David McKay Wilson 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Clubs Pay Tribute to Peers On Charter Night each March, the Taylorsville-Winfield Lions gather to light candles for each Lion who has passed away since the club was formed 55 years ago. In the solemn ritual, a relative of the deceased lights the wick, and another member reads the names of those whose service to the Maryland community is remembered that evening. Ed Bennett, 82, the club’s sole surviving founding member, welcomes these ceremonies, held at the Winfield Volunteer Fire Department. He knew each Lion. He recalls what each of them contributed to the club and the good they shared with the world. He remembers Ed Will and David Will, two hardworking brothers who worked to establish the fire department and helped attract a bank to this small town in north-central Maryland. He remembers the Lions with the courage and foresight to buy 3.25 acres of land in 1970 to make Little League fields that continue to serve more than 300 youngsters each spring. The ceremony also rekindles memories of Edgar Pickett, the club’s first Lion to die, just a year after the club was founded. Pickett, who was blind, manufactured brooms in the local shop he owned. “We will never forget Edgar,” says Bennett. “What an inspirational man. For history’s sake, it’s important to remember who originated the club because they did such a good job getting it going.” Lions’ meetings often burst with applause when a personal milestone such as a birth, graduation or new job is acknowledged. Likewise, clubs must also deal with the saddest of news. Death is rarely easily confronted no matter the context. Among Lions handling the passing of a member can present special challenges. Some clubs are especially close-knit if members often see one another around town or if members have grown older together. With other clubs certain members may be good friends and socialize outside club activities while other members remain friendly but distant acquaintances. The intensity of relationships varies between clubs and within clubs. When death occurs, members want to be careful to extend to families the proper respect and to acknowledge the grief of club members. The remembrance one night each year in Taylorsville is one example of how a club honors members who have passed away. In other clubs, it’s a memorial statue and plaque in a town park. Some clubs prefer a service that’s part of the funeral. Others celebrate a member’s life several months later. Clubs sometimes remember a member by linking him or her to a club activity. It could be a golf outing that raises money for the Lions’ charity program or contributions to a cancer center that treated the member. At the Walnut Grove Lions Club in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, members honored former president Sheldon Wood by naming the club’s van “Woody” after he passed away. “He was like a big teddy bear,” recalls Valerie Body, Walnut Grove Lions Club president. “He couldn’t do enough for anybody. Now we call our van the Woody van, and we remember him while we transport our grills for pancake breakfasts and cookouts.” At annual conventions, Lions also remember those who have passed away in a memorial service, like the one That occurs each year in Dover, Delaware, where as many as 800 Lions each year gather from five districts. In Pennsylvania, the Johnstown West Lions Club and the Rev. David Gray, former district governor, developed a remembrance service that members of District 14J make available to all 35 clubs in their region. The 15-minute service is held at the funeral home, and roses are presented to members of the family. In Johnstown, a $100 donation is given to the district Shriners in memory of the deceased Lion (some Lions are Shriners and the two groups support each other). “The service is very moving,” says Cassandra Sojak, past district governor of District 14J. “We tell the family how much the member meant to us, and that it is our loss as well as theirs.” Rob Zucker, a grief counselor and author of The Journey Through Grief and Loss: Helping Yourself and Your Children When Grief is Shared, says these efforts are an important part of the grieving process. It keeps alive memories of those who have died and honors them for their good works. It helps members express their feelings and process their pain. And it helps strengthen bonds among the surviving Lions members, who carry on the work of those who they’ve worked side-by-side with for years. Ceremonies that take place some time after the funeral help people work through the grieving process, which doesn’t end after the casket is lowered into the ground. “It’s good to remember those we cared about and loved,” says Zucker. “Having a special acknowledgement within the organization is a further benefit in the grieving process because it provides a formal opportunity to keep the memories alive. It reminds people that death doesn’t stop people from benefiting from those memories.” Often, the Lions tributes occur several months after the funeral, which the sharp pain of death has dulled, and family and friends can be more reflective about the Lion’s contribution to making