The Fort Atkinson Rotary Club on Monday honored two members who live by the organization’s motto, “Service Above Self.”

During its annual awards picnic at the Rock River Park Rotary Pavilion, the club presented Dr. Mike Bender with its Five Avenues of Service Award and Dr. Jim Fitzpatrick with its Allan S. Haukom Service Above Self Award.

Ironically, Fitzpatrick was the presenter of Bender’s surprise recognition and vice versa.

“The Five Avenues of Service Award is one of the most prestigious and coveted awards that can be bestowed on a Rotarian,” Fitzpatrick noted. “So much so that in Fort Atkinson, there have been many years where a recipient has not been selected because excellence in all five avenues is so difficult to achieve.”

Those five avenues of service are club, vocational, community, international and youth/New Generations service.

“Our honoree this year not only meets the expectations, but exceeds them in the selfless service he has provided as a Rotarian,” Fitzpatrick said of Bender.

He noted that when it comes to club service, Rotarians always can count on Bender to help.

“From the pancake breakfasts, the Rotary raffle and the beer and wine events to supporting any local or international projects, this Rotarian always comes through for our club,” Fitzpatrick said.

As it relates to his vocational attributes, the partner in BKS Dental is recognized in his profession locally, regionally and at the state level, where his distinguished service to his profession is lauded by many, Fitzpatrick pointed out.

“He is constantly looking for ways to improve his craft. He has spent over 2,000 hours in continuous education and professional development,” Fitzpatrick said of Bender, who currently is president of the Jefferson County Dental Society. “He is both generous and compassionate in modeling a professional veneer that all in his field and in other professions would aspire to be like.”

Fitzpatrick cited Bender’s community service, which is well known in Fort Atkinson: Cub and Boy Scout leader; devoted parishoner at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church; and Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce member, serving as its president in 1999 and on the board for six years.

“As an ambassador, he always presents Fort in a most positive manner,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was no surprise when this Rotarian was chosen as the (chamber’s) Small Businessperson of the Year in 2015.”

Fitzpatrick recalled the saying, “If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person.”

“Amidst this Rotarian’s busy job, he has dutifully served as the chamber Project LEAD mentor, where he has worked with young professionals in sharing his immense leadership gifts, along with shepherding them to the completion of a civic project that serves the common good,” Fitzpatrick said.

He noted that during these times when school districts and municipalities often rely on advisory groups to help them resolve serious issues and budget constraints, Bender has served on referendum committees and, in the mid-1990s, was involved with the new high school advisory task force.

“He also has found the time to serve on the Chamber Education Committee, where he served on the senior high school portfolio interviews ever since its inception in the spring of 2000,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that BKS Dental quietly affirms teachers each month with a gift from the Teacher Treat Pool as a result of being nominated by a student for his/her great efforts in the classroom.

And in addition to Rotary, Bender has been president of the Optimist Club and a member of the Jaycees, and is slated to serve as the next president of the Fort Atkinson Community Foundation.

“Who would not like to have a service club member with such a “can-do attitude and personality?” Fitzpatrick asked.

“Lastly and most importantly, our recipient is a good family man. He will have been married to his lovely wife, Donna, 36 years this August. Together, they have raised three wonderful children,” Fitzpatrick said.

Bender was emotional in his response, saying that he could not do all that he has without the support of his wife, Donna.

“None of that is possible without the support of the homefront, as we all know,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure and an honor to be involved in this community; it’s done great things for us.”

Later in the program, Bender presented the Allan S. Haukom Service Above Self Award — named after 53-year Rotarian Haukom, who died at age 92 in 2007 — to Fitzpatrick.

He noted that the award is bestowed occasionally to someone like Fitzpatrick, the retired School District of Fort Atkinson district administrator, who is “a model of inspiration, enrichment and motivation for others in our club and in the entire community.”

Bender pointed out that Rotarians are people of action whose mission is to provide service to others, promote integrity and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders. They also are community builders who collaborate with community leaders to work on projects that have a real, lasting impact on peoples’ lives.

“We are people of action who connect passionate people with diverse perspectives to exchange ideas, forge lifelong friendships and, above all, take action to change the world,” Bender said.

And Rotarians are problem-solvers, he added, “who together apply our professional experience and personal commitment to tackle our communities’ problems, find effective ways to enhance health, stability and prosperity in our community and across the globe.”

Fitzpatrick has done all of these things, greatly impacting the community and thousands of individuals, the dentist said.

He has been involved with almost every Rotary function it has had, including the Lumberjack Breakfast, Top Senior Scholars banquet, Beer & Wine Fest, fall raffle, Arbor Day tree planting and picking up litter along the Glacial River Trail.

