Service Above Self:
History of the Las Cruces Rotary Club

This history is from a pamphlet commissioned by the Rotary Club of Las Cruces in 1989.  It was written by Jennifer L. Holberg, who was an NMSU undergraduate at the time. 

Acknowledgments  Introduction: Rotary  The Early Years  The War Years
  The Post-War Period   The 1950's  The 1960's  The 1970's and 1980's 
Food, Fun, and Fellowship  Charter Members  Presidents

The War Years


World War II had a profound effect on the Rotary Club in Las Cruces.  Even before the United States’ official entry into the war, Rotary membership was beginning to fall.  A newsletter to the members dated 2 July 1941 stated that “the matter of the depleted membership (now 30) is one of serious concern.”  At that time, a weekly luncheon committee was created to help stimulate membership.  However by 13 August 1941, the newsletter glumly reported: 

Apparently the Las Cruces Rotary Club is not numerically large enough to attempt to take on any project of any size and carry it through to a successful conclusion.  We believe under the circumstances we are doing the best thing in increasing the size of our student loan fund and in helping to finance other public enterprises, even if we cannot take the credit of managing them.  We have just scanned the roster of the club and you will have hard work trying to find a single member who is not doing something in the community that is worthwhile, either through the Chamber of Commerce, the College, the churches, or other organizations. 

Even with low membership, the war years were filled with activity.  Rotary International initiated a new publication for its membership entitled Work Pile News which discussed economic and social problems created by the war as well as explored solutions for the reconversion of America after the war’s conclusion.  A newsletter dated 15 October 1943 urged local clubs to work to “win the peace as well as the war,” encouraging them to create “jobs to bridge the reconversion period.”  Another asked clubs to visit local servicemen, describing one club that provided cigarettes to local soldiers.  The Rotary Club of Las Cruces needed no encouragement.  In a letter dated 5 November 1942, the City of Las Cruces requested the Rotary Club assist with gasoline rationing.  Thirteen men from the local club were chosen to help in this effort.  In 1943 the club donated four gallons of grey floor paint and six gallons of light ivory paint to the 375th Squadron Dayroom and Yucca Camp and Hospital Council of the American Red Cross.  The club received a Treasury Department citation for its sale of defense bonds.  It helped in smaller ways as well.  Rotary International established a “Relief Fund for War-Affected Veterans” to which the local club contributed.  Rotary International asked all club presidents in March 1944 to help keep transportation available for military personnel and supplies by sending no one to the International Convention unless absolutely essential.  Finally, members absent because of war participation were kep as active members on Las Cruces Rotary lists.  Mrs. W. B. O’Donnell, for example, received a letter from the president of the club informing her of her husband’s active status in the club while he was “away in the service” as well as extending an invitation for that year’s Ladies Night.