In nearly 60 years he's never missed a Rotary meeting.
By REBECCA SLOAN
WARREN -- Les Stauffer hates to be late, especially for his Rotary meetings.
Stauffer has been a member of Warren Rotary Club since 1942, and in all those years he has never once missed a meeting and never once has been late.
This is why it was particularly challenging to pull off a surprise 90th birthday party in his honor Wednesday afternoon.
Stauffer thought he was going to a noon Rotary meeting, not a birthday party, and he was champing at the bit to get there.
No easy task: "It wasn't easy trying to make this guy late," said District Governor Fred Miller, who drove Stauffer to the party. "People ask me what my biggest part was in this surprise party, and I tell them it was causing Les to be 15 minutes late."
By the time Stauffer arrived at Enzo's Banquet Hall around 12:15, about 150 party guests and Rotary members were on their feet singing "Happy Birthday," bagpipes were playing and Stauffer was rendered speechless.
"I am surprised, very pleasantly surprised," said Stauffer, who turns 90 Saturday.
The date marks a milestone in a long lifetime dedicated to public service.
"Les has been a Rotarian for 59 years. He has been a major donor to the organization, a past district governor, a former safety service director for the city of Warren, a longtime member of Warren's First Presbyterian Church and a longtime member of the Boy Scouts of America," Miller said.
"He has dedicated his life to serving the community and making a positive difference."
Special day: Warren Mayor Hank Angelo presented Stauffer with a plaque and declared Wednesday "Les Stauffer Day."
Stauffer was born in Clarington, Ohio, May 26, 1911, but he has spent most of his life in the Warren area.
For many years he and his wife, Lillian, who is deceased, owned Sanitary Dairy on state Route 422 in Warren, a place Angelo recalls as a great spot to get a hamburger and milkshake.
Even then, Stauffer was doing his part to help others.
"During the big snow of 1950, Les hooked his horses to a sleigh and delivered milk to all the babies at the area hospitals," Angelo said.
Stauffer's many years with the Boy Scouts earned him the Silver Antelope Award and Silver Beaver Award, the group's highest honor for adults.
"By my estimation, Les has touched the lives of about 1.5 million young people through his many, many years of service," said Gary Erlinger of the Boy Scouts of America's Western Council.
Most honorable: But it is Stauffer's long commitment to Warren Rotary Club that has gained him the most local recognition.
"He is an exemplary man for any organization," said club member Larry Pogue, who has known Stauffer about 45 years.
"He promotes and participates and gives it his all. He's always there when you need him and is the perfect example of what a member should be."
Rotary International is a worldwide organization devoted to humanitarian service. In 2005, the organization will be 100 years old.
Life enriched: Stauffer said his involvement with the Warren Rotary and Rotary International has enriched his life. "The Lord ha s been good to me. I am happy to just be here at age 90 and happy to be surprised this way. Public service has given my life meaning and purpose," he said.