How Did It Start?

Within 10 years after its inception in 1905, Rotary Clubs were active in Davenport, Rock Island and Moline.

By 1956, numerous businesspersons in this city had been guests of neighboring clubs and Rotary was a familiar word in the local business community. In that year, Joe Slavens, a Bettendorf businessman; Chuck Munson, an attorney; Chuck Dohrn, a developer; and Bob Owens, principal of the high school, met with the president and secretary of the Davenport Rotary to explore the formation of a Bettendorf club.

On May 3, 1957, the Bettendorf Rotary Club was chartered, with 23 members. On May 22 nd, the new Club met at the Blackhawk Hotel with the Davenport Club, its sponsor, for a charter night celebration. At that time, dues were $25 per quarter and postage was four cents per ounce.

The first regular meeting was held in the back room of El Rancho Villa, which has been the home of the Bettendorf Rotary since its inception, with a few exceptions in 1990. During the following year, Irv French took over management of the El Rancho and in 1959, meetings were moved to the present room.

Bob Owens, who had been a president of the Maquoketa Rotary Club, was elected president. Ken Horstmann was vice president; Al Plumb, Chuck Munson and Bill Kneeland were named directors, and Rev. Larry Nelson was secretary-treasurer.

The new Club moved directly into Rotary’s avenues of service. During that first year, the Club contributed to the Rotary Foundation, sponsored a boy attending the American Legion’s Boys’ State, sponsored a Pony League baseball team and made contributions to the Salvation Army and the Bettendorf High School Athletic Banquet Fund.

In September of that first year, Chuck Mooney assumed the office of secretary-treasurer, an office he has held for nearly 50 years. His records document the history of the Club and include anecdotes and accomplishments of members in precise detail.

Throughout our history, numerous high school students have been guests at Rotary luncheons. It was in 1959 that Jim Slavens and Tim Downing, future prominent Bettendorf Rotarians, were student guests. Minutes from that year include the intriguing statement – "President Ken’s (Horstmann) famous bottom of the barrel statement”. George Thuenen recounts that after scurrying to find a last minute guest speaker, Ken’s opening introductory remark was "after scraping the bottom of the barrel, we have…”

The Sixties

By 1960, membership had increased to 43 and participation in the Rotary Foundation increased to 400%. It was also the year that Al Plumb, our first Paul Harris fellow, became sergeant at arms, a position that he held until his death in 1973. Al was always present to greet arriving Rotarians and guests with a kind word. On a regular basis, he jokingly offered to do a "This Is My Life” program, but his offer was never accepted. Everyone who knew him knew that the Bettendorf Rotary was a large part of his life.

The Birthday Table originated in 1960, as well as the traditional fine for those seated at the table. As one Rotarian remarked, "Where else can you get a piece of cake and a birthday song for a dollar?”

Throughout the Sixties, individual Rotarians were involved in a multitude of governmental, Chamber of Commerce, educational, civic and vocational projects. During that decade, the presidency of the Chamber of Commerce was continually held by Rotarians. Don Plumb was director of the Scott County Civil Defense; Bill Stradt and Bob Knapp received "Boss of the Year” awards; George Thuenen was elected mayor of Bettendorf; Zach Taylor was president of Associated Industries and Chuck Munson was the president of the school board.

The Club sponsored a Pony League baseball team and eight boys attended the American Legion’s Boys’ State program. The American Field Service Foreign Student Exchange program, Junior Theater, Junior Achievement, the Bettendorf High School Varsity Show Band, BHS Athletic Fund, the Illowa Scouts and the Rotary Student Exchange were only a few of the youth oriented programs that received financial support. Club members rang bells for the Salvation Army Christmas Kettles from 1961-63; sponsored a travel lecture series at the old high school during the winters of 1965-66; provided financial aid to the Chamber of Commerce and the American Cancer Society; purchases trees and plantings for the local middle school and fairgrounds and built a Japanese Tea Room for Bettendorf’s International Folk Festival.

Founding member Joe Slavens passed away in 1964.

The Seventies

By 1970, membership had increased to 72. By the end of the decade, the Club had 80 members and participation in the Rotary Foundation had increased to 900%.

The involvement of individual Rotarians in educational, governmental and civic activities and the Club’s support of traditional and new youth and charitable programs continued.

During the winters of 1973-74, the Club sponsored a hockey team in the Park Board league; arranged for 10 boys to attend Camp Abe Lincoln; planted trees at Middle Park and from 1972 to ____________, took tickets at the International Folk Festival.