their little corner of the world a better place to live. At the Lexington Lions Club in Lexington, Kentucky, they hold a memorial service annually for those who have died during the year. They recently paid tribute to Frank Glass, who continued to attend Lions meetings as his health deteriorated, showing up with a canister of oxygen to help him breathe. “He kept coming to the very end,” recalls Jim Tincher, past president of the 150-member Lexington Lions Club. “It never hurts to remember people in a nice frame. And it’s good to sit down and remember someone several months after they have passed away. Funerals can be such a whirlwind.” The tributes to the deceased Lions differ, depending on his or her stature in the club, the wishes of the Lion’s survivors, and the member’s impact on their fellow Lions. Some tributes get passed down as the years go by, while others fall by the wayside and new traditions emerge. At the Hendrick Hudson Lions Club in New York City’s northern suburbs, the club once had a Deceased Member Award, which would be given out in the deceased Lion’s name whenever the club made a substantial donation to charity. However, that tradition was scrapped because it became too difficult to keep track of which deceased Lion was next in line for the tribute, says Joe Fontana, club president. Now the club memorializes revered members with special tributes, such as the plaque on the eyeglass collection receptacle at the Cortlandt Community Volunteer Ambulance Corps. The plaque remembers James Tamburri, an energetic club leader who led the club’s scholarship program in the 1950s and was active in promoting the club’s eye-screening initiative. When fellow Lion Gerry Malatino died suddenly from a heart attack 2006, the Hendrick Hudson Lions reeled in shock from the death of someone so vibrant and active in the community. A year later, they dedicated a cabin in his Honor at Visons Center on Blindness in Spring Valley, a charity supported by donations from the Hendrick Hudson Lions. Three years after Malatino’s death, Fontana still gets teary when remembering his fellow Lion, a former Penn State football player and longtime member of the Cortlandt Planning Board who had three children die young from a debilitating genetic disease. “He was the club member who would always have a joke at the meeting, who was always looking on the bright side,” says Fontana. “Then one day, out of the clear blue, he had a heart attack, and that was that. No one saw it coming. When a Lion dies tragically, clubs find solace in their fellow club members as they deal with the shock that comes when death comes unexpectedly. In Eden Prairie, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb, deceased Lions are remembered at a striking memorial and flagstaff at the town’s Round Lake Park, where a plaque stands on a pedestal in front of a fourhigh statue of a Lion. The names of 19 Lions and seven Lionesses are inscribed on the memorial, which was constructed in 1997. Those remembered include longtime member and former club president Jim Jordan, as well as Bud Shaw, a Lion who was a member for just a few years and helped out the club’s Schooner Days event in May and its Corn Feed the first week of each August. “Bud joined after moving here from Arizona,” says Jerry Biese, president of the Eden Prairie Lions Club, which has close to 100 members. “He was a member for a couple of years, while Jim was active for many years.” Traditions vary with Lions around the world. In New Zealand, the Lions Club of Palmerston North Papaioea has kept alive a tradition begun decades ago by the Manawatu Pakeke Lions Club. When a Lion dies, the club attends the funeral, and hands out an emblem patch with a Lions insignia to each Lion in attendance. The patch is then placed on the casket and is usually buried with the Lion. It’s part of the Lions funeral tribute, in which Lions who knew the deceased member stand on either side of the pathway in what’s called a Guard of Honor as the casket is borne to the hearse. “I count it a real honor to be asked by the family to assist them in their time of grief,” says Jean Thompson- Church of Palmerston North, a funeral celebrant and past district governor. Lions often link their tributes to ongoing projects, so the deceased member’s contributions are remembered by those participating in the charitable work. After Karen Gholsen’s husband, Lou, died, she had the task of carrying out his wishes, to use some of the money from his estate to benefit the Elburn Lions Club in Illinois where he served as president. The club’s Friday night bingo event is quite popular in the community located about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. When the bingo machine malfunctioned one night, Karen Gholsen decided to purchase a new machine to honor her husband. “It looked like the old one had been around since the 1960s,” she says. “Giving the new machine is my way to have Louis continue on, and help the club and the Lions charities do what they need to do. He may have passed away, but he is still giving to the Lions club.”
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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