The Flywheel

Meeting of August 24th

An Update on RotaVision

Tracy Giles, Past President of the El Cerrito Rotary Club, will join with Dr. Otis Paul of the San Francisco Rotary Club and Jack Blanks, Executive Director of the Berkeley-based Seva Foundation, to provide an update on Rotavision International.

Dr. Paul founded the Rotavision International project in 1993 when he traveled to Zimbabwe to teach eye surgeons how to treat children's eye diseases. Since then, he has enlisted the services of other U.S. ophthalmologists to help teach and empower local doctors in several other developing countries (now more than 20) to treat children and adults with disabling eye problems.

The Seva Foundation is an international health organization founded in 1978 “dedicated to the alleviation of suffering in the world” with a major focus on the prevention of blindness around the globe.

(Read the Flywheel notes on Tracey's visit to the Richmond Rotary in 2007.)


Meeting of Friday, August 17th

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Pres Jim Young opened by sharing Ralph Hill’s Maritime alumnus connection to today’s program and offering a toast to: … all those men and women who gave their lives in WWII so we could be here today, remembering the war as a great adventure and the great accomplishment it was, without the horrible memory of the bloody fiery hell it also was… and to Edwin J. O’Hara, to Steve Gilford and to Ralph Hill, who are with us today to promote the remembrance.”
Pledge of Allegiance led by David Keystone
Quiet reflection led by Horace ‘Stoney’ Stonework


  • Rotary’s 5150 District approved Richmond Rotary’s Grant request for the Richmond Tales Play Project with the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts for $10,000k.
  • The Board approved a modified budget that anticipates some ambitious fundraising ($22k).
  • The Board agreed to establish an Ad Hoc Committee to fully review the Rehfuss Funds and make recommendations to the membership on their future use.
  • The Board agreed to be the first BARSHEEP (Berkeley, Albany, Richmond, San Pablo, Hercules, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, Pinole) Club to help staff the RotaCare Hospitality Room scheduled to open in October at Brighter Beginnings on MacDonald Ave. in Richmond. This will be a free service for those without health insurance who might otherwise go to ER for non-emergency care. E. J. Shalaby reported that aggressive Doctor solicitation is currently underway that will be the foundation of the service. A Rotary volunteer signup list is circulating for Rotarians interested in helping at the Center once it opens. Talk to EJ for more information.
  • A sit down Holiday Party in December is planned. A signup list is circulating.
  • Richmond Rotary will have a booth at the Solano Stroll on September 9. Sign up please!
  •  October 12 will be our first Club Assembly of the Peace Through Service year.
  • Get your club directory online or through Sid Chauvin. Thank you, Sid.
  • Tom Waller alerts us all that next week’s Rotovision program (8-24) will be special as Tracy Giles brings to Richmond Rotary Rotovision founder Dr. Otis Paul, along with Jack Blanks, Executive Director of Seva (which partnered with Rotovision).

Special Events

Connie Tritt “Who Am I?”
Connie Tritt, CPA, treated us to a humorous tale (you had to be there) of humble Louisiana beginnings, glass ceilings and career changes that span the East and West coast with a Georgia stopover before landing in Point Richmond with her present tax preparation business. Born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Connie moved with family to Mill Valley where she graduated from high school in 3 short years. A biology major at the University of Oregon, she found herself in the grueling pre-med track. Her first job was working in medical research at the University of Oregon that ultimately made Connie the animal activist that she is today. A career correction led Connie into the world of financial retirement planning for Merrill Lynch for 8 years. She landed at its headquarters in New Jersey where she met her husband. Together they left Merrill Lynch (and New Jersey) to become business partners in the San Jose CPA firm of Abbot Stringham & Lynch.

After many years, Connie parted ways from the partnership (both marriage and business) and found work in Atlanta, Georgia until the economic downturn forced a new look at returning to California. Lucky for Richmond Rotary, she bought a tax preparation business in Richmond where she is building a tax practice that focuses on business, especially small business tax and accounting services. Welcome, Connie, as you turn your red badge to blue!


