Kiwanis Club celebrates 50th anniversary

Published 11:21 am Saturday, June 5, 2010

FRANKLIN—Hursell Fowler is no quitter.

The 84-year-old Franklin man has belonged to the American Legion for 58 years, Masons for 45 years and Scottish Rite for 35 years. Fowler is also the only remaining charter member of the Franklin Kiwanis Club, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary during a June 13 dinner at Cypress Cove Country Club.

“I enjoy the fellowship and breakfast at Fred’s,” Fowler gave as reasons for volunteering for Kiwanis fundraisers that benefit the community’s youth and rarely missing the 8 a.m. Tuesday meetings at the downtown restaurant.

Fowler, who three times served as the club’s president and had perfect attendance for several years, will be recognized during the dinner, said current Kiwanis President Pat Ballard.

“There will be a plaque and a 50-year pin,” Ballard said.

In addition to Fowler, Fred Rabil, 92, and Horace Pierce, 81, are the only remaining Franklin residents who were among the club’s 31 original members, Ballard said.

“That was six more than required (to form a club),” she said.

In June 1960, when the club was organized, Fowler, Rabil and Pierce were businessmen who joined for fellowship and to give back to the community.

Fowler was operations manager at the former Leggett Department Store in Franklin. The manager at the Leggett in Suffolk belonged to Kiwanis.

“I just fell in line,” Fowler said.

Pierce belonged to the Jaycees before Kiwanis. The then 31-year-old was nearing the age limit for eligibility in the Jaycees, a community service group for younger folks.

“A lot of ex-Jaycees were Kiwanis charter members,” said Pierce, who at the time managed Russell and Holmes shoe store in Franklin.

Rabil, founder of Fred’s Restaurant in 1945, joined because he felt he needed to be a part of things in the community.

During the first Franklin Kiwanis Club meeting, members elected William Ellis Jr. as president, D.C. Hewitt Bowman first vice president, Morgan O. Blythe as second vice president and Horace L. Pierce Jr. as secretary-treasurer. Directors named were William M. Branch Jr., E.G. Brett, Henry C. Brothers, J.K. Gray, Louis B. Thompson, Charles F. Kingery and Louis N. Wilson.

Kiwanis International was limited to only men until 1987, according to the organization’s Web site.

That same year, Patsy Joyner, vice-president of institutional advancement at Paul D. Camp Community College, joined Franklin Kiwanis Club. She was the first female member, first female president, serving in 1990, and recruited the group’s first African American.

“They (Kiwanis) focus on children,” said Joyner, whose background is in early childhood education and remains a Kiwanis member. “When I looked at what they did, I really liked what they were about. They really do a lot for the community that goes silent.”

Kiwanis does a number of things including sponsoring a children’s fishing day, Easter egg hunt, two $500 college scholarships, a child overseas in need and the Key Club at Southampton High School.

“Those children (in Key Club raise money for) March of Dimes and Relay for Life,” Ballard said.

Today, Franklin Kiwanis has 15 members.

“Getting new members is difficult,” Ballard said. “I don’t know if it’s the times or whether it’s the money. People are just busy. We’re always attempting to recruit.”

She hopes the club will remain a part of the community.

“If nothing else, for the Key Club in Southampton, which is so strong,” Ballard said. “They have 60-some members. If we fold, they have to too.”

Fowler doesn’t believe that will happen.

“If we got down to five members, we agreed we’d still meet,” he said.

The anniversary dinner will be held for Kiwanis members, former members and their guests. Call Ballard at 562-5600 for tickets, which are $20.