A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Rotary Club of Florence celebrates 75th anniversary; embrace organization’s motto of service above self

By Patrick Moynahan
Rotary Club of Florence

In the early days of the Rotary Club of Florence, members raised funds for community projects by selling Florenceopoly board games.

When a fellow Rotarian couldn’t pay his bill at the old Drawbridge Inn in Ft. Mitchell because someone broke into his car and stole his belongings and sales merchandise, the Florence Club picked up the tab out of pocket.

Gary Griesser is among those credited with reviving the Rotary Club of Florence in the 1980s (provided photos).

When the number of worthy high school seniors exceeded the scholarship funding available, selection committee members routinely passed the hat and collected enough to provide another scholarship.

“It really got hard to get people to serve on that committee,” Gary Greisser remarked as members erupted in laughter during the 75th anniversary celebration of the Rotary Club of Florence recently.

Greisser was among a group who revived a dying club in the 1980s and built it into the second largest club in Rotary District 6740, which includes all the clubs east of Interstate 75 in Kentucky. The club has maintained a membership of 100 members or more for more than a decade.

At the anniversary celebration, Greisser and three other former Florence presidents shared memories of struggles and successes in rebuilding a club that dates to November 11, 1944. By the early 1980s, participation had dropped to 30-34 people because many of the original members were reaching their 60s.

They mounted a recruitment drive to attract “young blood” – anyone less than 40, said Greisser. Impressed by the Rotary International initiative to eradicate polio worldwide, he came on board and ultimately served three times as president over the next three decades.

Mike Crane came aboard after the Airport Rotary Club, which folded because of a lack of membership. Gary Wilmhoff and Dennis McEvoy soon followed. Each served a term or two as president in the 1980s and 1990s, and McEvoy led District 6740 in 2009-10.

“The goal was to build a base for a strong club,” said Greisser, “and I think that happened.”


The Rotary Club of Florence now awards seven college scholarships each year, thanks to proceeds from a popular fall golf tournament. The club sponsors a teacher recognition program, selects a citizen of the year, and provides a meal for police, firefighters and first responders in May. In addition, the club targets one or two charities – e.g., the Steinford Toy Foundation and Mary Rose Mission – for funding support each quarter.

Over one three-year period, the Rotary Club of Florence raised more than $30,000 to equip a hospice room at St. Elizabeth Healhcare. Another year, the club raised nearly $30,000 to provide uniforms to enable youngsters in Tanzania to attend school.

Wilmhoff recalled a trip to Italy a year after a terrorist attack killed 13 and wounded 113 in 1985. His group was advised to walk directly through armed guards and police dogs to the terminal. But one of the local police stopped him and gestured to the Rotary Club pins in his pocket protector.

Wilmhoff, who noted he speaks hillbilly better than Italian, came to understand the officer wanted one of the pins. He gladly complied.

“In Rome, being a member of Rotary was a big deal,” he said. “It gets you into places you wouldn’t otherwise get in.

“I think we sometimes forget about the international aspect of Rotary.”


McEvoy was reminded in San Diego for district governor training when Bill Gates announced a matching fund program to aid the fight to eradicate polio. District governors were “literally crying from countries which polio continues to really affect,” he said.

Gates had contributed $3.7 billion to the cause by the end of 2018, a quarter of which came from Rotary International, according to Forbes.

“We are here for one reason” to help other people,” said McEvoy, whose father introduced him to Rotary at annual club outings at Camp Ernst as a youngster. “It’s been that way since I was a little boy … and it still is.”

A recording of this presentation and past meetings of the Rotary Club of Florence is available on the club’s Facebook Page.  

The Rotary Club of Florence, Kentucky (serving all of Boone County) is a community service organization focusing on “service above self”.  The club meets weekly on Mondays at noon at the Hilton Airport located at 7373 Turfway Road.  Guests are always welcome.  To learn more about upcoming speakers and events, please visit the club’s website at www.florencerotary.org or follow their Facebook page.

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