(Photo above left) Irv Wilde (second from right) is shown handing over the gavel to successor Ed Curran (left) when his term as Santa Paula Rotary Club president ended in 1969. Also shown is Chino Valdes (right), slated to become Club president following Curran. (Above right) Irv Wilde (second from left) was lauded on the occasion of his 60th anniversary of Santa Paula Rotary membership by (left to right) Mitch Stone, Bruce McGee and Nils Rueckert (photo by John Nichols).

Irv Wilde lauded by Santa Paula Rotary Club for 60 years of membership, helping community

April 13, 2012
Santa Paula News

Irv Wilde has been a Santa Paula Rotarian since he was 36 years old, and at a recent meeting he was lauded for a record 60 years of membership. Wilde and Carl Barringer, the latter celebrated at an earlier meeting, both joined Rotary in 1952.

Past and Acting President Bruce McGee said Wilde has always been a staple of the club.

“We’re here to celebrate a great day for Rotary,” noted Past President Nils Rueckert, the club historian. He noted the anniversary was “very significant for Santa Paula Rotary and our district and one that is probably rare in all the 34,282 clubs of the Rotary world.”

In 1952 Club president was Fred Stewart who sponsored Wilde, and Rueckert said the average cost of a gallon of gasoline was 20 cents. A new car could be had for about $1,700 - close to half of the average annual income.

“Locally, the bell in the Odd Fellows clock tower on Main Street tolled again, after funds had been raised to install electric clockworks. Before then it had been a wind-up clock. Irv, being in the water business and the farming business, remembers that 1952 was the year a long drought was broken.”

Wilde’s membership classification was Civil Engineer and “his name is synonymous with water because of his long career as a hydrologist,” who served as Club president 1968-1969.  

Rueckert noted, “The year Irv was the club president included, ironically, the period in January and February 1969 when Ventura County experienced more than 27 inches of rain - a lot of water - and the worst county disaster since the St. Francis Dam broke in 1928. Many years later Irv was one of those instrumental in the placement of a statue that can be seen today in Santa Paula’s Railroad Community Park, of the two policemen on motorcycles warning residents of that 1928 oncoming flood.”

Wilde has always been known to be “interested in each and every individual, quick to compliment, always a smile, modest about his own accomplishments, a good sense of humor - these all describe a stand-out Santa Paula Rotarian.” And, Rueckert added, “This man is in remarkable shape for his 96 years!”

Past President Mitch Stone presented a Power Point presentation on Wilde’s life, from his birth in Sacramento, to Victor and Ellen Wilde. His father was an immigrant from England, who taught woodworking at high schools, while his mother was from a farming family in Ione.

“As a young man Irv enjoyed playing the piano and clarinet; held many part time jobs, including paper routes and grocery store clerk; and spent summers on the American River near Tahoe, on the farm in Ione, and on the Northern California shore.” Stone noted Wilde also enjoyed the “great outdoors,” particularly fishing and hiking much of the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevadas.

In 1937 Wilde graduated from Stanford, where he met his future wife, Flora Delphine Joy, and two years later they were married in Santa Paula.

During World War II Wilde worked for Bechtel as a civil engineer, spending time outside the country. After he returned to Santa Paula Wilde participated in many civic activities including Boy Scouts, raised six children, and even found time to climb Mt. Whitney!

In 1960 Wilde started eight years of service on the Santa Paula School Board, and his professional career included serving as general manager of the Santa Paula Water Company and the United Water Conservation District.

Wilde and Delphine celebrated 50 years of marriage before she passed, and to date he has 14 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Wilde received a personal letter of congratulations from Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee, famous for his thoughtful missives, as well as a special pin noting his 60 years of membership and other proclamations. Wilde has been honored by the club before with a Paul Harris Fellowship Award, named for the founder of Rotary.

Rueckert also acknowledged Wilde’s companion Alma, who ensures Wilde attends the weekly meetings.

“I want to thank you all for making my membership so pleasurable,” said Wilde. “This isn’t just a Rotary Club, but the best Rotary Club in Rotary International! I don’t know where 60 years went, but they did, and I don’t think I can find another member my age who has been in the club for 60 years... so I’m it!”

Rueckert noted the longevity of Wilde’s membership and the historical highlights of the year he joined the club. “Do you know who was the president of the United States when you joined, Irv?” he asked.

“I don’t know who the president is this year!” replied the always amusing Wilde.

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