Rotary Club of Kenora

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Rotary Club of Kenora's Club History as prepared by Rotarians James Retson and Don Cameron

Part 1 by James Retson

The History of the Kenora Rotary Club begins at least by October 1919 when Dr. Crawford McCulloch, then governor of the 19th District of the International Association of Rotary Clubs, delegated Joseph A. Fife of Fort Williams to make a survey of Kenora area to ascertain the possibilities of establishing a local Rotary Club.

Joseph A Fife, a cousin to Ashton Thomas Fife of Kenora had lived and worked in Kenora for a period and moved to Fort Williams in 1909. On October 13th 1919 on a second visit to Kenora when he met with a number of Kenora citizens who showed an interest in forming a club. A report was sent to the International Association of Rotary Clubs at Chicago recommending the establishing a Rotary Club in Kenora. In this report Kenora was described as a "most beautiful" community located on the main transcontinental line of famous Canadian Pacific Railway 293 miles from Fort Williams and 133 from Winnipeg, a mecca for tourists and campers, who come there during the summer months to enjoy the exhilarating air, excellent fishing and beautiful scenery. The area boasted three very large flour mills, two large saw mills and a box factory, the latter being one of the largest in the country. The "Great War" had just finished and Fife had no problems recommending the establishment of a Rotary Club in the Kenora area.

For chairman of a committee on organization, he recommended the name of W. G. Cameron, President of Cameron-Heap Company Ltd., Wholesale Grocers.

The first meeting of Kenora Rotary Club was held Tuesday, February 10 1920 at the Tourist Hotel (later renamed the Kenricia). The club continued to meet weekly thereafter. Rotary International website officially issued on the Charter on March 1, 1920. The Rotary Club of Kenora held its charter night on Saturday March 20 1920 when it became Club Charter number 640, District 19. Twenty three members from the Port Arthur and Fort Williams Club and Fourteen from the Winnipeg Club attended the Charter Meeting. Joseph a. Fife who was responsible for the formation of the Club presided at the first part of the program and turned the gavel over his cousin Ashton Thomas fife the new club's Vice President.

Charters members as identified in March 24 1920 Kenora newspaper include

Joseph Thomas Brett            Grain Merchant-Elevators
William George Cameron        Wholesale Grocer
Henry Porter Cooke              Lawyer
Ashton Thomas Fife              Retail Hardware
John Goldie                           Flour Manufacturer
James J. Horn                       CPR- Officer
Charles W. Jackson               Baker
Joseph Johnson                     Druggist
Chris H. McKinnon                  Retail Grocery
Donald "Dan" McLeod             Sawmill
Dr. James Patterson Paton     Physician
Cyril G. Royd                         Banker -CIBC?
Dr. C. N. Schnarr                   Dentist
Melvin Seegmiller                    Life Insurance
George A. Toole                     Estate Manger - Drewry

Of these 15 identified charter members, 10 subsequent became presidents of the club.


PART 2 by Don Cameron

It was less than 15 short years after the first Rotary club was formed in Chicago that nine intrepid businessmen in Kenora began to consider the concept of a service club in their small town. They had been exposed to such clubs when their business took them to Winnipeg and Thunder Bay and in 1920 the concept took root. Over the years the Rotary Club of Kenora has had thousands of members and, more significantly, ninety-eight presidents prepared to dedicate one year of their lives as leaders in the community. All have embraced the challenges of raising funds and investing them in local and international projects.


In the early days, funds were raised for community facilities and there have been "bricks and mortar" projects continuously since then. 


In 1955 the club found funds for braces for a young handicapped boy in the Kenora area and so began a string of projects helping handicapped children. Kenora Rotary has a commendable record of support for the Youth Drop-In Centre in Kenora and similar projects over the years.


Kenora Rotary has been a staunch supporter of the arts, with an annual contribution to the Festival of the Arts, sponsorship of live, culture performances like the Harbourfront Concert series, and many visits of the Thunder Bay Symphony and it has made many contributions to development of the Heritage Murals.


Kenora Rotary introduced student exchanges to Kenora in 1976 and they have sponsored no less than 55 student exchanges since then. Twenty-six students from Kenora have gone to Australia, Europe, South America, and Japan, while twenty six have come from the same countries to spend a year in Kenora.  


As Rotary International matured its focus matured beyond creating clubs around the world and as it began sponsoring projects in third-world countries, so it was with the Rotary Club of Kenora. Acknowledging that there are people in small far-flung communities with greater needs than our communities have ever known, Kenora Rotary funded water projects, eye-care services, medical facilities, schools and many other services that have changed the lives of people in homes far away.


The Rotary Goodwill Geyser on the Harbourfront of Kenora stands as a monument to the Rotary Club of Kenora's commitment to the many international projects it has done. For many years the club has invested in clean drinking water in third-world communities. Blessed with an abundance of water in Lake of the Woods, Kenora Rotary raised the Goodwill Geyser to acknowledge these projects and the good fortune that residents in the Kenora area enjoy.