Under President Jim Kelly’s "Project 74” program, a new emergency van was purchased and presented to the Bettendorf Fire Department. Funds for the project were raised by an auction held at Slavens Manor. Goods and services donated by members were purchased by other members. One of the more unique items auctioned was Dr. Lim’s contribution of services for the delivery of one baby.

In 1975, the Community Booth at Duck Creek Plaza was donated for use by the people of Bettendorf. Andy Schleicher initiated the project and took it from design through dedication. The booth, which was designed by Tim Downing, was constructed by the Pleasant Valley High School woodworking class.

In 1976, a stair-glide elevator was presented to the Community Center to help seniors and physically challenged persons reach the second floor, where activities are held and meals are served.

Help was also given to people of other countries. Cash contributions were made to assist with the construction of a hospital in Brazil, the purchase of polio vaccines in Nicaragua and relief to the people of Guatemala after a devastating earthquake. Following the lead of the Bettendorf Club, this program was adopted as a District 6000 Project.

The Club has been represented at several international conventions. Henry Hartz attended the 1979 convention in Rome, the first member to attend a convention outside North America.

Rotary Ann dinners, luncheons and parties have always been activities of the Bettendorf Club. During the 1950s and 1960s, anniversary dinners, with the exception of 1965, were held at the Blackhawk Hotel, Slavens Manor and El Rancho Villa. In 1965, John Coolidge, who became the governor of District 6000 after his transfer to Des Moines, hosted a "Roaring 20s” party in his back yard. River cruises were held to celebrate our anniversaries from 1972-74.

Christmas and Valentine parties during the decade were held at Slavens Manor, El Rancho Villa, the Outing Club, Jumers and Butterworth Center.

The Foreign Student-Rotary Christmas party, organized by Werner Schafer-Junger in 1972, was held in the picture-book setting of Butterworth Center. The newly-fallen snow made the Center look like a Christmas card and helped everyone understand the meaning of Werner’s traditional German rendition of "Silent Night”.

The Tom Roggensack September steak fry, first held in 1969, has since become a tradition. During the early 70s, the steak fry was held at Scott County Park. For several years, thanks to Dick Knox, it was held at Knox Hidden Valley Ranch, a location so remote that maps, "this way” signs and persistence were required to find it.

Although father-son luncheons began in the 1960s, the father-daughter luncheons and the rural-urban day luncheon were activities that started in the 70s.

Al Plumb passed away in 1974 and Dr. Ray Stensvad died in 1978.

The Eighties

The Club started the decade with 85 members and had 109 by 1990. The Miss Iowa/Rotarian Daughter luncheon continued, as did the annual Steak Fry and Golf Outing and annual Christmas party. A Rotarian/Son luncheon was held each year between Christmas and New Year’s Day at El Rancho. An annual blood drive was held, starting in 1983.

Club members always participated in the District Conference and had members attending the R.I. International Convention in Dallas, Toronto, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia and Portland and attended the Inter-City meetings each year. The Club took part in the Service Club Olympics, placing first two years in a row and second three times. Members also participated in the City of Bettendorf Clean Up Drive and had cars in the 4 th of July parade. Local Rotarians also hosted exchange students from Mexico, Brazil and Columbia and raised funds through auctions from 1981-84.

Ron Goodman edited the weekly bulletin until Chuck Mooney took over in 1981. The bulletin was named "most effective bulletin in District 6000” in 1984 and was named "best bulletin in clubs over 100” in 1986. Beginning in 1988, the bulletin was mailed by 2 nd class mail.

The Club remained active in supporting local groups in the early 80s, including Camp Abe Lincoln, the Bettendorf Pony League, Illowa Council of Boy Scouts and AFS students from 1980-82. We also sponsored a Girl Scout Troop in 1981 and held a Senior Citizens’ Day twice. Members gave their support to the Ronald McDonald House in Iowa City, the International Folk Festival, Iowa Head Injury Association, Bettendorf Food Pantry, QC World Affairs Council, Mercy Hospital Foundation and JA Business Horizons. The Quad City Roughriders, a Rose Parade float and the Youth for Christ Golf Tournament also benefited from Rotarian involvement. In addition, we made a five year pledge to Polio Plus.

In 1981-82, members sent books to Malaysia and in 1982-83 brought a lift for the handicapped to Middle Park Pool. Over 30 members toured the new headquarters in Evanston that same year. The Club hosted Des and Margaret Clark, an exchange couple from New Zealand, as well as GSE teams from India, Germany and England. In organizational news, the head table was also removed and meeting times were moved to 12:20.

