June 25, 2021
 
Any of our club members who joined before March 2017 will fondly remember our one and only fellow Rotarian, Charlie Whittaker, an active club member for 43 years and a highly memorable influence in and around the Guelph area. He passed away unexpectedly on March 28, 2017 at the age of 84. 
 
Charlie's memory lives on through several legacies, with another significant one added today:  14 Paul Harris Fellowships awarded to club members in his name. Read more in the separate story on our website here
 
Charlie's daughter, Michele Richardson, a member of our club since 2011, today paid tribute to her late and great dad.
 

 
 
Charles James Whittaker
(12 January 1933 - 28 March 2017
 
Friends, Fun, Family, and Giving Back. 
 
A few words that describe a large character.  What do you say about one of your heroes?  My dad was that to me.  Definitely larger than life and louder too!
 
He could command a room when he wanted to … which was often.
 
Dad was born into a very humble home (the slums of London, he would often say) in the 1930s.  He lived as a young child through war-torn London and the blitzes while his dad was away at war.  He was very close to his mom and sister as they survived many bombings and evacuations during those years. While the family had little in material possessions, they were large in love and character. These humble beginnings carried my dad on to a life of service … and empathy for children and the less fortunate.
 
After immigrating to Canada in 1967 with his family and building roots in Guelph, he joined our fine Rotary Club in 1974 sponsored by the late, great Doug Gamsby, who was a neighbour. 
 
Rotary, as you all know brings together a global network of volunteer leaders who dedicate their time and talent to tackle the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work impacts lives at both the local and international levels.
 
Rotary became a conduit for Dad to make friends, have fun, help families (his own and many others) and to give back. 
 
He was passionate about LIFE and about CANADA.  He felt this was the greatest country on earth.
 
An early riser, he would get up with the birds, work out, go to work and get the shifts started, come home to pick up my sister and me to go to early morning skating at 6am, go back to work, then pick us up at 8am to drop us off to school.
 
Evenings were much the same.  It was a busy household. He worked hard and played harder. He had so many hobbies and interest…. gardening, golfing, playing squash, stamp collecting and kibitzing around.
 
He loved Rotary and tried never to miss a meeting.  He was a member of our club for 43 years, a past President and a past District Governor (one of 5 in this Club).
 
From those humble beginnings, Dad wanted to give back…to make this world better when he left.
 
He was a consummate volunteer having served over the many years in many different capacities in many different associations and boards.
 
And he could fundraise.  A story that brings a smile is when my dad showed up at my new company – I had taken a position as a consultant at a toxicological group in Guelph.  My dad showed up at the front door on Day 2 of my new job.  I thought he was there to say hi to me – but no – he was on a mission.  He popped into the President’s office (who I scarcely knew) and asked him for $1000 for crocus bulbs that would then plant in the front of our office building.  He came out a happy man with a commitment for $500.  A success, he later told me, as he was only looking for $250.
 
And so intertwined many of his passions….fund-raising for bulbs to plant  - getting the youth involved in volunteering their time to help beautify school grounds (have a look at College Heights property in the Spring).  
 
Read more about Charlie in this newspaper article here
 
A few photos of Dad and his flowers…
 
On the left you can see him digging and planting tulip bulbs in a farmer’s field just east of Guelph Lake.  This field was one that he had students plant 100,000 tulip bulbs.  He dedicated this to Fred Black, another Past District Governor of our Club.  He thought it would be great for folks travelling down Hwy 24 to see the mass of tulips in bloom in the spring.
 
On the top right are some croci (is that really the plural of crocus?) and the bottom right are some daffodils in bloom on the Hanlon.
 
And Rotary – friends, fun, golfing.  A few Rotarians in this picture….Paul Truex on the far left.  Paul Francis, Dick Bayer a good friend and Rotarian at the Rochester Club, and my Dad.
 
And another oldie goldie Rotary photo.  That is the wonderful Dr. Bill Winegard standing next to my dad.
 
 
 
Finally, a handwritten back-of-the-envelope note … quite literally. I found and saved this from Dad's papers. It was a note made the year he was incoming as Rotary District Governor.  I love it because it is handwritten, likely was noted at a District meeting and has many key programs and initiatives that our Rotary Club still supports: Volunteer, Polio Plus, Foundation Paul Harris.
 
The last words caught my eye … Act Within, Serve Love, and Work for Peace.  
 
How wonderful that our incoming Rotary Club president Mahmud has picked up on this thread of Work for Peace and created a Peace Building Committee!
 
Dad would have been thrilled that his legacy and love for Rotary can be shared through the efforts of dear friends, Paul Truex, Ab Moore, Andrew Johnson and of course Tracey Curtis with the presentation of these Paul Harris Fellows!
 
Thank you all so much.  And as Dad would have said, "Have a great day, mate!"
 
 
- - - -
 
Charlie said this about himself:
 
"When I retired, I was not going to sit in a chair waiting for God to take me. I'm running. If He wants me, He's going to have to catch me!"
 
At the Celebration of Life held for Charlie in April 2017, the minister said this:
 
"We have gathered today to remember Charlie Whittaker - a man who was larger than life, who could fill a room with his personality and voice and opinion, who never saw an obstacle he wasn't prepared to try to overcome, who had the commitment of a saint and, at times, the flexibility of an I-beam, who could infuriate and inspire us at the same time, who was loyal to a fault, who was precocious, who would gladly give us not just the shirt off his back but also his famous sweater if we needed it, and who never missed an opportunity to make children's lives, and the quality and landscape of our community, better." 
 
Gone, but definitely never forgotten.
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