Sterkenburg celebrates 50 years with Rotary
Yarrawonga Mulwala Rotary Club held a celebratory dinner at ClubMulwala on April 3 celebrating Jack Sterkenburg’s 50 years of Rotary service.
The night was attended by District Governor David McPherson and Assistant Governor Paul Miegel and wife Meredith.
In a congratulatory letter, World President, Jennifer Jones wrote; “your continued passion for Rotary inspires us all and I hope you will continue to inspire your fellow Rotary members to think big”.
The Maffra Rotary Club Bulletin of March 8, 1973 records that the President inducted Jack into RC Maffra and wished him “many happy years in Rotary, Jack”.
Jack addressed the gathering with reminiscences of the past 50 years.
Born in 1938 in the Netherlands, Jack migrated with his parents and sister, moving to Moe.
He repeated some primary school, to develop his English, then attended Yallourn Technical College, graduating with a Diploma of Civil Engineering and became a member of the Institution of Engineers of Australia.
He was deeply involved in Rotary International Service which gave him a great insight into the workings of Rotary and its avenues of service.
Moving to Yarrawonga in 1980, he was appointed Shire Engineer and Building Surveyor, transferring his Rotary membership to the Yarrawonga Mulwala Club.
“The club was very active and involved in many community activities,” Jack said.
“I remember some early projects such as delivering garbage bins to the whole Yarrawonga community on behalf of the council, tree planting on Chinaman’s Island, constructing a toilet block at the Open-Air Theatre and operating the early markets at the old drive-in theatre.”
In these early years, Jack and wife Jan hosted a number of Foreign Exchange students and in the 1988/89 year they were selected as District Team Leaders to the first Ladies Group Study team to Texas USA.
As well as attending many Rotary Club meetings, a real highlight was the District Conference at San Antonio.
Rotarians were always keen to learn about Australia, as many had spent R&R in Australia during World War II.
As an engineer he made a point of looking at the oil industries in Texas; exploration, refineries, and the massive canal which ran 80 km to the sea.
At the same time Jan, as a nurse, checked out the local health system through visits to hospitals, childcare and ambulance services
with the team members they were leading learning a great deal through their experiences over the five-week period.
In 1990, Jack was elected President of the club, and continued on the District Committee.
In 2004, a six-man team from the club travelled to Wewak, PNG, and built a residence for the Head of Campus.
“At an earlier time, in 1963 in fact, I was part of a CMF Reservist team that visited Wewak to build a three-span bridge timber bridge,” Jack said.
“This we did, very successfully.
“On the 2004 trip we discovered that it had been bowled over during a massive storm and washed out to sea. With much ribbing from my mates!”
Jack is particularly proud of the work done by the Yarrawonga Mulwala Rotary Club, supporting youth; Portsea camps for children, Science Forums in Canberra, Overseas Youth Exchange and support for both Yarrawonga College P-12 and Sacred Heart Primary and College.
Local Government amalgamations resulted in his redundancy in 1994/95.
“This gave me an opportunity to accept an invitation to become employed as part of a UNHCR team in Tanzania,” he said.
“I spent three exciting and fruitful months in Tanzania, supporting the resettlement of 458,000 refugees from Rwanda having fled genocide and civil unrest.
“The urgent need for leadership was richly rewarded by my involvement with the 25 NGOs at our Base in Ngara, 1200 km inland from Dar Es Salaam and my years involved in the Rotary International Portfolio gave me a head start.”
In recent years he has been a strong supporter of the monthly markets and has served in several portfolios on the club’s board. The District Governor presented Jack with a Special Certificate of Recognition of his 50 years of service.