As the sun sinks slowly in the west, the Evans' Rotary Ship of State sails. One year ago this week was a high point in the life of William Gerald Evans, as he became president of the Lodi Rotary Club.
The club was chartered February 21, 1921, 87 years ago. Jerry, whose motto is," Live each day as a new adventure," took the gavel in 2007, and in doing so, gave life to the motto since every meeting for the year has been a new adventure, not only for him, but the members of the club and Colleen, his wife, as well.
Jerry was a San Joaquin County sheriff deputy for years and therefore developed a concept that, in some cases, the customer is always wrong. From the first day of his presidency, Jerry could be seen every Thursday noon thereafter, stalking about the room looking for culprits he could fine in order to benefit the club financially and give new meaning to the term Rotary president. He was no Idi Amin, but rest assured, if he saw your picture in the local paper without the adornment of a Rotary pin on your person, that was cause for a $100 alarm to be sure.
In spite of his commanding appearance and militant demeanor, Jerry is a pussy-cat and wouldn't hurt a flea so the members all saw Jerry as a fuzz-ball big daddy instead of a vengeful Godfather bent on mayhem.
Jerry believes in mottos and started every meeting with one. Many of us would have benefited greatly from that gesture had he taken the time to speak into the microphone and/or bothered to rehearse the reading of the motto so as to determine the precise meaning by using the punctuation of the piece as a guide. I had a patient years ago who would take the time to miss-speak on purpose, so when he would ask, "What's the latest dope?" it would come out as: "What's the latest, Dope?"
I wish Jerry would have found a consistent source of advice and humor like Will Rogers for his mottos because Will was a man of the people and so is Gerry. So when Will said, "Never kick a cow pie on a hot day," it meant what it said and was something truly practical.
Jerry has been planning to not have a traumatic Kick-Out for over a year. In fact, Mike Smith was an unintended beneficiary of Jerry because Jerry was hoping to make Mikey's re-entry into the world of ordinary Rotarians as uneventful and benign as possible with the fond hope Mike and his committee would reciprocate. The last thing Jerry would like to do is emulate such heroes as Ted Holmstrom and Ted Molfino since their respective rites of passage were ghastly specters in the eyes of a potential claustrophobic or acrophobic immediate past president.
In fact, if you want to see a white-knuckle scenario, fix it so Jerry can't move. Molfino was a submarine officer in the Navy so being imprisoned in a shipping crate for a couple of hours was an adventure, whereas an ordinary individual who was not interested in that kind of isolation would likely break out in a cold sweat. I know I would.
This year has been fun with Jerry at the helm. The one thing we knew for sure was that we never knew for sure what Jerry would say. Particularly if a guest came in the room wearing a big, black western hat or happened to be named Shelia. Jerry is a Capricorn born on the first of January. Characteristics of Capricorns include truthfulness, candor, thrift, and a dedication to a given vocation. Jerry is a gifted woodworker who loves creating wooden objects of long-term usefulness, and when he was a cop, loved busting certain criminal low-life types over the head with a stick creating long-term fearfulness. (Creativity takes many forms.)
Jerry loves being president of this club. When he calls people, he always identifies himself as "The President" or "Your President."
Reminds me of the time somebody recorded Lyndon Johnson in church. As he looked up in prayer, he was heard to say, "Lord, this is yore president."
We thank Jerry for the memorable year in Rotary and wish him much happiness and continued success. The next few weeks are going to be as Cliff Dochterman, the Past R.I. Pres put it, "My mailman thought I died."
Virgil Suess, our absolute best Rotary recruiter ever, found leaving the gavel was a lot harder than taking it and I know Jerry will find that too.
See it this way; It is better to be a has-been than a never was because a has-been has been and a never was never was.