Book highlights Rotary leaders and Haliburton history
By Jenn Watt
It took little convincing to get Len Pizzey to agree to write the second edition of the Profiles of the Presidents book for the Rotary Club of Haliburton. At the club’s 75th anniversary gala in 2019, then-president Ted Brandon floated the idea past Pizzey, not sure whether he would be interested in getting back behind the keyboard again.
Pizzey, a retired journalist and former owner of the Haliburton County Echo, had authored the first Profiles of the Presidents book for the club’s 50th anniversary in 1994.
“I said, would you be interested in coming out of retirement to do the [book about the] next 25 years? … His face lit up. He seemed really excited at the prospect of doing it,” Brandon said.
A year later, the book is out, available at Glecoff’s Family Store, and includes photos and short biographies of each president.
Brandon said the project documents the accomplishments of Rotarians as well as those of the Haliburton Highlands.
“What’s really cool about the book, it not only chronicles our presidents, but it chronicles the history of our club, which in truth mirrors the history of our community for the past 75 years,” he said. “Rotary’s been involved in so many things and also just the members and the past presidents in the book if they didn’t do [a community project] under the Rotary banner, they did it as the chair of the school board or the chair of the chamber of commerce. They were all really, really heavily involved in the community, not just in Rotary but in so many other ways so that the book not only is a history of the Rotary club, but it’s also a history of our community.”
Pizzey said writing both books, the 50th and 75th anniversary volumes, reminded him of how deeply dedicated many are to Haliburton County and its well being.
“What I found interesting was that some people really have made a very large personal commitment, not only as president of the club, which of course takes time and commitment to show up and to run the board meetings and to come up with initiatives and help steer them to reality, but some people really buy into the Rotary ideals and they do things outside of the daily club activities. And I found that interesting,” he said. “I didn’t know some of those things [before writing the book] and I was very impressed with the extent to which Rotary became a focal point for other aspects of community service.”
The first 50 presidents’ biographies, originally published in the 1994 edition, are included in this new book, updated as needed.
“Some of the earliest people I wrote about in the profiles of the first time around were true community builders,” he said. “They were people who laid the foundation for the community the way it is now and that’s something worth knowing.”
Although the process of writing the profiles wasn’t technically difficult, Pizzey said he wanted to tease out aspects of each person’s personality, which at times could be a challenge.
“Partly you’re producing a history of the club’s activities and its accomplishments, but I also wanted to probe a little deeper and if I didn’t know people I wanted to find out about who they are, what they believe in, what their hobbies are, what their passions are, what motivated them to [join] Rotary, who they are as people. Those are easy questions to ask, but they’re difficult questions sometimes to get a response,” he said.
Surveys were sent out to the subjects, who answered as much – or as little – as they wanted. Over the winter, Pizzey worked on the profiles, much of the time while he was on a cross-country ski vacation in British Columbia.
“I put a lot of thought into it. I thought about the people I was going to write about and I would be thinking about it as I was skiing, or thinking about it as I was doing something else other than sitting in front of my computer,” he said.
Along with the last 25 presidencies, another two important Rotarians were included in Profiles of the Presidents: Brian and Dorothy Menton.
“Neither had been president of the club, but Brian and Dorothy were tremendous Rotarians and still are and Brian was district governor and got very involved with Rotary at the international level, at the regional level. He made a huge contribution to Rotary and certainly that was worthy of being mentioned,” he said.
Pizzey said the project was satisfying – both back in 1994 and today – because of the opportunity to give some of the community’s most active members their due.
“I think it’s a nice way of honouring people and bringing together their commitment to Rotary along with their personal history and the history of the community. I guess in a small way it’s a positive contribution to the community’s story,” he said.
“I said to Ted, I hope to be called upon to write the 100th anniversary profiles too,” he laughed.
Profiles of the Presidents 1944-2019 is available at Glecoff’s Family Store in Haliburton for $25.