Tucumcari man R.H. Hale has been to so many Kiwanis Club meetings, he could probably tell you what the name “Kiwanis” actually means. In fact, this hale and hearty 81 year old was recently honored at the latest club meeting for his 51 years of perfect attendance.
“I started with the Kiwanis Club when I was 30,” Hale said. “Some people I admired very much invited me, some school friends and a doctor.”
Hale said after six months, he went from new member to secretary. From there he said he enjoyed stints as vice president, president and even lieutenant governor of an entire Kiwanis division but came back to his secretary’s post where he remains until this day.
With 20 members in Quay County’s Kiwanis, Hale said one of his favorite aspects of the club’s meetings is the camaraderie with other members.
“Overall, the things I like best are the good people, the fellowship and doing things for the children,” Hale said.
With a motto of “Serving Children of the World,” the club is certainly no stranger to helping kids. The site notes a one-year international total of $14.3 million and 1.3 million volunteer hours involved in projects that were part of their
“Young Children: Priority One” initiative, designed for kids up to age five.
The site also explains how the club sponsors youth service clubs, such as Circle K International, Key Club International, Builders Clubs, K-Kids and the European Kiwanis Junior and Aktion Club.
Hale, who has three children of his own – including his son David, who is a member of Quay’s Kiwanis – said he knows the importance of guiding the youth.
After all, he worked as a Tucumcari teacher and then principal for nearly two decades, after moving to town in 1948 with his wife, Shirley, who was also a teacher.
“We came here because salaries were about 20 percent higher than in Oklahoma,” Hale said, speaking of his hometown where he received his master’s degree in secondary education. “We didn’t figure we’d stay here, but we have stayed here.”
Hale said he retired from his academic career in 1980 but has kept busy with what he calls his top two priorities.
“My first priority is serving God,” Hale said. “My second is to take care of my dear wife, whose health has been bad.”
Hale also continues his involvement as a deacon at First Baptist Church. Although school and church are two places pretty much made for taking attendance, Hale said he never keeps records at church. At the schools, on the other hand, he said he recalls tracking down students who did not show up for class.
“The schools were paid by the state according to the number of people enrolled. We had truancy, yes. At one time we had to go chase them down,” Hale said, adding that usually meant trekking to their homes and knocking on their doors – not climbing to great heights to invade a tree house.
But then again, either act seems only natural for a man who has 51 years of perfect attendance himself. OK, Hale said he did miss a couple meetings but he was able to make them up.
“I missed when I was in school two summers back 40 years ago,” Hale said, adding the club allows members to make up absences by attending board of directors meetings and participating in club-sponsored activities. “Since I came in 40 years ago, I’ve been able to keep up.”
When asked how he does this, Hale simply responded, “The good Lord has blessed me with good health.”
Oh, yes. With a birth date of Jan. 21, 1915, in Detroit, Mich., the Kiwanis Club was so named from an American Indian expression found in the Detroit area, according to the club’s Web site. It said the term “Nunc Kee-wanis” means “we trade” or “we have a good time.”
Kwik Kiwanis facts
How many Kiwanis clubs/members are there?
There are more than 8,400 Kiwanis clubs with nearly 280,000 members in 96 nations and geographic areas.
What is a Kiwanian?
An active or retired business and professional man and woman who is member of a Kiwanis club.
Are women allowed to be Kiwanians?
Membership was opened to women in 1987. There are now more than 51,000 women members, and one in seven club presidents is a woman.
How much community service is done by Kiwanis clubs around the world?
In one year, Kiwanis clubs sponsored 147,000 service projects. To do so, Kiwanians raised and spent nearly $100 million and contributed 6.2 million hours of volunteer time.
Source: Kiwanis Web site