Don Lau led recognitions of:
Michael Winter – Congratulations Mike and Cindy on 52 years together!
Stoney is having a big month: 18 years in Richmond Rotary, 48 years with Mary Anna, and a birthday on August 28. Congratulations and Happy Birthday Stoney!
Connie Tritt celebrated a birthday on August 20!
Don delivered anniversary congratulations to our Palm Desert representative, Jim Beaver. Happy Anniversary Jim and Jane!

Happy and Sad Dollars

Richmond Rotary joins David Brown’s elation at news of his sister’s recent cancer-free test results.
Jan Brown will be a grandparent come January, thanks to happy news from son Matt and his wife Susan.
Stoney Stonework had sad dollars for the sudden separate deaths of 3 close members of the MacDonald’s family.
Herb Cole was happy to have Lake Charles, Louisiana connections.
Erle Brown gave a happy reminder of the upcoming Contractors Lunch (at the Baltic) for those lucky winning bidders,  and a warm welcome to Steve Gilford, our speaker
Jim Young is pleased that his eldest son is getting married this Sunday

Norm's Nonsense

A juggler, driving to his next performance, is stopped by the police.
"What are those knives doing in your car?" asks the officer.
"I juggle them in my act," says the juggler.
"Oh yeah?" says the cop. "Let's see you do it."
So the juggler starts tossing and juggling the knives.
A guy driving by sees this and says, "Wow, am I glad I quit drinking. Look at the test they're making you do now!"


The History and Evolution of Health Care in America

Tom Waller introduced Steve Gilford, an independent historian and writer who (fortunately for us) adopted the Kaiser Richmond Shipyards to research in detail its historic achievements. Last year he published, Build ‘Em by the Mile, Cut ‘Em Off By the Yard: How Henry J. Kaiser and the Rosies Helped Win WWII, available at the Richmond Museum of History.

Today’s program captivated us all. NO scribe should even attempt to summarize the words of one of Richmond’s great story-tellers, but for the benefit of a generation of Rotarians who could not be there today here goes . . .

With riveting detail, Steve described the maiden voyage of the SS Stephen Hopkins, a Liberty Ship launched from Richmond Shipyard No. 2 in September of 1942. A crew of 57 men led by Captain Paul Buck and Chief Mate Richard Moczkowski from Richmond and a crew of Navy Armed Guards led by Ensign Ken Willett, set off for Bora Bora to deliver supplies. Captain Buck instructed merchant marines to also learn to man the one 4 inch hand-me-down gun at the stern. After successful deliveries to several ports, the Hopkins endured a 5-day typhoon and was given up for lost. Port repairs and securing ‘loose cannons’ (the original meaning) followed.

The Hopkins encountered more bad weather on its way to Dutch Guiana. As the fog lifted, helmsman Moczkowski spotted trouble– the notoriously well-armed German raider Stier manned by a crew of 257 togetherwith its armed escort Tannenfels. The Hopkins was no match. Ignoring German orders to heave ho, Captain Buck turned his ship back to the fog bank –making the Hopkins a smaller target and pointing the Hopkins’ best weapon at its pursuer. The Stier directed fire at the Hopkins stern gun killing its gun crew with each round. But willing replacements abounded as the mortally wounded Willet directed them to fire at the Stier with amazing accuracy.

At last the Hopkins gun went silent and the Germans targeted the boiler room, killing all the engine crew except 19-year-old Edwin O’Hara, a Merchant Marine Cadet from Kings Point (Ralph Hill’s alma mater). The Hopkins was sinking and Captain Buck ordered his crew to abandon ship. German fire killed many getting into the life boats. Upon seeing the mayhem of the upper deck and noticing 5 remaining shells in the shot locker, O’Hara decided to load and fire the 2.7 ton gun himself. 5 shots. 5 direct hits. A gleeful O’Hara was last seen celebrating his athletic prowess before being killed by German fire. The damage was enough to send the Stier to the bottom of the sea – the first time a German navy warship had been sunk by a merchant ship. If it weren’t for 15 men from the Hopkins who survived 31 days in a life boat to tell the story we might only know the German captain’s reported version of how he lost his ship: “Ran into a light cruiser.”

Steve closed by displaying the names of the SS Hopkins crew – a Richmond story of heroism worth repeating and hearing again. Read more in Steve’s book! And thank you Steve for bringing history to life.

-Jan B Nimble, substitute scribe