Rotary Club history at a glance
The Rotary Club has a rich and storied history in New Milford but its early days were not a smooth success story.
Dr. William G.H. Dobbs of the Torrington Rotary Club worked closely with Dr. C. George LaTaif of New Milford to start a Rotary Club in town. It was a struggle, according to Jack Straub, one of the 20 co-founders and charter members.
It took a year and a half to get the commitment of 20 people to become charter members, not because people weren't interested in a club, Mr. Straub recounted, but because some people would step out just when they had fulfilled the commitment.
The first luncheon meeting was held April 1, 1959, at Reap's, a popular gathering spot along Route 7 South, with Harry DeCostanza, president pro-tem, in charge, having been given that responsibility from Dr. LaTaif.
In attendance were Dr. LaTaif, Mr. Straub, William L. Queen, George Verenes, Ambrose W. McGill, Truman S. Richmond, Leonard F. Anderson, Andrew Armstrong, Raymond Dupill, John F. Garrity, William F. Fieweger, Maurice A. Goldstein, Lawrence Jackson Jr., Patrick Iasiello, Lawrence Lillis, M. Joseph Lillis Jr., then-First Selectman E. Paul Martin, Dr. Robert A. Perotti and Victor F. Lautier.
Subsequent meetings were held but no formal activity took place until March 5, 1960, at the club's charter presentation meeting.
The club was officially admitted as a member of Rotary International on Jan. 12, 1960.
Regular lunch meetings were held at Reap's for about a year and a half or two. Meetings were subsequently held at Green Lawn and the Coach and Seven along Route 7 North and, eventually, at the Holiday Restaurant, where the club meets today.
Treasurer Charlie Junz said it wasn't until the mid-1980s women were allowed to become members.
"God only knows, the women did most of the projects," said Mr. Straub, referring to women's involvement over the past 50 years.
Yet prior to their membership, women were known as Rotary Anns.
For example, Mr. Straub's wife, Barbara, has been active in the club since its local inception and has received a Paul Harris Award, the Rotary's highest recognition.
The above information was compiled from Rotary archives with contributions from Mr. Straub.