In 1973 Mick Vassallo had never heard of a Rotary Club.
Things soon changed and on Thursday, June 1 he celebrated 40 years of service to Berry Rotary Club.
A presentation dinner was held at Berry Bowling Club to mark the occasion.
Mick and wife Patricia arrived in Berry on April 16, 1973 and bought the Great Southern Hotel.
Two years later the local sergeant, Wally Gill went to the hotel and asked Mick if Berry Rotary could use the hotel kitchen and dining room for their weekly meeting.
In July 1976 Mick and Patricia sold the hotel and in April 1977, Wally asked Mick to join Berry Rotary Club and after attending few meetings, Mick was inducted in June 1977 by president Jack Higgins.
Mick said he’s been hooked ever since.
“Since joining Berry Rotary Club I always took an active part in whatever was happening, we used to do a lot of manual work, helping old people cutting their grass, painting, and we planted potatoes on Jack O’Gorman’s and Arthur Campbell’s farm as a fundraiser – we used to bag and sell the potatoes,” he said.
“For quite some years we held a huge fundraiser at Gerringong Oval in January, while we had a lot of holiday makers. We helped most local organisations such as Berry Hospital, painted flats at Gerroa belonging to St. Vincent De Paul, worked at Rose Valley Guides Hall, Mayflower Village Fete, Berry Hospital Fete, really too many too mention.”
Mick recalls travelling to the Melbourne Cup in 1978 with president Cyril Sharp, and watching as Arwon crossed the line first.
In 1982 Mick became the president of Berry Rotary. He was part of the inaugural Berry Rotaract Club which was granted its Charter Member during his presidency. One-hundred-and-eighty people attended the reception.
There was 23 charter members inducted and Jim Abbott was charter president of Berry Rotaract Club.
“I was always a very strong believer in the need to foster young people to join our organisations as a way of moving forward into the future and was very pleased when Jim went on to become the president of Berry Rotary Club 1995/96,” Mick said.
In 1982 Mick and his wife, along with other Rotary members, Tony and Helen Barlow flew to the Phillipines.
They visited Rotary’s sponsored child, sponsored through World Vision.
They also visited one of our exmembers Len Bolden and his wife Jenny, he was in Manilla with the Australian Embassy.
“During my time in Rotary my wife and I hosted quite a number of Rotary exchange students and group study exchange students,” Mick said.
“We found this a rewarding and very interactive experience and are pleased to say a number of them still keep in touch with us today.”
In 2005 Berry Rotary Club celebrated the Centenary of Rotary International.
Mick helped sink a time capsule next to the showground gates in Alexandra Street.
The time capsule is filled with photos and memorabilia from Berry residents to be raised and opened on December 4, 2030. Mick hopes his own grandchildren will take part in that reopening.
Mick and Patricia attended their first District Conference under D.G.Tom Tait on March 18, 1979 at Nowra School of Arts.
There was 17 Berry Rotarians at that District Conference. Over the past 40 years Mick has been to 28 District Conferences.
Rotary has also taken him across the world. He has been to six Rotary World Conferences.
“The first one was in Melbourne in 1993, there was about six members with their wives there and I was amazed at how much I did not know about Rotary and how much I learned after going to one,” Mick said.
“The next one was in Brisbane in 2003. Number three was in 2005 and it was 100th anniversary in Chicago. There was over 44,000 delegates present and it was a great conference.
“Number four was at New Orleans in 2011, and it happened to be at the same time as their Mardi Gras and it was a marvellous event.
“Number five was at Lisbon in 2013 in Portugal. It is an amazing city and lot to see.
“Number six was very close to home in Sydney and we enjoyed that one just as much.
“Both my wife and I enjoyed all the world conferences and district conferences tremendously.”
Over his years in Rotary Mick has held many positions. The one he enjoyed the most was youth director.
“It gave me great pleasure to seeing how much Ryla and Rypen attendees enjoyed the program and I very much enjoyed working with the younger generations,” he said.
In 1991 Mick was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship Award by the then president Alex Hunter.
In 2014 president David Ensor awarded him with a Sapphire pin, and president Andrew Bevan also awarded Mick with a Sapphire Pin in 2016.
Mick has also been on two Faim trips, one to Manus Island and one to Nepal.
“At Manus Island we visited Pappalatee High School and we were there building classrooms for two weeks in 1995, and what a great experience it was,” he said.
“In 2001 we went to Nepal for four weeks building classrooms, but had to leave after only eight days as the local terrorists began to cause trouble, so sadly we never got to finish them.”
“One of my most treasured experiences was running with the Olympic Torch in 2000 in Nowra, and that came about when I was nominated due to the amount of volunteer work I have done through Berry Rotary Club, and other charitable organisations.
“The Olympic Torch still hangs with pride in our lounge room today.”
Mick thanked everyone who helped organise the ceremony dinner and those who have supported him throughout his Rotary journey.
“Jan Monigan deserves a special mention for the lovely table flowers and I would also like to thank my family and friends for being here tonight and helping me celebrate 40 years in Rotary.
“To my three lovely daughters and their families, thank you for all the love and support over the years.
“And above all I would like to thank a very special person, you know who I mean, she has supported me for 40 years in Rotary and almost 60 years of married life in everything I do – my lovely wife Patricia.
“Whilst I appreciated all the kind words said about me at the presentation, the truth is, that in my 40 years as a Rotarian, I have gotten more than I have given.”
History of Berry Rotary
- Berry Rotary Club was Chartered under a large Marquee at Berry Showground on September 1959
- The met at Berry Hotel from September 1959 until August 3, 1967. The half yearly fees was increased to $8.80 per half year and dinner fees to $1.20.
- From August 3,1967 until January 1970 the club met at the Great Southern Hotel.
- The club went back to Berry Hotel from January 1970 until February 1975.
- From February 1975 until May 29, 1980 the club went back to the Great Southern Hotel.
- In May 1980 the club moved to Berry Bowling Club, where they have been here for the past 37 years.
- In 1971 Arthur Campbell introduced Heads and Tails as a fundraiser, which is still played today.
- On November 25, 1976 Berry Rotary Club awarded a Paul Harris Award to Jim Priddle. Jim was the first Rotarian to receive a Paul Harris Award in the district.
- On October 2, 1982 Berry Rotaract Club was Chartered by the club, with Jimmy Abbott being Charter President.
- Three years later on June 27, 1985 Berry Interact Club was Chartered. It was the first Rotaract Club in the district, with Gail Gardner as Charter President.
- The installation of a town clock in Berry Apex Park was the major community project for 1985/86 Rotary year in honour of Charter President Jim Priddle. It was finished in May 1987.
- Hugh Newman from Berry Rotary Club was District Governor in 1986/87.
- Bill Seelis was District Governor in 2011/12