by Geoff Fox
Dan Murphy has been a member of the Hancock Rotary for 45 years and was recently honored by the organization for those years of service.
During their meeting on October 31, Murphy was surprised to be honored with The Paul Harris Fellow recognition, which acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation.
Paul Harris was the founder of the Rotary Club in February 1905 when he and three others met in Gustavus Loehr’ s office of the Unity Building in downtown Chicago.
Murphy said he had knowledge of Rotary from his hometown of Keyser, W.Va., and friend of his father who was active in the Rotary there.
“I heard about Rotary when I was a pretty young man and the things they would do around Keyser,” he said.
When the Hancock Rotary was formed in the 1940s, Murphy said it was the Keyser Rotary who sponsored Hancock.
“So there’s a link there,” Murphy said.
When he came to Hancock in 1977 as a young veterinarian, Murphy said he didn’t have much free time then, but his mentor, Dr. Leo Shives, was active in Hancock’ s Rotary at the time.
Murphy said at that time, Rotary held their meetings on Tuesday nights in the basement of Weaver’s Restaurant and Shives would take him to the meetings, wanting Murphy to join Rotary.
It was within a year after coming to Hancock that Murphy became a Rotarian.
Murphy said when he was courted to join Rotary, he was told about the good things the club had done in Hancock and the world.
“That is what got me involved,” Murphy said, noting the group was welcoming. “It was a great experience all around.”
In his 45 years as a Rotarian, Murphy has been president eight different times.
“I’ve been involved in so many different projects that Rotary has done,” Murphy said.
There have been scholarships to students at both Hancock and Southern Fulton High Schools, which Murphy has been involved with the committee in reviewing the applications.
The biggest thing that happened during the past 45 years Murphy has been involved with Rotary, occurred in the 1980s and was a controversial subject.
Prior to the 1980s, Rotary was a male only organization. It was during the 1980s when women were allowed to join Rotary.
“It’s absolutely the greatest thing that ever happened to Rotary,” Murphy said about women joining Rotary, adding there are more women than men in the Hancock Rotary.
Some other things that have happened in Murphy’s 45 years was the planting of apple trees in Joseph Hancock Park to commemorate the orchard history, beautification projects around Hancock, enhance some of the athletic programs along the way, and a number of international projects.
Murphy said those international projects are “the cool things” that link Hancock to other clubs around the world.
After a tsunami hit Sri Lanka in 2004, killing 30,000 people, Murphy said there were two members of the Hancock Rotary who had served in Sri Lanka and knew members of Rotary in that country.
“So we actually got a grant for, and raised money for, and we helped them build public restrooms after the tsunami devastated their community,” he said.
One of the current things Rotary is working on is polio eradication with their Polio Plus program.
Murphy said they’ve also sponsored Little League teams and helped in obtaining instruments for the high school band.
For 44 of his 45 years in Rotary, Murphy has been the chairman for the annual Halloween Parade. This year was the last year Murphy was in charge of the parade as chairman.
Last week, under a picture of Murphy riding on the Rotary float in the Halloween Parade; the caption read Murphy the 2023 Halloween Parade was the last parade he’d have a hand in. Murphy said that isn’t the case.
Murphy said he’ll still have a hand in the parade and be “on the hill” at the staging area at Widmeyer Park, he just won’t be the chairman of the parade as he has been for the last 44 years.
This year’ s parade also marked the first time Murphy was actually in the parade, riding on the Rotary float waving at those lined along Main Street.
Murphy got his start with the parade in 1979, after just joining Rotary, after the parade that year was rained out. It was the first parade in the 32-year history of the parade to be washed out.
“We did not have a policy,” Murphy said. “It was also the first and only time that I’ ve ever seen the club have a rift.”
With no policy in place for a rain out, the coordinator at the time said they wouldn’t have a parade at all. However, Murphy said a few members spoke up and wanted the parade rescheduled since entrants had worked so hard on their floats.
The president at the time stood beside the chairman, agreeing about no parade. The group rose up against not having a parade.
“I was on that other side,” Murphy said with a laugh.
There was a compromise and rally amongst the group and a parade was held. Since then, there has been a rain date.
With that happening, the chairman resigned from the parade committee and, after some time, he warmed up to Murphy and showed him the records and lists.
“He said, ‘Here, Dan, I wish you the very best,’ and I became the chairman of the parade,” Murphy said. “Haven’t stopped since.”
This year, Murphy passed the torch to Autumn Williamson in the same manner Murphy had the torched passed to him.
Murphy and Williamson co-chaired the parade this year, but next year, Williamson will be in charge.
“I’ll be there to help her in any way I can,” Murphy said. The next longest serving member in the Hancock Rotary is its current president, Deb Cohill, who is two decades behind Murphy’s tenure at 26 years.
Cohill said she would never have taken on the role of president, but it was important this time to follow Murphy because he has been “such a wonderful friend and mentor” over the years to her.
“I felt like I just wanted to follow in his footsteps,” she said.
Cohill said Murphy has been a fantastic leader and the group would say Rotarians change lives.
“I think it was really fitting that Dan was acknowledged in that way because he has changed lives for 45 years, not just as Rotarian, but as a vet, as a husband, a father, he’s now a grandfather, he was the mayor,” Cohill said. “He’s worn so many different hats, that he’ s like the epitome of service above self, which is Rotary’s motto.”
Past District Governor Melinda Golden said Murphy has been the backbone of Rotary.
“He’s the face of Rotary,” Cohill added.
She added the rest of Rotary can only hope they’ll have a Rotary “career” like Murphy.
“He’s been wonderful” she said.