Marking 40 years
Charter member reflects on Rotary Club of Gander history.
Sifting through stacks of newspaper clippings and old photos, Bruce Sparkes can’t help but laugh when reflecting on the last 40 years.
He was a charter member of the Gander Rotary Club when it was founded 1977, and is the last active original member today.
He was 23 when he joined. “Oh, we had some fun,” recalled Sparkes, especially noting the Santa Claus parades.
“We’ve had some fantastic floats over the years, from a space ship to a mummers Christmas with a burning woodstove on the flatbed.
“Another time we built a doll house during the parade, but now we partner with Newfoundland Power to help collect with the food.”
The group officially got underway Nov. 3, 1977, started by the late John Parker, an RCMP officer in Gander at the time.
“I believe he came here from Grand Falls-Windsor, because that’s the organization who sponsored us,” recalled Sparkes.
“(Parker) saw there was a void in this type of organization, as it’s a little bit different, because it fills as many classifications from the community as it can.”
The Rotary Club’s members are involved with law, academics, retail, hospitality, construction, communication, healthcare, and more.
While its primary objective has been developing Cobb’s Pond Rotary Park –which started as a concept in 1982, opened in 1985 and continues to see upgrades – the Rotary Club has donated to dozens of Gander-based organizations and supported international Rotary charities as well.
“It’s been a great 40 years, and I don’t think there’s an organization in Gander that we haven’t helped in some way or another,” said Sparkes.
Current president Patrick Kean said the Rotary Club continues to remain strong, with 43 active members.
And coming from a dedicated past, Kean says members aim to continue the Rotary Club’s work into the future.
“I think it’s pretty amazing to have a club in the community for so many years that is still vibrant and planning projects for the future,” said Kean.
“We’ll never stop doing things with Cobb’s Pond, but we are in the phase now where we are looking at other major projects.
“We aren’t to the point where we have anything to announce yet, but we are hoping over the next year or two, we’ll have another major project to start working towards.”
Bruce Sparkes has been a member of the Rotary Club of Gander since its inception in 1977. He is the last active original member.
Oct. 4, 1999 Barry Thomson and other members of the Gander Rotary Club were hard at work building another gazebo at Cobb’s Pond, the second shelter to built by the club.
One of the many floats completed by the Rotary Club over the years was a spaceship in 1988.
In July 1985, Mayor Doug Sheppard planted the tree to officially open Cobb’s Pond Park.
Mary Chaffey was the club’s first female president, serving from 1993 to 1994.