“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.”
—Paul P. Harris
These words, from the founder of Rotary, Paul Harris, were words Steve Pershall put to work in the El Dorado Rotary Club. El Dorado Rotary was not just a social club to Pershall, it was a means to accomplish good in the world.
The El Dorado Rotary Club lost one of its best in 2013. Pershall was an iconic figure in the El Dorado Club, holding almost every position on the board in his 16-year tenure. Pershall was more than your average Rotarian, he kept the club on course to achieve its goals, coaxed members to be productive and provided members with that fatherly advice at every turn. If in doubt, ask Pershall.
Though Pershall was bound to a wheelchair, his drive, determination and excitement for the Rotary’s mission, freed him from his confines to accomplish anything he set his sights on. And he accomplished a lot. Besides being Club president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and board member, Pershall was an innovator.
Pershall’s dream of creating a memorial for the 1955 tornado victims started with a term paper while he was in college and ended with an ambitious project that spanned several years and culminated in a beautiful memorial in Graham Park.
The task was daunting for a small El Dorado Rotary Club, but once Pershall convinced the club he would lead the fund raising effort, they all knew it would become a reality. Dave Stewart and John Prigmore led the design and construction with Pershall providing the fund raising leadership. The project was unveiled on the 50th anniversary of the tornado, right on schedule as Pershall had planned.
News station satellite trucks clogged the streets on either side of the park as a huge crowd gathered for the unveiling ceremony. Many of the victims and victim’s families were present as Pershall emotionally addressed the crowd to welcome them for the memorial event.
Pershall was also vested in Rotary’s effort to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. Pershall organized a walk for polio event three years running to raise money for the Polio Plus program. Rotary is close to eliminating the second human disease in history after smallpox, with a 99 percent reduction in polio cases worldwide since 1985, when Rotary launched its PolioPlus program. To date, Rotary has contributed more than $1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than two billion children against polio in 122 countries.
Pershall was also the district chair for Rotary Foundation. Pershall led by example and encouraged members to give generously to accomplish Rotary’s missions.
Page 2 of 2 - The 1.2 million-member Rotary organization started with the vision of one man – Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on Feb. 23, 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s humble beginning has grown into an organization with 34,533 clubs in 200 countries.
The Service Above Self Award is Rotary’s highest honor and recognizes only one per regional district, and only up to 150 Rotarians worldwide each year who demonstrate their commitment to helping others by volunteering their time and talents.
Pershall received this award for a life of dedicated selfless service to others. He believed in helping people and achieving results were his reward.
The award was presented to Pershall’s wife, Edith Waugh, at a recent meeting.