Dean makes mark at Lions meeting
Member of Lions Clubs International who came from as far away as Texas for the first ever New York/Bermuda District Conference to be held here have returned to their places of business positively overwhelmed by their Bermuda experience.The visiting Lions were quick to affirm to their hosts that the “20K2 Convention”, as it was called, at The Fairmont Southampton Resort, was the best they had ever attended facility-wise, food-wise, weather-wise and otherwise. Possibly the most satisfied Lion of all was the District Governor, burly Stephen Dean and his three Bermuda clubs, Paget Lions, Hamilton and St George’s. Mr Dean has the honour and distinction of being the first Bermudian ever elected to that high office by Lions International. Ordinarily he is a member of Paget Lions Club. As a journalist and historian who has tried to cover the total Bermuda scene for more than seven decades, watching District Governor Dean presiding over the luncheon with such admirable geniality, decked out in his distinctive blue Bermuda blazer, matching knee-high socks and yellow Bermuda shorts, I was impressed that some of his New York Lions and their ladies paid homage to Bermuda by shedding their khaki long trousers for a Dean-like look! But more significantly, I have to confess to having had an historical flashback. I asked myself, is there anywhere else in this whole world where we have both a thriving Lions International Club and a dynamic Leopards Club International? And if so, how come? I knew for sure how Leopards International came into being. They went to great lenghts to ensure that a Reporter from the Bermuda Recorder covered their Thursday afternoon lunches at the Cardinal Club in Reid Street. That was well before the Theatre Boycott, which the Progressive Group initiated and resulted in the end to Government-sanctioned racial discrimination and segregation in hotels, restaurants, theatres, through a thing called The Inn-Keepers Act 1931. Lions Clubs International is a service membership organisation of just under 1.4 million members world-wide. It is the biggest of such clubs, including Rotary International, according to a speech by one of the visiting dignitaries last week. It was founded in the United States on June 7, 1917 by Melvin Jones, a Chicago businessman. Lions had and still have a focal interest in sight and hearing conservation, diabetes awareness and internatioal relations, among other things. And visiting Lions especially, like other tourists, loved to socialise and have fun during and after their weekly luncheons at the Princess; and to “hob-nob” with the friendly Bermudians who because of the laws of the land could only enter the hotels by the back doors as entertainers, waiters, waitresses, bartenders and bellmen. When we drive along Cedar Avenue in Hamilton, we see the magnificent-looking Leopards Club International headquarters building, and on its northeastern border, the Leopards Club Plaza it owns and once operated as a first-class hotel without any racial or class proscriptions. Surely names of bartender-businessmen, progressive-minded liberal, genial Bermudians of the cut of earlier days - Stephen Dean included - must come to the mind. Amongst them Gerald DeShields, the Leopards Club first president; Cromwell Manders of the Talbot Brothers fame, first tail-twister, the Trott Brothers, Wilbur and Ivan ; DA Brown (father of recently retired Premier Dr Ewart Brown) just to name a few. They must have been overwhelmed hearing the story of Melvin Jones during the course of their work to which they were so dedicated. In all likelihood they “would-da” if they “could-da” made great Lions rather than Leopards some 50 years ago. And most significantly, just across the street from the Leopards Club, on its southern side of Cedar Avenue, is Beacon House (headquarters for Bermuda’s blind) which the Bermuda Lions Clubs had a major role bringing into existence. The name of the late Joseph (Joe) Ferriera, a Bermudian of Portuguese descent, readily comes to mind. I would be surprised if it is not indellibly imprinted in the annals of Bermuda Lionism and its international outreach. So, when first one after another of the visiting dignitaries at the closing Convention luncheon, with great wit and humour Sunday last described the event as historic, and memorable, I wondered if any of them were reading my mind. Among the dignitaries attending were Texans Joe Al Picone, the international director of Lions, and wife Merle. He was the guest speaker, Past international director Ed Lecius and wife Elaine; past international director and president Al Brandel and wife Maureen and council chair Ed Liberman and wife Kathy also attended. The foregoing assisted District Governor Dean in making presentations to outstanding Lions. Among them was Somerset resident and Paget Lion Robert (Bobby) Sheen (pictured) recognised for 57 years continuous membership. His longevity is second only to the oldest Lion on record, a101-year-old New York resident Other recipients included Paget Lion Frank Flood given a 25-year pin; Joseph Cheeseman, the Robert J. Uplinger Award. The Melvin Jones Fellowsip Award went to District Governor Dean; Paget Lion President Anthony Bennet; the husband and wife team of Carolyn and Leon Wilson, Hamilton Lions (pictured). Paget Lion Geraldine Waldron of Hamilton and Cora Woods of Hamilton received the Fellowship Award Progressive. Dessaline Waldron of Paget received one Diamond added to her earlier Progressive Award, while Lion Dave Cardell, also of Paget, was given two diamonds.