PDG Ralph Adams 1998/99

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It has been said that: Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth . Well if that's true, then Ralph Adams paid enough rent for 10 lifetimes.  He served his country, as a member of the armed forces and it was fitting that his funeral service was on Remembrance day.

He served his profession as a teacher at both the University of Toronto and University of Western Ontario Faculties of dentistry. He served on various Ontario Dental Association committees and as an elected governor of the ODA for 6 years.  The Ontario Dental association recognized him with the service award in 1996.  Ralph also established dental offices in four nursing homes and helped work those offices for over 9 years.

He served his community as an Alderman in the Town of Preston as well as serving on various Boards. He was Cambridge Chairman of the St. John Ambulance for five years and is an Officer in the Order of St. John. He also served as board member for the Kids Ability Foundation.

But the way many of us were involved with Ralph was through the service work he did through Rotary. Like everything in Ralph's life he did nothing in half measure. Ralph didn't just take up scuba diving, he became an expert in underwater photography. He didn't just have a movie camera and take home movies, he became proficient enough to be a professional editor and videographer. And so it was with his commitment to Rotary.

Ralph had a passion and a love of Rotary. Ralph joined the Rotary Club of Preston-Hespeler in 1969 and served his club in various positions before becoming President in 1981-1982. His club twice honoured him with Paul Harris Fellowships. A very high recognition in Rotary.

But, Ralph was not content to be just a member of his local club. He served on numerous committees at the district level, culminating in him taking on the duties of District Governor in 1998-99. He was the tenth district governor of District 7080. I was the 5
. He was a bearded dentist, I'm a bearded dentist. Some people commented when they saw Ralph and I together we were like the Smith Brothers. And I know many of us in Rotary feel like we have lost a brother.

In Rotary we refer to what we call the Family of Rotary. This includes the Rotarians, their families, exchange students, the scholars we support, and essentially anyone that Rotary touches. Ralph did truly care for the broader family of Rotary. He and Ginny hosted 9 exchange students and some 5 group study exchange team members.

The best indication of how Ralph supported the Family of Rotary came from my daughter just a few days ago. When I told her of Ralph's passing, she didn't hesitate, she said, "I want to go to his funeral". I was a bit surprised, after all Ralph was in my circle of friends, in my world of Rotary.

So I asked why. And she said: that of all the people in Rotary that phoned the house to talk to me, he was the only one that always, always took the time to talk to her, to ask her what she was doing, how things were going in her life. He was genuinely interested in people, no matter what age and he had a unique way of touching the hearts of young people.

Each year the Rotary International president selects a theme for the year. The year Ralph was district governor the theme was "Follow your Rotary Dream". And beyond a doubt he did follow his dream. This was especially true of one of the GSE teams that Ralph engineered in his year as governor. They were a team of all teachers from southern Africa. They were given the name 'the rainbow team'. Partly because they came in various skin colours, but also because they included members all the way from a vice-principal of a private school to a teacher whose classroom was the closest shade tree.

We received this e-mail from that team: "Sincere condolences from the South Africa GSE team. We are deeply saddened by the news of PDG Ralph Adam's premature death. We will always remember him as our cherished friend."

One of Ralph's greatest passions in Rotary was support for the Rotary Foundation. He and Ginny are both Paul Harris Fellows, Benefactors and Major Donors of the Rotary Foundation. Over the years Ralph had served as district Foundation education chair and Foundation chair. And during his year as District governor he came up with some unique and innovative ways to raise funds for the foundation. His best success however came from the ties.

Most years Rotary comes out with a theme tie and for a donation of $100. to the foundation you can get that year's tie. Most of us as governor could coax maybe 30 or 40 Rotarians in our district to make the donation for the tie. Not so Ralph. I think he sold some 230 or more. The Foundation was getting suspicious as to what he was doing with all of the ties he was ordering! I know he raised about $25,000., helping take the District Foundation donations to an all time high. 

Perhaps the best incident I remember with the ties was at a district function in Brampton. Ralph, was governor and had on his tie. His had been presented to him by Rotary International President, Jim Lacey. One of the Rotarians in the group said: "I want that tie."  Ralph answered: "give me a $100 donation to the foundation and you can have one." The Rotarian replied: "no, I want THAT tie, the one you have on".

Ralph said: "well if you want this one it will be a $1000 donation to the foundation," to which the Rotarian replied: "fine $1000."  And Ralph, without missing a beat, said: "Oh that's U.S.$.  That was when the Canadian dollar was around 62 cents.

When you have had a life as full of giving as Ralph, it's hard to pick out just a few things that highlight that life.  Many of the Rotary leaders in our district have e-mailed me about their recollections and memories of Ralph.  One wrote "Ralph always called me 'Kiddo',"  as he likely called dozens of people. But he always made you feel as if that was his special name just for you! Such was the magic of Ralph Adams!

But perhaps the best words came from our current Governor.  "Thank you Ralph for what you did to make Rotary a better organization. May we celebrate your life in the spirit of the true gentleman that we came to know you as."

By: PDG Terry Palmay