The following history of the Tarkio Rotary Club, celebrating the organization’s 80th anniversary on March 26, 2020, was compiled by Dean Sparks, secretary:
1940s – The Tarkio Rotary Club was organized and sponsored by the Maryville Rotary Club and received its charter on March 26, 1940. Nineteen charter members were inducted in May of 1940. Fred Keller was installed as the first club president. Dr. Earle M. Collins, president of Tarkio College, was club president in 1942-43 and served as district governor in 1946-47. The club became the sponsor of the local Boy and Girl Scout programs during this decade.
1950s – Membership increased after World War II to 36. Joe Stevenson, club member and avid tennis player, led the club’s efforts to secure the land and construct the Tarkio all weather tennis courts and lights with adjacent croquet courts at a cost of approximately $7,500 in 1958. The club later donated the courts to the city, and they were named the Joseph Stevenson Memorial Rotary Tennis Courts.
1960s – Membership increased to 55 during this decade due to a large number of members from Tarkio College. Robert A. “Bob” Rankin was elected district governor in 1965-66. Three Rotarians served as mayor of Tarkio during this time.
1970s – Membership dropped to 47 during this period. Attendance requirements appeared to be a reason for the loss of some members. One member resigned due to the “fine policy.” Fines averaged 50 cents to a dollar. That member happened to be the county prosecuting attorney!
1980s – With growth of the Boy Scout program, the need for a larger meeting place became apparent. The club accepted an old, unused building owned by the city to renovate for this purpose. The cost was $12,500. The project took over three years to complete. Charles Sheppard served as district governor in 1980-81. In 1980 the club participated in the Main Street Tree Planting Program in observance of the Tarkio Centennial celebration. The club accepted the assignment of selling tickets to all Continental Amateur Baseball Association (CABA) Tournament games for 11-year-old youth. The week-long activity was held in Tarkio from 1984-1997. Rotarian Dr. Gavin Doughty received the district “Presidential Citation” Award. The club conducted a campaign to raise over $6,000 for Polio Plus in 1988.
1990s – Membership continued to drop into the thirties. The club constructed a covered shelter house in the North City (Niedermeyer) Park. The club meeting place moved to the Farmers State Bank community room. The first three female club members were inducted, and the Rotary “Fly-In” breakfast was held at the Peterson-Gould Airport in September of each year.
2000s – Rotary member Michelle Hawkins became the first female president of the Tarkio Rotary Club. The Tarkio High School Interact Club was established in 2004-05. The annual Tarkio Rotary Golf Tournament was established at the Tarkio Golf Club. The club meeting place was moved to the Heartland Recreation Center. The club achieved 100% Paul Harris status in 2008-09 under the leadership of the club’s second female president, Anita Sutter. The club sponsored a number of Short Term Youth Exchange students to Sweden and Germany and participated in the district Shoes for Orphan Souls shoe drive during this decade.
2010s – Club members, James Shrieves and Dean Sparks, served as assistant district governors, and Dean Sparks served on the district youth services committee representing Interact. The Tarkio High School Interact Club celebrated Interact’s 50th birthday in 2012 by planting two trees at the football stadium. Major renovation to the city tennis courts was accomplished by the club at a cost of over $17,000 in 2012. The club meeting place was moved to the First Baptist Church and then again to the Atchison County Nutrition Center in downtown Tarkio in January of 2015.
During this decade, the club achieved numerous District 6040 Star Club Awards and Rotary International Presidential Citation, Membership Development and Extension and Smaller Club Membership Growth Awards. The club has also been a consistent contributor to the RI Foundation and Polio Plus Programs and many special projects, including disaster relief, around the world, nationally and locally over the years.
On March 31, 2015, the Tarkio Rotary Club celebrated its 75th anniversary with a dinner at the First Baptist Church with over 40 members, Interact members and guests in attendance. Larry Lundsford, chief cheerleader for the Shoes for Orphan Souls Program for the district and former governor of district 6040, was the featured speaker.
Also during this decade, the club painted the shelter house at Niedermeyer Park and began decorating it with Christmas lights during the holidays, sponsored THS Interact members Melissa Lang and Madison Ohrt to attend the Rotary Youth Leadership Academy, built a fence and raised flower and vegetables beds at Tarkio Rehab, continued to sponsor the annual Tarkio Rotary Club Golf Tournament and held fundraising cookouts at the Hy-Vee on Saturdays in April and May to name but a few of the many activities of the club during this time.
2020s – On March 26, 2020, the Tarkio Rotary Club was officially 80 years old. In observance of this occasion, rather than have another dinner, the club has plans to celebrate by completing a service project. The project is the renovation of the Little Theatre on the first floor of Thompson Hall on the campus of Tarkio Technical Institute. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, all Rotary activities have been suspended at this time. The club intends to celebrate its 80th anniversary by completing this project when the pandemic subsides.
Members of the club are Gary Bussard (2004), Jeff Doyle, (2019), Bob Koch (2006, president), Eric Lahart (2018), Carrie Livengood (2017), Craig Livengood (1990), Darryl Lowrey (1987), Brad Mathers (2016), Rachel Meyer (2017), Will Ratcliff (2017, president-elect), Gary Riley (1983), Benne Rogers (2003), Ed Salmond (1987, sergeant-at-arms), Glenn Scott (1995), Jayne Scott (2015), Dean Sparks (2000, secretary-treasurer), Anita Sutter (2004), and Donald White (2018).