“He had been involved with the Rotary Student of the Month program,” Bender said. “The recipient’s family hosted international Rotary visitors. He is a sustaining Paul Harris Fellow.”

In the community, Fitzpatrick also has been extremely active, having been involved in Relay for Life; the United Way of Jefferson and North Walworth Counties, including on its board of directors for 10 years; and the Fort Atkinson Area Chamber of Commerce, volunteering for its senior portfolio program, and three years as a facilitator for Project LEAD, impacting about 60 local business leaders.

“The recipient was a Fort Atkinson Library Board member and chaired fundraising for the Dwight Foster Public Library addition,” Bender continued. “He, with others, was responsible for helping hundreds of kids prepare for confirmation into the Catholic faith, was a lector and eucharistic minister at St Joe’s, was on the building committee for St Joe’s. The recipient is currently on the Fort Healthcare Board of Directors.”

Bender mentioned that Fitzpatrick showed up at almost every school function, concert, sporting event, and awards activity, especially while superintendent.

He and his wife, Therese, raised two wonderful children and some four-legged family members too, Bender said, and then after he “retired” locally, Fitzpatrick started teaching doctoral leadership classes at National Louis University in Chicago.

While district administrator for 14 years in Fort Atkinson, Bender said, Fitzpatrick “formed great connections between the school district, the students and their families, the public and private sectors of the community. He has great networking skills and great communication skills.

“The students admired him and knew who he was,” he continued. “I do not remember knowing who our superintendent was when I was a kid. I knew who my principal was, though. The students all proudly fell into the ‘coach’ family. But Jim knew about the students and what they were doing and involved with. He wrote notes to them; he was their cheerleader.”

He and many others improved curriculum, amd worked through multiple referendums to keep the school district in great shape, he said.

Bender reported that Fitzpatrick, a Chicago native, started his career in education by teaching social studies and coached girls’ basketball at Newman Catholic High School in Mason City, Iowa. From there, he spent time in Lost Nation, Iowa, as a teacher, junior high principal, athletic director and cross country coach before heading to West Liberty, Iowa, to serve as a principal.

“He got his master’s (degree) in educational administration from the University of Iowa in Iowa City,” Bender reported. “The Fitzpatricks moved east to Beloit High school in the mid-1080s and Jim completed his PhD in educational administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

The Fitzpatricks came to Fort Atkinson in 1999, and “Jim coached and mentored all of us from day one that we are here to be of service to others,” Bender said.

He added: “We thank you and Therese for all the good that you have done for the thousands of lives that you have touched and the communities in which you lived. Thank you for being part of our Fort Atkinson community.

“We thank their daughter, Megan, and son, Michael, for sharing their dad with us. Jim, thank you for being in our Rotary Club and exemplifying the Rotary motto, ‘Service Above Self.’”

Bender closed with a note he had seen on Fitzpatrick’s Facebook page recently. It was written by a colleague, who recalled that he was co-teaching with his mentor, Fitzpatrick: “He opened the class by sharing a quote by Muhammad Ali: ‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.’”

Fitzpatrick thanked the Rotarians for the recognition.

“Well, anybody who is lucky enough to receive an award in honor of Al Haukom is truly a blessed guy, because when I came here, he was the one of the classiest men I had ever met in my life,” Fitzpatrick said. “And so this is a deep honor.”

He added, “Like Mike, I’m married to a living saint. I’m very blessed and could never have accomplished what God has allowed me to accomplish in my time if it wasn’t for her. Any glory to me, 10 times-fold to her.”

Also Monday, Jim Nelson announced this year’s Contributing and Multiple Paul Harris Fellows.

Paul Harris was the Chicago attorney who founded Rotary International along with four other businessmen in 1905. The fellowship was established in his honor in 1957 to express appreciation for a contribution of $1,000 to the humanitarian and educational programs of the Rotary Foundation.

“The mission of the Rotary Foundation is to support the efforts of Rotary International in the achievement of world understanding and peace through local, national, and international humanitarian, educational and cultural programs,” Nelson said, noting that the club recognizes Rotarians who contribute to the Rotary Foundation in many ways.

“Rotarians who contribute a minimum of $100 per year to the Rotary Foundation are recognized as Sustaining Members. Once their cumulative contributions total $1,000, they are recognized as Paul Harris Fellows. For each successive $1,000 in donations, Rotarians are recognized as Multiple Paul Harris Fellows,” Nelson explained. “In addition, our club has had the longstanding tradition of annually recognizing one of our members for his or her outstanding contributions to our local club and dedication to ‘Service Above Self’ as an Honorary Paul Harris Fellow by making a $1,000 contribution in their name.

He said that the Fort Atkinson Rotarians have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the programs of the Rotary Foundation.

