Lions celebrate 85th birthday

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

When Melvin Jones started a new public service organization in 1917, the idea spread like wildfire across the country.

Lions Clubs took root in three major Maine cities — Bangor, Portland and Waterville — by 1923.

Incredibly, Bridgton was the fourth Maine club to form in 1926, under the leadership of first president Edgar Corliss and organizer George Wood.

Bridgton was one of the first 1,000 clubs nationwide as the organization grew to 50,000 members.

The new local Lions came from all walks of life from barber and plumber to lawyer and judge; from mechanic and electrician to insurance agent and optometrist; from coal and grain salesman and dowel manufacturer to banker and postmaster.

Today, membership sits at 42, but like the Founding Fathers, the group has an interesting mix.

And like the original Lions, today’s Bridgton Lions continue to work for the good of the community. Monday, Bridgton Lions celebrated their 85th anniversary with a special dinner at Bridgton Academy.

Lions International Director Ron Johnson of Sebago was the evening’s guest speaker.

“When I called the Bridgton Historical Society to ask what was happening in Bridgton 85 years ago, I was told ‘not much.’ When I mentioned Bridgton Lions were celebrating their 85th anniversary, I was told, ‘I knew they do a lot, but I didn’t know they’ve done it that long,’” Johnson said. “How many 85-year-old businesses are there? Not many, yet the club still exists and is still going strong.”

Although Lions’ work and generosity often goes without public fanfare, Johnson reminded members that their efforts “touch many lives” and “the difference you make is greater than you think.”

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Melvin Jones Fellows (Lions’ highest honor)
• Harry Anschutz
• Robert Bell
Frank Miller
D. Steve Collins
• Pat Rafferty
Al Glover
Richard Olmsted
Robert Pelletier
Sam Gigliotti
• George Rousseau
• Dr. Kenneth Gluck
• Ernest Sparke
Robert Hatch
• Ray Mushrow
Richard Lewis
James Quinn
Bruce Jones
Bob McHatton
• Deceased

As their new anniversary pins declare, Lions are “Beacons of Hope,” whether the group is providing funds to purchase new eyeglasses or helping to send a child to summer camp.

“You did not get here (85 years) by accident,” said Johnson pointing to the years of committed service turned in by members. “I am glad to see the Bridgton Lions continue to grow and serve the community.”

He encouraged the Lions to find more people to join their ranks, and experience “a feeling that money can’t buy” — the goodness of public service.

After reading a decree by Maine Governor Paul LePage, marking March 14 as Bridgton Lions Club Day in commemorating the group’s birthday, King Lion Bob Hatch conducted a roll call as to members’ years of service. The breakdown of those in attendance was: 1 to 5 years, 7; 5 to 10 years, 5; 10 to 15 years 1; 15 to 20 years, Steve Collins and Dan Macdonald, 2; 25 to 30 years, Kerry and Al Hayes Jr.; 45 to 50 years, Al Glover and Bob Pelletier.

“I belong to the Bridgton Lions Club for the opportunity to provide services to my community in a fun, generous, supportive group,” Collins said.

Collins brought a little comic relief to the birthday party with a short “roast” of his fellow Lions. Some taunts included:

As to King Lion Hatch saying he would keep his comments “short,” Collins added, “And, he always is.”

Up next was Al Glover, “The bionic man — worth more in spare parts than he is whole,” referring to his multiple knee replacements.

Glover, who has served in just about every capacity in Lions’ leadership, brought a few laughs regarding his Lions longevity, noting he was chairman of the 35th, 50th, 65th, 75th and now the 85th anniversary events.

“I won’t be here for the 100th,” he said, which immediately brought, “You never know” responses.

Who could have predicted that the Bridgton Lions would survive and prosper for 85 years and be the town’s longest serving service group?

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