Meet Some of the First 100 Presidents of Peekskill Rotary Club

Part 1 of 2
Compiled by Marie Green

In honor of the first 100 years of
Peekskill Rotary Club, 100 cherry trees were donated and planted at the Peekskill Riverfront. An annual Cherry Blossom Festival is held to commemorate the gift, and to offer a free event to the people who live in the area.  

It also serves as a key fundraiser for the Peekskill Rotary Foundation, which donates all proceeds to fund grants for local and international causes.  

In 2022, a plaque listing the first 100 Presidents was placed at the Riverfront. Many of the listed are current members of the club. On these pages are some of their proudest moments plus years in office. Look for Part 2 featuring more Rotary Presidents in April River Journal North.

For more information about the Cherry Blossom Festival, the plaque at the Riverfront, and Peekskill Rotary > 

Roger Swanson
The long-time veterinarian and co-owner of Peekskill Animal Hospital started with the Peekskill Rotary in 1976. He is best known for 35 consecutive years of running the foreign exchange program for the entire Rotary District (includes NYC and Bermuda along with Westchester County). The foreign exchange program allowed students from our area to spend a year in another country, staying with a host family and taking classes there. We hosted many students in our homes, with foreign students able to enjoy the culture and classes in the US. Roger and his wife Carol travel and visit many of the students that were part of the program. Roger was a key contributor to the successful run of Annual Rotary Horse Shows, making sure the stables and riders had all the information they needed in timely fashion. He oversaw much of the yearly equestrian events.  

Don Feldman
1992-1993 + 2014-2015
A local podiatrist and former music teacher, Don is one of two current Rotarians who served two Presidential terms. One term is the limit, unless pressed into action due to someone unable to fulfill their term. Don joined the club in 1987, and has worn many hats over his many years, such as serving on the Membership and Scholarship Committees. His appreciation of music has him helping choose the annual music award scholarship winner. He and his wife Susan are key supporters of the Daisy Jopling Music Foundation as well.  

Deb Milone

Having joined Rotary in 1993, Deb’s election as President made her the first woman to hold that office in Peekskill Rotary’s first 70 years. Until 1987 women were not able to join Rotary. When Rotary International updated its policy to allow women members, it opened a vast, new group of individuals whose values were those of Rotary — Service Above Self.  That allowed for women to serve their communities under the banner of Rotary. Deb is proud to have been the first woman President of Peekskill Rotary Club and proud of the diversity in leadership the club has elected.    

“During my year,” says Deb, “I had the great pleasure of hosting our sister club from Bromsgrove, England, to celebrate our club’s 70th anniversary. They presented me with a beautiful porcelain platter that is handed down to each new President on their installation, to hang in their home during their term.” 

Charlie Gruetzner
Charlie retired as a Lieutenant with the White Plains Fire Department and had served for 10 years in the Navy prior to that. He said that when 9/11 happened, he knew he had to do something to bring people together and to make sure we always remember the event and the local people who’ve lost their lives. He dedicated the 9/11 Memorial plaque that sits at Riverfront Green today. A moving ceremony is held every year to be sure we never forget.  

Charlie also recalls granting women in Africa seven pedal-type sewing machines so they could be self-supportive. He fondly remembers holding a club meeting at the Governor’s mansion where then-Governor George Pataki was given a Paul Harris Award, Rotary’s highest honor.  

Howard Copeland
Owner of Scott Camera, Howard has been the Rotary photographer since 1980. He helps in all activities and has taken on the responsibility for “Adopt a Class,” where he sets weekly dates for Rotarians to go into the Peekskill Schools to explain what their career is about, and to answer questions.  

Howard has fond memories of helping with the Youth Foreign Exchange Program, interviewing students who were requesting to go overseas, and working with the many families who offered to host international students locally. “One year,” he says, “four different Hen Hud students told me all about their stays. One went to Netherlands, another Sweden, another to Italy, and yet another to Argentina.” He recalls Rotarian Bill Keenan‘s daughter Clare (who now works at Hen Hud) had to ride horseback to get to school in Argentina!  

Keith Bobolia
Owner of Home Mason Supply, Keith was active for many years at the ring of the Annual Rotary Horse Show and Country Fair. “Looking at all the names on the plaque makes me so proud of the Peekskill Rotary Club,” he says, “and the continuity in the club over these 100+ years. It is a testament to all of them as well as everyone has been a member of the club how we have managed to stay such a powerful force in our community.”  

Pete Goodale
2007-2008 + 2016-2017 
Only the second President to serve two terms, Pete has used his former Verizon executive skills in many ways during his time with the club. Since he started in 2003, Pete wrote the Foundation Charter for the non-profit 501(c)(3) and assembled varied scholarships into one major listing on the website, as well as in binders given to Hendrick Hudson, Peekskill, and Walter Panas Guidance Departments.  

Among Pete’s proudest accomplishments was “leading a nearly eight-year project to donate 100 cherry blossom trees to the City of Peekskill. Conceived in 2014 by Marie Green, the idea was to plant the trees — 20 a year for five years beginning in 2015 – along the Peekskill Riverwalk so that all 100 would be in place by Oct. 1, 2019, when Peekskill Rotary celebrated its 100th anniversary.  After much planning with city staff and frequent appearances before the Peekskill Common Council by Ron Worth and me, the Council voted to accept the donation in 2016.  The first 40 cherry trees – 20 Yoshino and 20 Kwanzan – were planted in June 2016.  Chappy Manzer delivered and planted all 100 trees by spring 2019, in time for the anniversary.   

“The second phase of the project began in early 2020 to place a plaque along the walkway, commemorating the club’s donation of the trees, and recognizing the club’s Presidents during its first 100 years of service. That project involved more personal appearances before the Common Council to agree on plaque and mounting design and size, and placement.  With Council blessing in early 2022 and materials donated by Keith Bobolia, the monument was finished in May 2022.  Other key Rotarians involved were four club presidents – Cathy Johansen, Don Rizzo, Jim Sacci and Luis Segarra – and their boards, all of whom offered encouragement and support.  The trees now offer lasting beauty for the residents and businesses of Peekskill, Cortlandt and those who visit our town, and serve as a colorful background for the club’s annual Cherry Blossom Festival.” 


1 Comment

  1. Having lived in Peekskill from 1966-82, I thought there’d be at least one that I’d heard of. Nope.

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