It was the summer of 1946, and 18-year-old John Warner returned home from World War II as a Petty Officer 3rd class. His father, a physician, proudly invited his son to his weekly Rotary meeting.
“He took me to the Rotary Club in my little sailor’s uniform,” Warner, 80, recalled. “They gave me a standing ovation, as they will for this soldier tonight. All I remember from that day is all the ice cream I got to eat.”
Flash forward 61 years and this time it was United States Senator John Warner honoring a homecoming soldier; Capt. Edward Wharton is an ordinance specialist in the Army’s First Cavalry, who’s just returned home from a second tour of the war in Iraq.
“A flag will fly atop the Capitol in your honor,” Warner said. “Soldier, this is what you and generations of soldiers fight to protect.”
Wharton, 26, is a 1999 graduate of Bishop Ireton High School, and is now based at Fort Hood, TX., where he lives with his wife Lili.
“I’m very proud of my son,” said Rotary Club Vice President Steve Wharton. “This recognizes the sacrifices that servicemen like Ed and his family are making in protecting our freedoms.”
Warner, Wharton and 45 others were honored Saturday at the Rotary Club of Alexandria’s 79th annual Charter Night at Belle Haven Country Club. Honorees included 1952 club president “Buzzy” Harris, who celebrated his 48 years of perfect attendance with 2,496 meetings under his belt. Multiple-time honorees for service included members Mary Roman, Jack Pitzer, Bill Jarrett and T.J. Fannon. Crystal Sarno was named Rotarian of the Year and Dick Lacquemont was named Distinguished Rotarian.
Service above self
It’s been a banner year for the Rotary which is the oldest and largest service club in the city with 150 members. During the past year members raised or contributed a record amount, more than $200,000, in support of community and global projects.
“We honor the most enthusiastic, take-charge members,” said Bill Jarrett, the club’s president. “It’s all about service above self.”
In Alexandria, the group put to work $100,000 it raised to improve the lives of city residents through partnering actively with scores of local non-profits, including the Campagna Center.
As one of 32,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide, the club supported projects to provide clean water to a village in Haiti, a Belize AIDS project, building low cost housing in El Salvador and the supply of educational materials for schools in South Africa and Lithuania.
Forty Rotarians received the coveted Paul Harris Fellowship Award. Harris was the founder of Rotary International in 1905 and the awards are made for those who make substantial personal and financial commitments to further the club’s philanthropies.