K. Harrison Brown knew something was up last Tuesday when he opened a copy of the Cleveland Daily Banner and saw a quarter-page ad on Page 3 honoring his 50 years of perfect attendance serving the Rotary Club of Cleveland.
There was indeed something up — a gathering to reminisce and honor a man who has been so faithful and devoted to serving the good of humanity.
Unfortunately, a snowstorm kept the club from being able to meet that day. Fortunately, that meant it didn’t count against Brown’s record.
The way the members honored him Tuesday, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.
The surprise was spoiled but not the genuine affection, respect and appreciation for the man who is acknowledged to have been such an inspiration to the club and its many charitable efforts.
Brown’s accomplishment was tiptoed to as Rotary member Tim Spires took a few moments discussing the history of the club.
“On March 24, 1924, 24 charter members met in Hotel Cleveland,” Spires said.
He noted the charter was presented by Will Mainer of Nashville who was to become the president of Rotary International.
The guest of honor took a warmhearted hit when a member wondered aloud if his name was on that early club roll.
“If you’re going to walk down memory lane, pick on somebody that has a memory,” Brown retorted, causing the packed room to roar with laughter.
It quickly became time for real memories as Brown’s son, Matthew, talked about his father and the example he has set.
“My father kind of lived the Rotary life,” Matthew recalled. “Going back to the ’70s, I can remember standing out in the driveway shooting basketball and Dad saying ‘Get in the car. We’re going to Etowah to make up a meeting.’”
Matthew said he didn’t really understand Rotary at the time, “but in my whole life, in bits and pieces, Rotary was always a constant.”
He said his father has always been a “consistent leader.”
“It did impact me. There are a lot who see him and say if he can do it, so can I. When I joined the club, it wasn’t a second thought. I was going to have perfect attendance,” Matthew said.
“I appreciate Dad instilling some of those values in me. I saw him doing it and I wanted to replicate that, and fortunately I’ve been able to do it.”
Rotarian Cameron Fisher read a letter from Rotary International President Ron Burton.
“Congratulations on achieving an outstanding record of attendance for more than 50 years in the Rotary Club of Cleveland, Tennessee,” the letter read.
“Your commitment is commendable.
You have discovered the joy of putting service above self. You have shown amicable dedication not only to your club, but also to Rotary. You set a great example for others.”
Rotary District Governor-elect Jerry Wear was on hand to offer his accolades to the occasion.
“It’s people like Harrison Brown who make this club the way it is,” Wear said.
Brown was presented with a crystal award engraved with the Rotary logo, his name and the dates “1964-2014” representing his 50 years of accomplishment.
Pam Nelson, club president, made the presentation.
“Harrison, we’re so proud of you,” Nelson said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for me to give you this.”
Brown said he did not set out to earn the recognition.
“I could not have done this without the support of my family,” he said in saluting his wife, Barbara, as well as son Matthew and daughter Louise.
Brown said both of his grandparents were Rotarians.
“They talked about ‘service above self,’ what it meant and what they were trying to do in the world,” he said. “As a grammar school fellow, you get kind of caught up in that.”
Brown said many who were members when he joined became mentors to him.
The honoree did not take the time to talk about all the good he has done over the years, but only to say ‘Thank you’ for the special notice.
Brown ended with a story about when Robert Card was honored by the Rotary in a somewhat similar situation.
“I told him what a great thing it was and he really deserved it,” he said.
“[Card] said, ‘Sometimes you just outlive your competition,’” Brown recalled.
Then, with a wave and a smile, Brown took his award with applause and a standing ovation.