Posted by Susan Jameson
As was presented by long-time member Herb Kroon at the Noon meeting on June 16, the Mankato Rotary has been around in some fashion since 1935 when it was chartered with 15 members. Thirty years earlier Paul Harris founded Rotary International. Judge Milt Mason was one of the first members and remained in the club until the early 1980s. Eventually, the club, like the area, grew and morphed into offshoots. The St. Peter club in 1938, the New Prague club in 1945, Waseca in 1960, and North Mankato in 1969.  At its peak in the late 1990s, the Mankato Rotary Club had more than 100 members, perhaps attributing to the fact that women were allowed to join in 1987 (prior to this the “wives” were in Rotary Auxilliary clubs). JO Guck Bailey and Denise Zernechel, current active club members, were among the first to join. Both would later become presidents, following the lead of the first female president Carol Larson in 1993.
Memories shared included group singing, a fine master, and perfect attendance awards as part of weekly meetings as well as business classification restrictions to avoid having too many of a single profession. The club has always had a commitment to international service, sponsoring outgoing and hosting incoming exchange students and participating in the Fast for Hope and Polio Plus, as well as providing financial support for a school in Bogota, Columbia. In addition, the club has been dedicated to community service including annual participation in the Holiday Sharing Tree and Salvation Army Bell Ringing. The club helped finance the Rotary Clock adjacent to Mankato Place Mall and Rotary Park at the corner of Saint Andrews Drive and Augusta. It also held annual events, like Service Above Self, in which recipients from 2006 were recognized at an event held in January 2007.
In July 2012, the North Mankato Rotary Club and the Mankato Rotary Club rejoined to form the Greater Mankato Rotary Club. The new club continues to honor the service of the past with scholarships for students awarded at the annual speech and debate banquet, the continuing of the Service Above Self awards, and so much more in the effort to fulfill its mission to serve youth and community for a better world. While growth has declined over the past few years, Greater Mankato Rotary is poised to meet the challenges of the future with new opportunities and a focus on rebirth.