Rotary Club of the Tarrytowns: A Century of Service

Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, Mimi Godwin, State Senator Peter Harckham, and JoAnne Murray gather at Beekman Ale House for the Rotary Club’s 100th An-niversary celebration.

Things have changed quite a bit since the Rotary Club of the Tarrytowns held its first meeting 100 years ago.  

Women — who were excluded from that inaugural gathering at the YMCA — now comprise about 40 percent of the service organization’s 39 members. 

The club’s nationwide effort to help eradicate polio has long ago been replaced by a focus on concerns over food and clean water. 

And those fundraising pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners have been replaced by the Rubber Duck Derby, which raises more than $25,000 annually for local nonprofits and scholarships. 

But the organization’s purpose has remained steady over the past century: Serving the local community, wherever needed. The club funds several scholarships and contributes to myriad nonprofits and projects throughout Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Irvington. 

“In the 30 years I’ve been in the club, the focus on the community hasn’t changed,” said JoAnne Murray, the club’s treasurer and past president. “We continue to make sure that when there’s a need, we can help in some way.” 

Murray, who lives in Tarrytown, has been a member since 1992 — five years after the international organization began accepting female members. 

The club’s members — professional and business people who focus on giving back to the community — celebrated the centennial on Nov. 15  at the Beekman Ale House by collecting food and donations for the Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown.  

The annual Duck Derby raises more than $25,000 annually.

The club’s message on its 100th anniversary is a simple one: “We want to thank the community for their support,” said Murray, owner and president of Allan Block Insurance Agency. “Everything that we do is because the community supports us.” 

History of the Rotary Club of the Tarrytowns 

  • November 1921: The club is organized and holds its first meeting at the Tarrytown YMCA, with 17 charter members present. 
  • First club president: Robert A Patteson of the Tarrytown National Bank and Trust Company.   
  • Other charter members: Wally Odell, founder and editor of the Tarrytown Daily News; Charles Vanderbilt and Albert Husted Jr.  
  • Noteworthy members: Dr. Fred Breitbarth, past president, for whom an annual scholarship is named; Norbert Fluhler, who composed a theme song, “Welcome to Sleepy Hollow, the Rotary on Tappan Hill”; Art Kinnell, who was secretary of the Tarrytown YMCA; and Dave Hartley, an editor of the Tarrytown News. 
  • Let’s do lunch: For many years, the club’s weekly luncheon meetings were held at the old Florence Inn in Sleepy Hollow. Then, for about 15 or 20 years, the meeting was held at Tappan Hill restaurant in Tarrytown. Meetings were moved to Marymount College, then the DoubleTreeMarriott, and now at JP Doyle’s in Sleepy Hollow.  
Toy drives are another way the Rotary gives back to the community.

Community service projects 

  • Established the Frederick Breitbarth Scholarship Fund for high school students who have given service to the community. 
  • Contribute to the Community Opportunity Center’s Buildings Fund and sponsor summer scholarships, the soup kitchen, and provide other support as needed.  
  • Established the Arthur Kennell Memorial Scholarship to support various projects at the Family YMCA at Tarrytown, including summer camp scholarships. 
  • Varsity athletic team leaders from Irvington, Sleepy Hollow and Hackley schools are awarded plaques for outstanding leadership and sportsmanship conduct. 
  • Raised awareness about the need for defibrillators in local police cars and assisted with fundraising for this project.  
  • Organized fundraising campaign to purchase a pickup truck for the Salvation Army to use in New Orleans to assist Hurricane Katrina victims. 
  • Raised over $130,000 during the pandemic to help feed those with food insecurities through the Community Opportunity Center and RSHM Life Center. 
  • Bench in honor of Armando ‘Chick’ Galella in Patriots Park  
  • Donated $25,000 toward construction of a press box at the Sleepy Hollow football field. 

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About the Author: Robert Brum