The Flywheel

Next Meeting: July 29th

World War II in the Phillipines

Harry Robinson, on the right in this photograph, was a P.O.W. in the Philippines during World War II.

Mr. Robinson will present images and stories to share with us. We hope you can attend.


Meeting of Friday, July 22nd

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Past and continuing substitute President Alan Baer filled in for EJ Shalaby who had to travel to Oregon. X-Prez Alan asked Herb Cole to lead us in the Pledge. Or maybe Herb lead us in a prayer for Freedom, Peace and Justice in the world. Henry Kelman’s observation of the week gone by was that, “The Tea Party will not be happy until We (The Treasury and People of the United States of America) are in default (on the National Debt).

Visiting Rotarians

Honorary Member Bob Niccolls introduced his wife Lavonne.

Rotarians with Guests

Markku Pelanne introduced his guest Brad Parsons.

Rafael Madrigal introduced his guest for the last time Michelle Itagaki, as Michelle appears headed to become our newest Rotarian.

Sunshine Report

No Report today. But we understand ‘Mr. Sunshine’ Bill Koziol is trying to get the detail work done on his newly renovated home in Crockett.


  • A sign-up list is circulating for the Tailgate party and A’s game August 20th which ends with fireworks. The exact time for the tailgate party has been set, for 3:30 PM. All members are recommended to sign-up, get in the $25 cost and be ready to bring a grill as well as anything you want to eat grilled. See Alan Baer or Rafael Madrigal for more accurate details.
  • ‘DAB’ David A. Brown Esq. reminded members that their annual dues are now due and payable at $200 and asked that members not delay as the clubs dues to the District and RI are due at the end of the month. David also reminded the members that if you mail your contribution, the club has a new PO Box 70643, Richmond, California 94807-0643. DAB noted he has received at least one successful payment via the ne PO Box from John Troughton which included a picture of a trout. A trout from Troughton (trout-man, get it?)?
  • Joan Davis, our new Foundation Director encouraged members, as long as they had their checkbook out, to also make a contribution to Rotary International and the Paul Harris Society. Doing a good imitation of Erle Brown, Joan reminded the club that Richmond Rotary has >100% Paul Harris participation and it is a position of honor all should want to keep.


Jim ‘The Beav’ Beaver lead the Recogntions, starting with:

X-Prez Alan Baer who has just, as of today, was celebrated, or is still celebrating, 20 years of wedded bliss with his wife Santa. Alan said more on the celebration at the next meeting. Alan had $$ for the Werner Fund.

The Beav then asked Josh Genser if it is true he has just celebrated 30 years with Elaina? Josh said, “Of Course it’s true.” The Gesner’s celebrated with a visit to their hideout and trout fishing camp in Tehama County. Josh's 10 year-old nephew went too and caught a lot of fish. Josh observed that catching fish with an n excited youngster is 10 times as much fun as just fishing. What a great time! Josh also had $$ for the Foundation.

Henry Kelman, we are going to hear more from you later, but how old were you on your birthday July 13th?”, says The Beav. “61”, replies Hank. “And what kind of celebration did you have?”, says Beav. “I woke up and that makes for a good day”, says Hank. Happy belated Birthday, Henry!

Our new Red Badge Rookie Doris Mitchell was then asked how old she was on her recent birthday by the Beav who received several sneers for asking a lady her age in public. Doris said, “31”, otherwise conforming to Rotary Truthfulness while creating wistful pangs of envy in our otherwise over-31 club.

Liliane Koziol, wanting to help the members celebrate and support the club donated two tickets to the Vivaldi Concert, Four Seasons at the SF Symphony which were auctioned off to Jim Young.

Happy and Sad Dollars

The Beav continued with Happy and Sad Dollars and started it off himself with Happy $$ to see Bob and Lavonne Niccolls at the meeting.

  • Heather Kulp had Happy $$ because she was at the meeting and not flying across the country for the first weekend out of the last month, weddings and celebrations from coast to coast now completed.
  • Josh Genser had Happy $$ because Call was nominated for having the third best intercollegiate athletic program and Stanford was nominated ‘First’.
  • Michael Gill had Sad $$ because Transept Pharmaceuticals proposed new sleep drug got ‘two thumbs down’ from the FDA causing the company to layoff half its staff, including him. We are very sorry to hear that Michael but know you will land on your feet. Worse, Michael said his Rotary badge is missing and wonders where it might be. A little help here is appropriate Rotarians.
  • Doris Mitchell had Happy $$ because her little one sang Happy Birthday to her a cappella and solo as she left for work on her birthday.

Norm's Nonsense

The secretary was leaving the office when she saw the CEO standing by a shredder with a piece of paper in his hand. "Listen," said the CEO, "this is a very important document. Can you make this thing work?" The secretary turned the machine on, inserted the paper and pressed the start button.

