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Paul P. Harris, a Chicago lawyer, was the founder of Rotary, February 23, 1905. The purpose was to provide a setting where business and professional persons might recapture the friendliness and comradeship of the small town life many had known as youngsters. Initially there were four members and they met, in rotation, at each other's place of business each week, thus the name Rotary.


Wisconsin Rapids Noon Rotary Club

When Rotary Came to Wisconsin Rapids

In the spring of 1919, the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids, Wisconsin was in the early planning stages of establishing a new club in our community. The community was in the midst of planning for welcoming home the soldiers from World War I, the Grand Rapids Brewery Co. was brewing “Absolutely Clear” bottled beer, the First National Bank was 47 years old, George W. Mead was proposing construction of an electric line through Wood County and the state was calling for bids to pave the Stevens Point to Wausau road.

In the spring of 1919, a group of Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Wausau, met with a number of potential Rotary members in our community to learn the details of organizing a new Rotary Club in Grand Rapids, Wis., now Wisconsin Rapids.  The Wausau club had about 100 members and has about 20 on their waiting list. They explained that Rotary Clubs should include one representative from each kind of business or profession in the city.

On May 27, 1919, the initial steps toward the organization of our Rotary Club were taken at a luncheon at the Dixon Hotel, when about 20 of the charter members of the organization gathered together and elected officers.

The following evening, about 75 Rotarians from Wausau, Merrill, Stevens Point and Marshfield met with our charter members for an evening banquet at the Witter Hotel and heard Burton E. Nelson, District Governor of the 15th District outline the purposes of Rotary. At this meeting, Mr. Nelson stated that the motto of Rotary is “service, not self.”

The Club was granted a charter on June 17, 1919

The first officers of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids were:

President: Charles F. Kellogg, Lumber – Wholesale
Vice President: Guy O. Babcock, Banking
Secretary: Lacy Horton, Flour Manufacturing
Treasurer: Charles E. Boles, Abstracts

Other Directors:

George W. Mead, Print Paper Manufacturing
Rogers J. Mott, Butter Manufacturing
Emrys W. Ellis, Wood Box Manufacturing

Sergeant at Arms:  Otto R. Roenius, Foundry

When first organized the charter members met at the Witter Hotel which stood on the river bank at what is now the east end of the Jackson Street bridge.  Later, they met at the old Congregational Church building on Fourth Avenue.  They then went back to the Rose Room of the Hotel Witter and have met at the Hotel Mead since it opened in 1951. In fact, the Rotary Club of Wisconsin Rapids held its first luncheon at the Mead even before it was open to the public.  We have been meeting at the Mead ever since.

One Hundred Years of Service

Over the past one hundred years, the Noon Rotary Club of Wisconsin Rapids and its members have lived Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self.” The next one hundred years of service promises to see our two Rotary Clubs and Rotarians working together to make the Wisconsin Rapids area a great place to live, work and play.



Wisconsin Rapids Sunrise Rotary Club

On Thursday August 3, 1995, twenty-nine people attended the first meeting of a provisional Sunrise Rotary Club at 7 am at the Mead Inn in Wisconsin Rapids. The extension committee of the Wisconsin Rapids Noon Club contained Bob Zimmerman, Art Gilmaster, Paul Gross, Ed Heuer and John Siewert. Of the original number, twenty one went on to be members in Sunrise Rotary.

Wisconsin Rapids Sunrise Rotary was chartered on December 29, 1995. A Charter banquet was held April 28, 1996 at the Mead Inn with a total of 39 members. It was one of the largest new Clubs being chartered in the 6250 District of Rotary at that time. Paul Bergmann, District Governor, presided and presented the Charter to the club. Joe Lane, who had been president of a Rotary Club in Tennessee, became the first Sunrise President and held that position for 1 ½ years. The other officers were Dean Ryerson, Vice President; Janice Retzloff, Secretary; Jere Johnson, Treasurer and Larry Schmick, Sergeant of Arms. Robert Bassuener and Ellen Dahl were selected as Directors on the Board.

Sunrise Charter Brochure

A Club flag was designed by Ellen Dahl, to depict the local area; the river with rapids, paper mills, trees and cranberries.

Sunrise Club Flag

Wisconsin Rapids Rotary Clubs have contributed over $370,000 to local and
International charities from its “Give to Share” auctions, “Fun to Share the
Gift of Education” events, Run/Walk for Life events Glow Ball Golf event,
Vegas Night event and Dancing for a Cause event since the Charter of Sunrise in 1995.

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