In 1983-84 the Club provided communications equipment to the Bettendorf Emergency Response Unit. We sent a Bettendorf High School student to Bettendorf’s sister city in Germany in 1984-85 and became a 2000 foundation club the same year. In 1985-86 members sponsored the Iowa Quad Cities Rotary Club and celebrated the Club’s 30 th anniversary and Valentine luncheon at Jumers the following year.

Doyle McCully was elected district governor for the 1987-88 term and we welcomed our first female member, Faye Clow on September 30, 1987. Henry Hartz was elected district governor for the 1989-90 term.

Gentry Davis and Dr. Ray Woodsworth passed away during the 1982-83 term. Larry Seefeldt died during the 1983-84 term and Shel Sitrick died in 1987.

The Nineties

On June 20, 1990 Duck Creek overflowed its banks and flooded El Rancho to the ceilings. All of our badges, flags and other items were lost. We ordered replacements and moved the meeting place, first to the Riverview Inn in Davenport, then Asbury United Methodist Church in Bettendorf, then Jumers in Bettendorf and finally back to the refurbished El Rancho, now doing business at Fortune Garden.

Members continued the Miss Iowa/Rotarian Daughter luncheon through 1995-96, as well as the Valentine luncheon through 1994-95 and again in 1997-98. The Golf Outing and Steak Fry, as well as the Christmas Party and Rotarian/Son luncheon between Christmas and New Year’s Day were also continued. Christmas baskets were given out, starting in 1996-97 and local Rotarians participated in the blood drive from 1991-98, receiving two awards. The Club participated in all District Conferences, receiving a Presidential Citation in 1992-93, an attendance award and bulletin award in 1994-95 and a first place attendance/miles award along with a third place bulletin award in 1996-96.

We participated in the WQPT telethon and worked at Bettendorf’s recycling center. The Rural/Urban luncheon continued through 1996. Members gave their support to Camp Abe Lincoln, the Bettendorf youth baseball and Illowa Boy Scouts (1991-92), Bettendorf Library (1991-92 and 1996-99) and the John Lewis Coffee Shop from 1990-92. The Iowa Head Injury Association, Bettendorf Food Pantry and QC World Affairs Council benefited from the Rotary’s involvement. A teachers’ recognition banquet was held, as well as APE at Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley High Schools. Other groups that were helped by the Rotary included the Mercy Hospital Foundation, the Bi-State Literacy program, JA Business Horizons, Youth for Christ Golf Tournament, flood relief agencies, and the Bettendorf DARE program. A gazebo was built at Leach Park in Bettendorf, with constructing beginning in 1990 and lasting two years.

Local members started a National Day of Prayer Breakfast in 1993. An Octoberfest fundraiser was held from 1992-94 and profits were shared with Valley Shelter. Members took on Valley Shelter as a club project and began having the youth as club guests starting in 1995. A used piano was purchased in 1991 and smoking was banned in the dining room. A 35 th anniversary party was held in 1992 at Crow Valley, where District Governor John Dasher inducted new officers. Four charter members were present. The 40th anniversary party was held at the "new” Bettendorf Library in 1997. Three charter members were present, as well as eleven past presidents. District Governor Jim Vickory presided over the evening.

Starting in July, 1993 "moments of reflection” replaced an opening prayer at meetings. Jim Slavens led a District 6000 GSE team to India in 1994-95. A new remote microphone was purchased in 1995-96 and past member Don Plumb donated a computer. Fines were divided between our foundation and the R.I.’s foundation.

Members became involved with the Race for the Cure in 1997-98 and a MAC Conference sportsmanship award program was created in 1998-99. A job shadowing program was formed at Bettendorf High School and Rotarians assisted in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters plant sale. Two scholarships to Scott Community College were handed out in 1998-99 and 1999-2000. A charter was presented to our Interact Club at Pleasant Valley High School in April, 1998. We sent two students to RYLA in 1997-98 and entertained exchange couples from Finland and India.

Local Rotarians reached out to people in other countries in the late 90s. Funds were contributed to help victims of a flood in India in 1995-96. The Club hosted a GSE team from Honduras and hosted a Russian contractors delegation in 1997-98.

New song book binders and a Gateway computer system were purchased in 1999. S.K. became our first Rotary Foundation Benefactor. A "Lunch Buddy” program was created at Neil Armstrong School in Bettendorf, which was featured in the Quad City Times.

Irv French died in 1990. Howard Kile and Jack Holloway passed on in 1992 and Charlie Johnson in 1993. We lost Jim Fall, Merritt Parsons and Dale Lindquist in 1994. George Thuenen and Cec Miller died in 1997.

From its inception in 1957 through 1999, the Bettendorf Club had 519 members to through our membership.


