The Rio Vista Rotary Club received its charter on February 13, 1953. The District Governor was Otto Hieb, and his representatives were Jerry Fiedler and George Drulay of the Dixon Rotary and Ian Strange and Vic Parachini of the Antioch Rotary. The official club initiation took place March 4, 1953, at the American Legion Hall, which was located at the corner of California and Third Streets in Rio Vista. Over 400 persons attended. The keynote speaker was Dr. Tully Knowles, Chancellor, College of the Pacific. There were 27 Charter Members.
A membership book published in 1975 by then President, Buddy Kuwaye, pictures 5 remaining charter members at that time. They were Manuel Asta, John Kincheloe, Jesse Marks, Art Schafer, and Milt Wallace. Milt later served as mayor of Rio Vista, and for quite a while he was the only remaining charter member of the club.
One of the members, Albert M. “Fum” Jongeneel, who was club president 1959-60, also served as our District Governor 1965-66.
Numerous Rio Vista Rotarians have served as city council members and as mayors, including. Eddie Woodruff, Norm Richardson, Jerry Rubier and Fred Harris. Rotarians who have served as council members include Jack Krebs and Bob Bard. Hector Dela Rosa was City Manager and Rob Hickey holds that post currently.
Years ago, many Rotarians prided themselves on their 100% attendance records. That meant that if they couldn’t attend a meeting, they would make it up within the week before or the week following the meeting. They would often take a few club banners along when they took a trip to far away places and exchange banners with the club where they made up.
When women were first admitted to membership, several staunchly ingrained Rio Rotarians swore that if a woman were let in, they would leave. However, nobody ever left when the first woman, Dr. Audrey Keebler, Rio Vista High School Principal, joined the club. In fact, she soon became the club’s first woman president. Since then, the women that joined Rotary proved themselves to be tireless, dependable, enthusiastic workers and supporters of the club.
All club members devote much of their valuable time and efforts to club events, including major fund raisers such as the annual Marta Dron Memorial golf tournament, Bass Festival linguiça and beer booths, Tequila Y Más, and Hog August Bites Rib & Chile Cook-Off. They also support the club’s grammar school dictionary program, Camp Royal, Camp Venture, local and international scholarships, Appreciation Night Dinner, and many other youth and senior programs each year.
The club publishes a weekly newsletter, the “Rio Rotarian,” currently edited by Bob Bard. The original club website was constructed and donated to the club by John Smulo in 2009. Then, in 2013, the website was moved to the District 5160 group of websites with the collaboration of Vic Georgiou and then Secretary Jim McCracken, who was succeeded in the role by Leon Guzenda. Current and past editions of the “Rio Rotarian” may be found on this website.
Traditionally, the club’s leader has experienced some difficulty maintaining possession of the gavel. A president needs the gavel to run an orderly meeting. However, no Rio Vista Rotary president has ever been able to hang on to it. Yet, s/he must lead. To solve this conundrum, Past President Bob Gile drilled a hole in the handle of the gavel and chained it to his belt loop. Somehow, he lost it, anyway. Sometimes, the gavel has reappeared in unexpected places, such as a piñata, a cake, or a block of ice. Once, it went unnoticed, hanging over the president’s head throughout an entire meeting. The Club’s opening and closing bell has had a somewhat similar history.
The highlight of each year is the ignominious demotion of the hapless president as his/her reign comes to a crashing halt. Gary Lazdowski, Executive Club Secretary, invests countless hours of planning and scheming to assure our club’s leader of a befitting, culmination to his/her term of leadership. Often, a skit is presented that lovingly reflects the outgoing president’s many idiosyncrasies that the membership has had to endure the entire year.
Rotary meetings have been held at various times and locations, including the back room at Foster’s Bighorn, Thursday evenings at the Point Waterfront Restaurant, and Friday mornings at Jessen’s, the Point, the Poppy House, and currently at The Point Restaurant, 120 Marina Dr, Rio Vista.
Throughout the years, membership has varied, usually hovering between 35–40 persons. Despite the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, the club added three new Members. The club has always enjoyed great camaraderie that promotes cooperation and charity. For example, the Rio Vista Rotary was able to raise $37,000 to contribute to construction of the city’s new million dollar swimming pool. More recently, they contributed to a new van for RVHS and Chromebook’s for the Middle School in Mulege, Mexico. Club members pride themselves on working together to help those in need locally and globally.