Though it is not unusual for Rotary Clubs, groups who strongly believe in community and world service, to have in their membership one or two sets of members who are also partners, what is unique about the Rotary Club of Westfield-Mayville is that it has a long history of having member couples. In fact, this Rotary Club may be the only club in Rotary District 7090 that lays claim to having six sets of married couples.
The Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club was chartered in 1929. Its club membership aspect is notable in that Rotary International did not admit women as members until May 1987. Prior to then, the Westfield-Mayville Rotary had “Rotary Anns,” women who helped with various Rotary service projects and fundraisers, though who were not recognized as members.
Dynamic duos of the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club are Steve and Helen Baran, Tom and Janese Berkhouse, J.B. and Linda Dunn, Mike and Adele Harrington, Steve Stratton and Patty Benton, and Jim Wakeman and Sue Hammond. These 12 Rotarians share a total of 238 years of membership and dedicated service to others through the five Rotary Avenues of Service of Community, International, Vocational, Club and Youth Services. Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self. The above members constitute 40% of the Westfield-Mayville Rotary’s active membership. In terms of years of membership, the range for these 12 Rotarians is from 5 to 49.
In addition, 9 of these Rotarians have served in the role of club president. Patty Benton, who served in 1995-1996 as this Rotary Club’s first female president, stated, “In 1989, when I first joined, there were only a few women in Rotary. For this reason, I was hesitant to join, but I was already involved with helping with various club fundraisers. Rotary is a great organization. It offers many opportunities to help improve our local community as well as our global community.”
Steve Stratton, Benton’s spouse, said he joined Rotary in 1976 because he “was encouraged to do so by his sponsor and mentor Lou Habig. I joined as a way to be involved in the community.” Stratton, who served in various officer roles, was club president in 1981-1982. Regarding his spouse being a fellow club member, he stated, “My best friend is with me at every meeting, and we enjoy volunteering together.” Patty Benton added, “We have the opportunity to work on the same projects, plus on Tuesdays, when we have Rotary meetings, I don’t have to make dinner!”
Janese Berkhouse, who is the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club’s current president and also auction co-chair, said, “When you are active in an organization, it often becomes a family affair. Prior to both my husband and I being members, we would participate together in various service projects. The non-Rotarian would also attend special Rotary events. It was only natural that we both join. We both believe in Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self” and in giving back to our local and global communities.”
Tom Berkhouse, who is this Rotary Club’s community service chair and auction co-chair, as well as past club treasurer, joined Rotary because he “wanted to give back to the community.” When asked about the challenges that are unique to being married to a fellow member of this Rotary Club, he replied, “My wife Janese is President!”
J.B. Dunn, who served as board director and community service chair, stated that he joined this Rotary Club “because my best friends belonged.” He noted that being married to a fellow club member offers “the opportunity to work together on projects.”
Linda Dunn, who joined in 1987 and became this club’s second female president in 1996-1997, joined Rotary because “Bridgett Best Johnson, who was the editor of the Westfield Republican, invited me to join. At that time, I was the Mayor of Westfield. Also, I knew about Rotary because my father was a Rotarian in Falconer.” In addition to serving as president, Linda Dunn served as club treasurer, board director and youth exchange chair.
J.B. and Linda Dunn had participated in a Rotary Friendship Exchange in England. Linda Dunn noted, “The British had trouble accepting me as a Rotarian, because of my gender. During the experience, J.B. attended a meeting of the Rotary Inner Wheel, which was a session for women. We, as Rotary partners/members, should always be accepted as individuals, rather than only as a couple.”
Helen Baran, who in 1997-1998 followed Linda Dunn in the role of club president, stated that she joined Rotary because “her husband was a member.” As such, she “was actively involved in many of the club’s activities.” Helen Baran has also served in the roles of president-elect, secretary and board director, plus committee chair of the auction, scholarship, community service and Group Study Exchange.
Steve Baran, who joined Rotary in 1966, served in all club officer roles, including as president in 1969. At the Rotary district level, he served as district director and Group Study Exchange Chair. In 1982 he was the Team Leader of the Rotary Group Study Exchange Team whose valuable exchange experience was held in Israel. Also, he started his club’s vocational event known as “Rural-Urban Day.”
As Helen Baran stated about being married to a fellow Westfield-Mayville Rotarian, “Some of the advantages are the ability to work together on projects and to be supportive of each other, though sometimes your ideas and focus are not the same.” Helen also participated in the exchange trip to Israel.
Mike Harrington, whose membership sponsor was his spouse Adele Harrington, said that he joined Rotary because “we were fortunate to be a Rotary Youth Exchange host family for a student and, as a result, were exposed to the many good things that the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club and Rotary worldwide does for humanity. In addition to doing good in the world and in our local communities, were blessed to be able to expand our circles of friendship to include Rotarians locally, throughout Rotary District 7090, and around the globe.”
He continued, “I was fortunate to follow my wife Adele Harrington as club president, so I had become aware of the roles and tasks of the office prior to my serving. Also, we attended Rotary District 7090 Conferences and President Elect Training Sessions as a “Rotary couple,” and repeatedly became re-energized after each event. With both of us being Rotary members sometimes the amount of time engaged in activities, albeit rewarding, becomes a bit onerous.” Mike Harrington also served in the roles of president-elect, past president and board director.
Adele Harrington said, “I had been involved with Rotary activities since high school. I was a charter member of my school’s Interact Club in 1987, and I participated in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program that same year. Fast forward to 2011, when we became a host family for a Rotary exchange student, and my interest in becoming a Rotarian was fueled again by that life-changing experience.”
Currently serving at the Rotary district level as assistant governor, some of the club positions that Adele Harrington has held are president-elect, president (2015-2016), past president, director, youth exchange officer, programs chair and Gold Rush chair. She noted that her husband “Mike and I served as club president in back-to-back years, so essentially were both club president two years in a row. If our marriage could survive that, it can survive anything!”
Jim Wakeman, who serves in the Westfield-Mayville Rotary Club as Committee Chair of Foundation Chair, PolioPlus Challenge, and District Grants, was sponsored for membership in 2009 by his spouse Sue Hammond. His reasons for joining include his “interest in service and because my wife’s Sue’s Rotary enthusiasm and engagement inspired me to join.” Wakeman has also served as a member of the Rotary District 7090 Grants Subcommittee, as a board director of his club, and represented his club and Rotary District 7090 during a water wells installation project in Niger in 2010.
Wakeman noted, “Being married to another Rotarian of the same club provides the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other, to clarify and confirm understandings, and to motivate each other. You end up serving on and becoming involved with at least twice the number of committees and service projects, as those in which your spouse is engaged.”
Sue Hammond joined Rotary because of wanting to be involved with community and international service projects. Prior to joining as an individual member in 2008, Hammond was a corporate member of Rotary. In addition to serving two consecutive terms as club president from 2010-2012, she was president-elect, past president, director and committee chair of programs, winter festival parking and more. In 2010 she also visited Niger to participate in the water wells project. She is the current public relations chair of her club.
About being married to a fellow club member, Hammond said, “My spouse and I are able to exchange ideas and discuss various viewpoints related to our Rotary Club’s activities. We support each other in our various causes and roles. Some limits are needed to avoid being overly engaged with numerous Rotary matters at all hours of the day, every day. We resolve our differences by engaging other Rotarians in the discussion.”
As Jim Wakeman summarized, “During those times of differences of opinion about Rotary matters, it’s good for Rotarian couples to remind themselves, “Service Above Spouse!” Sometimes two heads are better than one!