Official History: Rotary Club of Las Cruces – Rio Grande (District 5520) (last revised 7/10)
In 1975 the Las Cruces Rotary Club (known informally as the Wednesday club) had over one hundred members. As a result of this large membership, many of the fellowship purposes of Rotary were not being achieved. In addition, due to the membership classification system, quite a few deserving Las Crucens were denied entrance into the Club and the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of Rotary. Thus, in the spring of that year, five local Rotarians made history by chartering a much-needed second club, Rio Grande Rotary (soon to be known as the Tuesday club).
These intrepid Rotarians — a banker, a bus operator, a news reporter, a title company owner and a part-time lawyer — met at the Palms Motel in Las Cruces in April 1975 and, after taking notes on a cocktail napkin, embarked on their audacious endeavor. They spent three and a half months planning, preparing and organizing, and, on August 14, 1975, their hard work came to fruition.
Who were the five? Bob Heckler, at the time Senior Vice-President of Western Bank; Walter Rubens, then with KOBE Radio; Bob Crews of Whitfield Transportation; John Floyd of Las Cruces Abstract & Title Co.; and Ernie Williams, a local attorney. Each of these gentlemen had been a member of the Las Cruces Rotary club for many years prior to 1975. With the support of Ralph Stucky, then District Governor of Rotary District 552 (now District 5220), these pioneers prepared the paperwork and handled the details in order for the new club to qualify. Consent had to be obtained not only from Rotary International but also from the Las Cruces Rotary Club. In addition, a broad-based group of prospective members had to be compiled, all of whom had to be approved by the governing arm of District 552 and Rotary International. All this was accomplished in less than four months.
With thirty-one original members, the Rio Grande Rotary (actually, Rotary Club of Las Cruces – Rio Grande) received its charter on August 14, 1975, making Las Cruces the first community in New Mexico to have two active Rotary clubs. On August 30 a celebration was held at the Palms Motel. Many dignitaries attended, including Jerry Apodaca, at that time Governor of New Mexico, along with Rotary Club presidents, Rotarians and guests from Mexico, West Texas and, of course, New Mexico. The first officers of Rio Grande Rotary were Ernie Williams, Charter President; John Floyd, Vice-President; and Bob Crews, Secretary/Treasurer. The initial Board members were Charles Day, Don Fredrickson, Tony Gomez and Casper Lutz.
A quarter of a century later, John Floyd, one of the 1975 charter members, recalled, “I moved to Las Cruces in 1958 and joined Rotary a year later. At that time the Las Cruces Club had 50 members or so. After a few years, there was some talk about forming a second club to provide more opportunities for people to join Rotary and to help with make-ups. From the beginning we had the support of the original club.
“Ernest Williams, who recently passed away, was the power behind the movement. He recruited Bob Heckler, Walt Rubens, Bob Crews and me to help him. We had to go out and find a certain number of new Rotary candidates in different categories. We could not recruit members from original club — they had to be new Rotarians (beyond the original five). Ed Binns came in then as a charter member. Ernie became the first President, and I was the second.
“I think the Rio Grande Rotary Club has been a real good organization for Las Cruces. We’ve had some excellent presidents over the years (my son Guy was a much better president than I was 24 years ago). Rio Grande Rotary has grown and done many worthy projects for the community. I’m glad to have been a part of it all.” John’s recollections help us remember where we came from and how we got here.
Since that auspicious beginning in 1975, Rio Grande Rotary has thrived as it has served the greater Las Cruces community. The club now has close to 80 members. Current officers are Vic Villalobos, President; Sharon DeBraal, President-Elect; Brad Beasley, Treasurer; Loren Kuehne, Club Secretary; Andy Reed, Past-President; Laura Smart, Club Administration; Matt Olson, Service Projects; Dan Diemer, Membership; Wendy Beserra, Foundation Director; Dona Hearn, Public Relations; Mike Beckett, Sgt-at-Arms.
Club Character: Rio Grande Rotary Club is an active group of men and women who meet at 11:45 a.m. every Tuesday year round at the Hilton Garden Inn, 2530 Don Roser Dr., just off University Ave & Hwy 25. We are a growing club (currently more almost 80 members) who enjoy each other’s company and participate enthusiastically in club affairs. We publish an award-winning monthly newsletter, The Rio Report, which is available each month online (go to www.lcrotaryclubs.com) and look forward each week to invited speakers who share information about Rotary and many local, state and national topics. We encourage our members to take active roles in club leadership and in service projects that benefit our community. We also sponsor social activities and offer opportunities for members to volunteer their services. We are committed to Rotary’s 4-Way Test. For the Rotary year 2005-2006, Rotary years 2005-2006,2006-2007, 2007-2008 we were awarded the District Club of the Year for medium size clubs and we have received the coveted RI Presidential Citation from 2005-2006 through 2009-2010, we also received the Most Increased Membership in District 5220 for the year 2009-2010 award.
Service Above Self: The club conducts many activities each year and supports a variety of service projects.
In Conclusion: Rio Grande Rotary continues to be a vibrant, growing club with numerous projects and activities that benefit our community, our nation and our world.
January 10, 2007