will celebrate their 100th year in 2025, a milestone many clubs and organizations would love to achieve. Over the years, the Rotary has held many events and provided much needed support throughout the community, including scholarships, motivation for students to earn honor roll recognition, support for first responders and more. In celebration of their centennial, the organization is seeking photographs of events, students, teachers and more related to the Rotary efforts over the years.
“Mike Orlando is taking care of the actual celebration events for 2025 which will probably include a dinner and more, but I am tasked with the historical portion of the event,” Jim O’Neill said. “And my part is developing a booklet we plan to print and distribute that year. I’m not an historian. So, we recruited Claudia Leister from the Milford Museum, and she has done a tremendous job finding things from the old Milford Chronicle and they have Harvey Marvel’s papers from when he was a district governor of the Rotary. They dug out all kinds of things from him and from all kinds of other sources that she could find. So, that gave us a lot of the early history.”
O’Neill explained that what is missing is a lot of the more recent history, things the Rotary has done over the past 30 years.
“For instance, she didn’t have any materials for the Academic Motivation program. That was a big project for us. We ended up putting over a quarter million dollars into it,” That was a program where the Rotary sponsored middle school students to send them on an educational field trip in the middle of the year and then a fun trip down to Busch Gardens or Hershey Park or something like that at the end of the year, and that would be for the kids that got on the honor roll. It was an incentive program to try to get kids to get on the honor roll. And it worked. We had great results from that.”
Reaching out to early Rotarians like Dave Passwaters and Sudler Lofland, O’Neill explained he has found significant information for the text of the booklet, but many eras of the organization are missing photographs. They are asking people to search their own photo and document collection to see if they may have something related to Rotary activites. O’Neill stated that it may just be a brochure with the photo of an exchange group that were brought here by the Rotary or of students and teachers on the field trips provided by the Academic Motivation program. He is also seeking photos of some founding members of the Rotary as well as events held over the years.
“We had a fundraiser that raised money for the Academic Motivation program called an “Evening of Friendship” and we have very few photographs of those events,” O’Neill said. “We had one that was a real interesting one. I think it caught a lot of attention in the community was when we had the Caribbean theme. We had a Steel Drum Band come in and we had the Rotarians got together, we made some trees, we got the rolls from rugs, and we used that and wrapped burlap around it. We used Christmas tree stands for the base and made fronds for the top, making leaves out of wire and crepe paper kind of things and put it in a in a sand swimming pools, little baby swimming pools, and then we had them all around, gave it a real good look. We have no photographs of that and would love if someone could provide us with some.”
Milford Rotary Club is the oldest service organization in Milford. R.A. “Buck” Derrickson and G. Marshall Townsend were friends with Cornelius Garretson, who was then president of the Wilmington Rotary. They convinced Garretson to sponsor a club in Milford in order to promote better business and shopping conditions in Milford, including the creation of shopping centers. The national Rotary Club had only been around a few years before Milford began with their roots in Chicago.
“Some of our founding members included Louder Hearn, a lumber dealer, Dr. Layton Grier, William Sipple, Harry Pettyjohn who was a druggist,” O’Neill said. “We had Dr. Willard Pierce and James Spears. Dr. O.V. James, N.M. Stokes, who was a jeweler and Charles “Don” Holzmueller. It was a wide variety of people. Some of these founding members we have no photos of and we would love to get as many as we can.”
According to the Milford Historical Society, the first officers of the Milford Rotary were Derrickson; president, Townsend, secretary; and G.T. Reed, treasurer. Reed resigned in 1927 and was succeeded by Holzmueller. Other charter members included C.D. Abbott, S.C. Evans, George H. Hall, C.J. Holzmueller, Harry J. Pettyjohn, James P. Pierce, Willard R. Pierce, William G. Stokes, S.P. Toadvine, Bayard V. Wharton and Elmer T. Williams. O’Neill stated that the Rotary has offered many unique events over the years.
“One of the things that was really neat was in the first year, they brought in Connie Mack from the Philadelphia Athletics, and he gave a talk and then they got a whole lot of things going” O’Neill said. “It’s a small group. It’s not like some of the other groups where they try to get as many people as they can. And so, we’ve been people that have been professionals who were businesspeople, people mainly interested in the betterment of the community.”
The Rotary motto is service above self which means they continuously try to look for projects that will benefit the community. One of the prominent early members were Daniel and Lee Hirsch, brothers who were leaders in the town. Known for philanthropy, the Hirsch brothers donated to churches and hospitals. They also funded the first scholarship given by the Rotary.
“IG Burton was very prominent,” O’Neill said. “In the 30s, he was able to replace the ambulance through the Rotary, he was able to replace the ambulance that Milford had. So, things like that. ways for the community throughout the years.”
Over the years the Milford Rotary has offered their support to many worthwhile causes. At one time, the tag line for Milford was “garden city of twin counties,” which was selected in a contest sponsored by the Rotary and submitted by Mrs. Edward Maag.
Anyone who has photos or other documents they would like to send for the Rotary Centennial booklet can email them to [email protected]. They can also be mailed to the Milford Rotary Club, P.O. Box 10, Milford, DE. 19963.
“If someone has a photo they want to provide, but they don’t have a method to email or mail, they can contact us and we can send a photographer out to take photos,” O’Neill said. “For instance, someone contacted us and told us they have a photo framed on their wall, but they are afraid they may damage it if they take it down. Our photographer is going out to take pictures of it for them.”
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