Our History

Mission San Jose, Fremont CA

Mission San Jose, Fremont California


The Rotary Club of Mission San Jose was chartered on April 18, 1983, the third Rotary Club of Fremont. The twenty-nine charter members chose Mission San Jose as the club name because they wanted to adopt the historic Mission San Jose Church, which was then under reconstruction, as our major community project. They elected Stan Allen as President, Russ Spicer as President-elect; Todd Scott as Secretary; and Andy Geraghty as Treasurer. Within eighteen months several charter members had returned to their original clubs but many solid, long-time members had joined: Dick Asimus, Mike Connich, Alan Hyman, Richard Marlais, Jim Noonan, Bill Norwalk, Dave O’Hara, Dick Paynter, Jim Welker and Harald Westendorf.

 One of our first projects was to paint the exterior of the historic wing of the mission, which is now the museum. Thus our club became famous for delivering the “last great whitewash job.” We used authentic whitewash but the product has since been removed from the market. Another project was at Serra Center, a residential facility for the developmentally disadvantaged where we spent several weekends building a covered patio and barbecue area.

 Ours was the first club in the Tri Cities to admit women. When the Duarte Club in Southern California admitted women about ten years earlier, Rotary International removed their charter. The club sued and in 1986 the case was pending in the United States Supreme Court. President Bob Wasserman and the board felt it was just a matter of time until women would be allowed to join, so they voted to induct four women: Diane Mc Dermott, Pauline McIvor, Pauline Weaver and Marie Danner.

 Another unique aspect of our club is its fund raising efforts. We wanted to raise money in ways where everyone could participate and also have fun. We have a food booth at the Art and Wine Festival (now called Festival of the Arts) sponsored by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce where we sell our world-famous Linguica burgers, produced flawlessly each summer. Janet Pessagno started the first Reverse Raffle, a popular event that has raised a lot of money.

 We took part in the annual chili cook-off and, in keeping with our vision of excellence, we won the contest three times out of five. The other two years featured non-discerning judges! For several years we ran the bingo games at Mission Days and gave the proceeds to the Committee for Restoration of the Mission San Jose. Through the “gentle persuasion” of Jim Noonan, the club took on the task of staffing the “Feed the Hungry” at the Centerville Presbyterian dining room every fifth Tuesday. Each December, in partnership with the Fremont Police Department, we sponsor Shop With a Cop, designed to create a setting between at-risk youth and local police.

 Our club sponsors the Mission San Jose High School Interact Club which now has a membership of about 200. In 2006 we began sponsoring the Alsion/Ohlone College Interact/Rotoract club. They participate in Corazon, Feed The Hungry and the Linguica booth.

 Bob Wasserman was the first editor of The Bell, our club newsletter. In 1986 Jim Noonan and Diane McDermott co-edited. In 1988 Dave O’Hara became THE EDITOR and The Bell became world renown. The publication was a true adventure, featuring such literary giants as Westcott L. Prescott, Sally Social, Lance Sterling, Tzane Twane, E. Zola and good old Billy Joe Bob, who were all, of course, anonymous. Jean Holmes, Melissa Sanguinetti and Pat Lamb edited for several years. Then, after a time without an editor, Roberto Reyes took on the task, doing an outstanding job, including color photographs of meetings and club events. Linda Miccichi and Alan Gillette have also edited the The Bell.

 Our club has met in the Fremont Inn, Spin A Yarn, Papillion, and Nina’s, which closed suddenly. President John Eddy wanted to stay in Mission San Jose, so the Sisters of the Holy Family graciously opened their auditorium. When they began renovations of the space, the club met at Spin A Yarn until they began renovations, then we met at the Black Angus until they closed suddenly. (Is there some kind of pattern here?) We now meet at the Papillon Restaurant in Niles.

 In 2005 each club was asked to have a significant project in recognition of Rotary’s 100th Birthday. Area 3 (Fremont and Newark) clubs joined together to help sponsor the Rotary Bridgeway Apartments. Our club also donated labor and money for the amphitheater seating at Ohlone College’s Smith Center for the Fine and Performing Arts. Many of our members attended the Centennial Convention in Chicago. Harald Westendorf and his son, Jerald, retraced Route 66 to Chicago with the Fellowship of Motorcycling Rotarians.

 In the last few years the club has participated in many international service projects. Each fall they joined other Area 3 clubs in building a house in one day in Mexico through Corazon. We have partnered with other Rotary Clubs to do five Healing Water projects in Chiapas, Mexico. When one of our members, Jerry Kirk, was in Nigeria, we partnered with the Umungazi-Aba Club on two water projects and one literacy project, which provided math books to 2000 students. For our club’s 25th anniversary we completed the Leal Tank House project at Ardenwood Historic Farm and the Mission Creekwalk Historic Site at the end of Covington Drive in Fremont.

 Our club has had a number of interesting field trips in the last few years, including tours of the BFI recycle center, the Fremont Police Building, the Alameda County Water District (state of the art) water facility, lunch at Cynthia's Tea Garden, the Museum of Local History and the Higuera Adobe. This year we had our first Mystery Day, where a small committee planned a spectacular trip to the Peak Meadow Ranch at the top of Mission Peak, followed by dinner at the Alsion Montessori Middle School and Early College.

 Several years ago we began a tradition of attending the semiannual productions of StarStruck Theatre as well as other plays and programs at Ohlone's Smith Center. For the past two years we attended the Ohlone Chamber Singers Christmas Concerts in the Old Mission San Jose Church, followed by our holiday party.

 At the beginning of our 2009-2010 year we explored the idea of merging with another club. After the decision to continue on our own, we began an active campaign to grow our club. With placed our philanthropic emphasis on education and focused on local projects rather than international. As our District 5170 launches a new grants program this year, we welcome change and foresee a new focus on Service Above Self.


Past Club Presidents

2021-22 Mike Wirjadisastra

2019-21 Hilda Norwalk

2017-19 Linda Anderson

2016-17 Ruth Wenzel

2015-16 Mike Wirjadisastra

2014-15 Larry Anderson

2013-14 Kent Lewis

2012-13 Tom Handley †

2011-12 Lila Bringhurst †

2010-11 Shirley Wein

2009-10 Nader Ayad

2008-09 Brian Moos

2007-08 Dave Garges

2006-07 Mike King

2005-06 Lila Bringhurst †

2004-05 Bill Eagan

2003-04 John Eddy

2002-03 Roberto Reyes †

2001-02 Bob Tavares

2000-01 Norris Gilmore †

1999-2000 Harald Westendorf

1998-99 Jim Welker

1997-98 Pauline McIvor †

1996-97 Skip Domville †

1995-96 Dolores Ferenz

1994-95 David Creech

1993-94 Diane McDermott

1992-93 Jim Noonan

1991-92 Keith Jackson

1990-91 Bill Norwalk

1989-90 Dick Asimus †

1988-89 Alan Lowe

1987-88 David O’Hara

1986-87 Bob Wasserman †

1985-86 Duane Moran †

1984-85 Andy Geraghty †

1983-84 Stan Allen †


† - deceased