The new millennium brought a new way of thanking speakers. In the past, speakers received a Bettendorf Rotary Pen but beginning in 2000, books were donated in their names to the Bettendorf Library. A new sound system and digital camera were purchased and the bulletin was sent out via email. Members again participated in the WQPT telethon, City Clean Up, MAC conference sportsmanship award, Inter-City meeting and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters plant sale. We also participated in "Read Across America Day” at the Bettendorf Library. The Club had a float in the 4 th of July parade, gave out five Thanksgiving baskets and eleven Christmas baskets.

Four officers were present at the District Conference, where the Club received a Presidential Citation and an award for having the first electronic bulletin in the District. Four students were sent to the RYLA conference. We worked hole #1 at the John Deere Classic, continued the "lunch buddy” program and had youth from Valley Shelter at our weekly meetings.

Groups that benefited from Rotarian involvement included the Relay for Life, Iowa Head Injury Association, APE at Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley High Schools and JA Business Horizons. The prayer breakfast was continued.

Members gave $1,500 to the District for their India well project, as well as $500 to start the District’s Literacy Program. A $400 scholarship was given for Scott Community College.

Chuck Munson and Bob Bahrenburg passed away during the 2000-01 term.


The Golf Outing and Steak Fry fundraiser continued, as did our float in the 4 th of July parade and the "lunch buddy” program. Six Thanksgiving baskets and ten Christmas baskets were handed out. Members were present at the District Conference, where the Club received the Centurion Club Award. The president-elect was sent to the Rotary International Convention in Barcelona, Spain.

Valley Shelter youth continued to attend our meetings. We again participated in the City Clean Up and the WQPT telethon. Members took part in the MAC Conference Sportsmanship Award program, the Relay for Life, JA Business Horizons and APE at Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley High Schools. We were involved with Rotoplast & Famsco with the District and played host to a Russian delegation of publishers.

A Bettendorf High School student was accepted as a Rotary Exchange Student from District 6000 and we again worked hole #1 at the John Deere Classic. Members also repotted elm trees that had been purchased four years earlier.


While some traditions, like the Golf Outing/Steak Fry fundraiser and the Thanksgiving/Christmas baskets continued, other new traditions were born. Members began developing a web site and the Club directory was put on CD. Our scholarship fund received $21,000 from Bill Stradt. Members planted 29 trees.

We attended the District Conference and again received a Centurion Club award. The president-elect traveled to the R.I. International Convention in Brisbane, Australia.

Rotarians sold turkey legs, pop and water at Bettendorf’s Centennial Celebration, raising $600. We sent 400 books to the "Road To Success” program. The Club also supported the Red Cross, Hand in Hand, Rotoplast & Famsco through District 6000, as well as a float in the Rose Parade. Members started a medical project for Father Raphael in India, starting with $5,300, which grew to $21,200 through the matching grants program. The funds bought an ambulance and set up a number of clinics in Father Raphael’s area. These clinics give "Doctors Without Borders” places to see patients. We also participated in R.I.’s PolioPlus program with a donation of $5,240.05.


Annual projects like the Golf Outing/Steak Fry, holiday baskets, and the "lunch buddy” program continued. We received a letter of congratulations from James L. Lacy, Chairman 2003-04 of the Rotary Foundation Trustees, for being one of the top three per capita contributors to the Annual Programs Fund from our district. Members attended the District Conference in Ames, where Michael Blaser donated a painting to be auctioned at the conference. The Club also sent our president-elect to the R.I. International Convention in Osaka, Japan.

We sold turkey legs, pop and water at the Bettendorf 4 th of July celebration and participated in the John Deere Classic. Our members supported Hand In Hand, a Rose Parade Float, Rotoplast and Famsco through District 6000, Valley Shelter, Bettendorf Park Board, Churches United, JA and the Rotary "Sportsmanship Award”.

The Christmas party was held at the Davenport Country Club. A winter party was held at the Davenport Country Club in February and work continued on the web site.

Members started a program to put defibrillators in each of the schools in Bettendorf and Pleasant Valley. The total cost of the project is $24,000. District 6000 pledged $3,000 and SCRA promised $12,000.

Scholarships of $500 were given to a senior at Pleasant Valley High, a senior at Bettendorf High and a student at Scott Community College.

Throughout our history, the Bettendorf Club has been continually changing. Several hundred local businesspersons have shared the ideals of Rotary and membership in this Club. Each has contributed in some way to the community and can look back with pride.

The Club looks back to the service it has been able to offer and forward to opportunities for service in the coming years.

Meeting Details

Wednesday, March 20th,  2019
Tanglewood Hills Pavilion

Katie Powers, Genesis Pediatric Therapy >>  more

Bettendorf Rotary