When it came to becoming a member of Rotary in Nanaimo, Bruce Coleman had little choice in the matter.
“I became the manager of Kelly Douglas and was told the previous manager was a member of Rotary. It was pretty much expected that I would join,” he said.
Looking back at nearly 60 years of service to Rotary, 97-year-old Coleman said he couldn’t be happier he joined.
“I didn’t know anything about Rotary, but I was a fast learner and they put me to work right away,” he said.
Coleman said Rotary’s goal of helping others suited him perfectly.
“I was the second oldest of 11 children and was expected to help out with the younger children,” he said. “I enjoyed helping others and started a Sunday school when I was 18. With Rotary I was able to help my fellow man. That has always been a big part of my life.”
Coleman’s passion for Rotary was recognized early on, and he was soon asked to help form other clubs.
“The district governor felt another club was needed in Tacoma and asked me to go down there and get it started,” he said. “I attended a meeting, stood up and told them why I was there and said I needed five members to join me for coffee after the meeting.”
There was some grumbling from members who felt one club was fine for Tacoma, but Coleman soon had 22 members signed up by the end of his coffee session, forming Tacoma North Rotary Club.
His success at that endeavour soon landed Coleman additional assignments to form new clubs.
His influence resulted in clubs in Ladysmith, Comox, Campbell River, Parksville, Lantzville and, of course, Nanaimo.
The founding member of Rotary Club of Nanaimo North, Coleman said he was a good salesman and was able to convince people of the benefits of joining Rotary.
“I approached young business people in different towns,” he said. “I think I have a gift to see within people, to see something in them that would make them good Rotarians.”
He had 58 years of perfect attendance and travelled the world extensively helping Rotary meet its many goals.
Whether it was Germany, Korea, Australia or China, Coleman sought out his fellow Rotarians.
“Rotary is Rotary no matter where you are in the world,” he said. “The language might be a bit of a problem, but as soon as people understand you’re with Rotary, you’re made to feel welcome.”
Coleman is being honoured Sunday (June 12) at the Coast Bastion Inn for his years of service.
“It’s very nice but I think it’s for the birds. I wish they wouldn’t do it,” he laughed. “I just had a hand in bringing in some new members. I’m happy with what I was capable of doing for Rotary.
“I’d like to think Vancouver Island is a better place for having these clubs.”