Revising history book a labor of love for Rotary duo

Former Altoona Rotary Club president Tom Cooney said the day he and some other members of the club met for the first time to discuss a potential update of its history book was in August 2011, when a Virginia-based earthquake sent shockwaves through Pennsylvania.

The earthquake’s effects, Cooney said, were the group’s first indicator that they should move ahead with the project.

“This was the day the earthquake hit and the chandeliers began to sway back and forth,” he said. “We figured this was the history gods doing a dance on the roof.”

Cooney said club leadership had been pleading that year with its committees to take on new projects. He decided, then, to spearhead updating the clubs history book, which hadn’t seen a new edition since 1980, when he was president. The book was released earlier this year.

“I figured it’s now or never,” Cooney said. “If it goes on for much longer, it wouldn’t get done. Somebody had to spark it, and so I did.”

The project became a 182-page book that documents 30 years of club presidents, charity work and other activities. Former president Dick Fruth soon joined Cooney as co-chair of the project’s committee, and the two put together something both are proud of.

When planning began, Cooney said, the committee members

didn’t realize the scope of undertaking because of a wealth of information.

“In the beginning, it was kind of intimidating,” he said. “My thought was, ‘Lord, that first history was only about five pages.’ The one done in 1980 was maybe 20-some pages, so we had to at least meet that.”

Fruth said that many other past presidents were involved in compiling the history and writing articles for the book. Information was pulled from the 1980 history book, from old newspaper articles and from archived copies of RotaNote, the club’s newsletter, said Cooney.

“We had support from many of people who were president,” Fruth said. “I think they had an interest in helping tell that story.”

Rotarians also assisted the project in other stages, including the design, printing and digital uploading, Cooney said.

He said that club members were very willing to share their memories of the Rotary with the project committee.

“We asked people to try to write down their thoughts and feelings about what the Rotary means to them, and we got a number of articles [for the book],” Cooney said. “I was happy we were able to publish those in there.”

The full book is available online for free at the Rotary’s website,

Cooney said he wanted to take advantage of the ability to share the information digitally, as that was not available when the previous three histories were compiled, though those documents, too, are online now.

Having the history online, Cooney said, will allow the Rotary to connect with more members but also with people outside of the club. Many people, he said, might not realize the work the Rotary Club has done over the years.

“We hope that anybody reading it would enjoy it and would appreciate the value that our club has given to the community,” Cooney said.

Glenda Forosisky, who joined the project to assist with the editing and design, said the history committee wanted to make sure they reached young people through the digital format.

“The younger generation, they do everything online. They access everything online,” Forosisky said. “I think, absolutely, it had to be put online.”

Forosisky proposed a number of design elements, which really helped to bring the project together, Cooney said.

Though Forosisky’s assistance proved invaluable, Cooney said that without Fruth, he would likely have been unable to complete the project, as it was “too much for one person.”

Fruth said that continuing to document the work and history of the Rotary will fall on the generations of members to follow. Future iterations of the history book will rest on them.

“We’ve told the story of the last 30 years. Now it’s up to the members of today to carry this forward, and the story going forward is going to be different,” he said. “What they’re interested in and able to do and what the community needs – it’s bound to change.”

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.