"Great," said the CEO as his paper disappeared inside the machine, "I just need one copy."


Old-timer's "Who Am I's"

Jim Young launched the Program portion of the meeting with announcements of the great programs in the weeks ahead. (See Upcoming Programs, above.)

Today’s program is a Richmond Rotary Tradition, the Old Timer's “Who Am I?”, Rotarians who gave their original "Who Am I’s?” decades ago. To get all the good stuff you’ve had to have been there, so our retelling of their stories is an abbreviation that may protect the innocent and promote the general good.

Bob Niccolls

Bob and his wife Lavonne travelled 640 miles from their current home in Eagle ID to participate in today’s meeting. Bob started of by telling the club how good it was to be back at Richmond Rotary. He said he could have joined the club in Eagle or one of the other clubs in the general area of Boise but preferred to keep up with Richmond because, “It’s the best”. Bob said his local clubs are “…fine, but the chemistry just isn’t right”. He paid Nick Despota (publisher of The Flywheel) a big compliment saying with the on-line Flywheel it is easy to keep up with the club, it’s many activities and accomplishments. Bob and Lavonne’s confidence in Rotary make it a primary conduit for the Niccolls family giving like the RI Haiti post earthquake relief effort.. Here are a few facts about Bob and Lavonne Niccolls”

  • Bob and Lavonne moved to Richmond in 1964, raised their kids in the public schools and they graduated from Kennedy HS, the CSU and married local girls.
  • In 1971 Bob became a self employed financial advisor specializing in employee benefits, retirement and succession planning for small business. Bob’s been retired six years and feels good about it because he took his own advice and it worked.
  • In 1972 they bought the house on Barrett and Carlston across the street from Josh Genser but the Gesner’s didn’t live their yet. Their current home in Eagle is bigger, but has plenty of room for wild life and the mountain vistas that surround it.
  • The Niccolls were very active in local community life with Lavonne serving as the first woman on the West County Y’s Board of Directors and later as the first woman Councilmember in 40 years. Lavonne was on the Council in an era when the city was making major improvements including Marina Bay, Brickyard Cove, Sears at Hilltop
  • In 1991 Don Lau nominated Bob to Rotary. Bob was active n the club Besides ‘perfect attendance’ for meetings, service and socializing, Bob re[resented the Club at the RI International Convention in Calgary Canada. Bob and Lavonne are both proud of their community service, participation in government and operating a successful small business in Richmond.. Indeed!

Henry Kelman

Hank is a man of few words and well ordered priorities. He knows what’s important, “…waking up in the morning. That’s a good day.” Henry moved his cabinet business from San Rafael to Richmond in 1975 and built his first building in 1977. Milt Lacteman invited him to come to Rotary where he met a lot of Richmond businessmen and since he liked the environment he joined. This proved very useful in 1977 when he was building a new building and ran out of money and did not have an easement or access to the building. Rotarian Jack McDonald, then President of the Chamber of Commerce went to bat for him at the city hall and got him a conditional use permit for the property. At the time he joined, Henry was the youngest Rotarian at 32.

Over the years he has built several buildings in Richmond for his company Benchmark Fixture Corporation. The advice from the older members in the club has served him well. When he came to Richmond he ran a residential custom cabinet shop. Benchmark is now a manufacturer of commercial fixtures and cabinets for retail and office buildings and was the principal cabinet supplier for the renovation of Oakland City Hall after the 1989 earthquake.

John Wilson

John’s is a story of multiple Rotaries although he came to Richmond in 1969 as an employee of Randoph Sign and Signal Co. John says he belonged to Rotary for 12 years but then switched his membership to the Rodeo club and ended up being their Jack of all trades, President to busboy. He has been to a ‘bunch’ of PETS (President Effectiveness Trainings) and several Rotary Conferences.

One of his big accomplishments was the night the Rodeo Rotary had a dinner meeting at the local Chinese Restaurant. For whatever reason the restaurant seated the club in the main dining room so the club just went on with its regular meeting. By the time the meeting was over, John had talked 30 non-Rotarian patrons into joining Rotary. John’s an engineer by training and he has used that skill remodeling his home in Lafayette and maintaining his classic car collection. John is always on the lookout for candidate classic cars from the ‘40s and ‘50s. Apparently he still has room in his six car garage. With some kibitzing from the audience, John admitted it has taken five years to remodel his house and he did have a fight with the city about striping his driveway like a commercial parking lot for all the cars he has, but whose counting years or city approved parking spaces?

John said he maintains long relationships having been married in 1958 and still owning his first car, a 1932 Chevy peddle car he got when he was a little kid. Go John!.

- Rotating Editor, Josh Surowitz