“Of our current 46 active members, 32 of you (or 70 percent) have supported the ideals of Rotary by making contributions to the Rotary Foundation; 13 of you are Sustaining Members (donating at least $100) for the current year; 25 of you (or 54 percent) have achieved Paul Harris Fellow status as either an honorary or contributing Paul Harris Fellow; and 17 of you have earned Multiple Paul Harris Fellows,” said Nelson. “The Rotary Club of Fort Atkinson members are credited with donating over $158,000 to the Rotary Foundation.”

Sustaining Paul Harris Fellows who have contributed at least $100 this past year are: Mike Bender, Edwin Bos, Robert Cheek, Carrie Chisholm, Kim Foelker, Dwight Heaney, Gerald McGowan, John McIntyre, Jim Nelson, Pamela Severson, Christine Spangler, Mike Wallace and Ardell Wiederhoeft.

Nelson said that members earning their first-time Paul Harris Fellows are Carrie Chisholm and Kim Foelker.

In addition, Kim Foelker was announced as the recipient of this year’s Honorary Paul Harris Award. She was unable to attend the picnic; she will be recognized at a later date.

“We recognize Multiple Paul Harris Fellows for each additional $1,000 contribution to the Rotary Foundation by presenting them with a pin with that has stones, either sapphires or rubys, indicating the total level of their contributions,” Nelson said.

Recipients included: Mike Bender, Dwight Heaney, James Nelson, Christine Spangler, Mike Wallace and Ardell Wiederhoeft.

“As Rotarians, your contributions to the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International are providing relief for people in need, improving living conditions, and providing educational opportunities for young people somewhere in the world,” Nelson said. “Your generosity further demonstrates your commitment to our common goals of world understanding and peace.”

In addtion, the club saluted Rotarians who reached membership milestones were: Brad Wilcox, 45 years; John McIntyre, 35 years; Jim Nelson, 20 years; and Carla Haubenschield and Tom Dehnert, both 10 years.

Nelson recognized the two outgoing Fort Atkinson High School Interact club Co-Presidents Kraymer Gladem and Madelyn Hansen, Vice President Eli Koehler, Secretary Sarah Mepham and Treasurer Brooke Leibman. They were unable to attend, but on hand was Isha Paudel, an Interact member and the Rotary’s exchange student from Nepal.

She thanked Rotary for the wonderful year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, along with the three host families with whom she stayed: Andy and Sally Koehler, Edwin and Joanna Bos and Paul and Sarah Johnsen.

During the changing of the guard,Paul Johnsen thanked the Rotarians for their support during his past year as president.

“I want to thank you for the opportunity that you have given to me to be your president for a year,” he said. “I thought things were going really well until about the end of February, and one of my goals was that we would welcome Isha and give her the best year of her life. I don’t know if we did that, but we certainly have given you a memorable year.

“I hope you will remember us fondly, and we certainly with remember you,” Johnsen told her.

He noted that the other day, they were talking around the supper table and he was complaining about this not having been a very good year to be Rotary president.

And Isha said with a laugh, “This was not a very good year to be an exchange student,” Johnson recalled.

“I do hope that this has been a positive experience for you,” he said, to her nod and big smile.

Johnsen said that, despite the wrench thrown into the Rotary’s year by the pandemic, he was happy that the club was able to complete some of the projects it set out to do. He cited the new digital sign at Jones Park, completion of the playground at Arrowhead Park, and the near-completion of the Wheels Park in Ralph Park.

“We have other projects that are yet to be completed, but I certainly want to thank you for that,” Johnson said. “I certainly want to thank all of you for this opportunity. I’ve only lived in Fort Atkinson for three years, and have had the great honor to be your president.”

He thanked Edwin Bos, who is finishing up his year as District 6250 governor.

Noting that none of this happens without all of the “detail people” in the club, Johnsen also thanked Sergeant-at-Arms Bob Cheek, Treasurer Ardell Wiederhoeft and Secretary John McIntyre.

I want to thank all of you for your willingness to go with me this year, and I look forward to continuing and be an active member of this club,” Johnson said. “I am going to be the assistant district governor for five or six clubs, but I still plan to remain active here. But I just want to thank you all for the opportunity you have given to me.”

Also Monday, Johnson passed the gavel to incoming President Carl Selvik.

“Again, this is a difficult time, and I trust that we will support Carl. You will find these people helpful and encouraging and they always seem to find a way to get things done. I look forward to working with you,” Johnsen said.

In turn, Selvik presented Johnsen with a gavel plaque in recognition of his year as club president.

I’d like to thank Paul for this year’s service,” Selvik told Johnsen. “We definitely have had some surprises this year, but you managed them excellently. We couldn’t have had a better president.”

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