On January 23, 1953, a group of men who wanted to serve their community joined together to create the Marlinton Lions Club.
Sixty-five years later, their legacy continues and the current members of the club held an anniversary banquet at the Pocahontas County Wellness Center last Thursday to celebrate the accomplishments of the club and its members.
Member Kathy Irvine gave a brief history of the club which highlighted the many projects which took place over the years.
Irvine explained that Harry Hockenberry led the group of men in forming the club. The group included Fred Allen, C.J. Barton, James M. Bear, William L. Clark, J. Legon Coyner, Merle Faulknier, John Hayslett, Richard Currence, O.B. Curry, William Evick, J. E. Hamrick, Percy Moses, William Myers, Charles Richardson, Sr., Calvin W. Price, R. Glenn Shrader, Raymond Shrader, L.O. Simmons, R.S. Skaggs, Harper M. Smith, James W. Smith, G.D. Stemple, Ralph S. Stevenson, Don C. Taylor, James R. Waugh, J.M. Wimer, Arch G. Wooddell, Stanley Wooddell and Edward Wilson.
“This group of men formed the Marlinton Lions Club under the leadership of Harry Hockenberry, who came to Marlinton from Franklin, West Virginia,” Irvine said. “The Franklin Lions sponsored the new club. President I. Nesselrodt and Lion John Dice – principal of Franklin High School – braved snow and ice to be here to see that the new club got off on a good start.
“The ice and snow prevented the District Governor from attending to present the charter,” Irvine continued. “But, local talent and good food served by the Rebekahs at the Old Toll House made it a wonderful start.”
In the early days, the club gave a lot of volunteer hours to the school system with projects like building bleachers and installing lights at Marlinton High School, and working with the Durbin Lions Club to help with softball and basketball games and sponsoring a Leo Club at Pocahontas County High School. The clubs also partnered to sponsor the first fiddler’s contest at the first Pioneer Days in 1965.
The main goal of Lions Club International is to give assistance to those who need eye exams and glasses, and Marlinton has spent decades helping people with vision issues.
“The Marlinton Lions Club has purchased many eye exams and glasses for school children and donated money to the library for audio and Braille books,” Irvine said. “Other projects for the club include that they now offer eye exams and glasses for adults in need. We participate in the Pocahontas Memorial Hospital health fair, as well as go to the schools to do eye screenings.”
Of course, to serve the community, the club must have money, so it has had its fair share of fundraisers including going door-to-door selling mops and brooms; hosting spaghetti, ramp and chicken and dumpling dinners; gun raffles and their famous pulled pork barbecue sandwiches.
In the 1990s, Lions Club International changed its rules and allowed women to join the club, leading to the Marlinton club gaining many new members.
“Ladies were allowed to join and our club was the first to have a lady join in our zone,” Irvine said.
With 65 years of service and hundreds of members, it is difficult to summarize all the good that has been done by the Marlinton Lions Club and Irvine was first to say she may have missed several important activities, but she was able to illustrate how the club followed the Lions Club motto – “We Serve.”
Club president Joe Laskey thanked Irvine for her history lesson and introduced 29-C District Governor Tom Crouser, who congratulated the club on its milestone.
“I was just thinking earlier and as I thought about sixty-five years as a club – Melvin Jones, on June 6 and 7, 1918, up in Chicago, got together with I think twenty-six people to form Lions Club – I don’t think they anticipated somebody celebrating their sixty-fifth anniversary,” he said. “I think it’s remarkable.
I don’t think he would have anticipated there would be five million, billion, zillion members around the world in Lions Club,” he joked. “It’s really amazing.”
While Crouser was off by a few million, the Marlinton Lions Club is joined by more than 1.4 million Lions from around the world in the crusade to be Knights of the Blind, as Helen Keller charged the Lions to be in 1921.
Laskey turned the floor over to Zone Chairman Larry Lucas, who presented two Melvin Jones awards and a Leonard Jarrett award. The two awards are given as an honor in memory of Jones, the founder of Lions Club, and Jarrett, founder of the West Virginia Lions Sight Conservation Foundation.
The Melvin Jones award was presented to JoAnn Eddy and Sue Laskey. The Leonard Jarrett award was presented to Kathy Irvine.
The club also inducted two new members with the help of Crouser. Joining the club were George Marshall and Kendall Beverage.
Members of the Durbin, White Sulphur and Lewisburg Lions Clubs attended the banquet to share in the celebration.
For more information on the membership in the Marlinton Lions Club, call Joe Laskey at 304-799-6542, or the Durbin Lions Club, call Suzanne Stewart at 304-456-4910.