For Franklin’s Billings, ‘Service Above Self’ is a way of life

Published 10:02 am Saturday, June 18, 2011

When Bill Billings passed the gavel as president of the Rotary Club of Franklin two years ago, his involvement in the worldwide service organization was just beginning.

Bill Billings is inducted into Rotary’s prestigious Paul Harris Society by Charles Arnason of Blackstone at a District 7600 function. -- SUBMITTED

Since then, Billings, a Franklin paper mill retiree, has traveled near and far for Rotary, embodying the organization’s motto of “Service Above Self.”

In November 2009, as part of the Bridges to Prosperity program founded by Yorktown businessman Ken Frantz, Billings helped build a suspension bridge over the Blue Nile River in a remote part of northeastern Ethiopia. The bridge gave previously isolated villagers access to goods and services, including schools and health care.

A year ago, Billings was chosen as assistant governor of Rotary District 7600’s Area 10, encompassing Rotary Clubs in Franklin, Suffolk, North Suffolk and Smithfield.

He also serves as the district’s Permanent Fund chairman for the Rotary Foundation. District 7600 was recognized last month by Rotary Foundation General Manager John T. Osterlund for a “surge” of 16 new benefactors in two months. During Billings’ tenure as Franklin Rotary president in 2009, a push for new benefactors in the local club caused District 7600 to lead the world in growth of the number of Rotarians who include the Rotary Foundation in their estates.

Bill Billings, a Rotary assistant district governor, hams it up with District Gov. Jayne Sullivan at the district convention in Norfolk.

His travel has also included attending diverse Rotary functions, including the District Conference in Portsmouth; the District Foundation Dinner and Workshop in Williamsburg; District Team Training in Surry at Chanco on the James; the Zone 33 Foundation Workshop in Raleigh, N.C., involving 15 districts and 791 clubs; and, most recently, the Rotary International Conference in

New Orleans May 21-15.

At the worldwide conference, Billings and his wife, Lois, talked with Rotarians from 46 countries.

“Bill Billings’ commitment to Rotary and the values it promotes is inspiring,” said Steve Stewart, president of the Rotary Club of Franklin. “During my year as club president, I have seen first-hand the time and energy that Bill devotes to Rotary and, by extension, the betterment of his fellow man. As Rotarians, we often recite our motto of ‘Service Above Self.’ For Bill, it’s more than a slogan. He lives the motto. Rotary is blessed to have him on its leadership team.”