When Kathy and I left Fargo on Thursday heading west toward Butte, we were excited to meet the Lions of District 37N, an international district with Lions on both sides of the US-Canadian border. While we come from an international multiple district with subdistricts coming from Saskatchewan, North Dakota, and South Dakota; our subdistricts do not cross international borders.
When we deplaned in Butte, a delegation of Lions from the Butte Mile Hi Lions Club was waiting. As soon as they spotted us, they gave us a hearty welcome and we were swept away to convention headquarters at this historic Finlen Hotel, built in 1924.
The current owners refurbished much of the original hotel and the convention meetings, memorial service, and banquet were held in beautiful rooms. Of course, the Cavalier Lounge provided a convenient spot for delegates to congregate. The accommodations perfectly suited to our needs. We learned that John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon had slept at the Linden Hotel. Now, we have, too!
Due to our arrival on Thursday night, we had time to participate in two local tours that gave us great insight into the community. But not before having a Montana-sized breakfast at a local cafe!
I’m including some of the notes Kathy wrote (in italics) about the tours to give you a flavor of what we experienced in Butte:
Butte, Montana contains the “richest hill in the world, “according to the numerous signs displayed across this Montana town. Butte once had over 400 working mines of gold, silver, but mostly copper, that brought tremendous fortune to three competing developers.
At its peak around the beginning of the 20th century, Butte attracted immigrants from all over Europe and Asia and its population topped out at 150,000. Throughout Butte today (population around 35,000), neighborhoods retain their identity from the Irish “Cabbage Patch” or “Dublin Ditch,” to “Finn Town,” and Mercury Street’s Chinatown district. Butte still is credited with having the world’s third largest silver-producing mine in the world.
We learned so much about the diversity of this community, the rise to power and tremendous wealth gained by relatively few, the exploitation of workers but generosity of some leaders, the historical role played by the radical I.W.W. and unionism in the copper industry, as well as the efforts to rebuild Butte after its main industry fell. The revitalization of Butte’s “uptown” continues to challenge civic leaders, much like other communities across the country.
The second tour of Butte featured the mansion of Butte’s “Copper King,” William A. Clark. Born in Pennsylvania, this entrepreneur found his way to Montana along with other prospectors mostly looking for gold. Clark studied Mining Engineering at Columbia for a year and returned to Butte and bought up several mines. In time, he became a banker, owner and builder of a railroad, and a U.S. Senator. At one point, his income reached $17,000,000 a month. He built a fortune from companies he started in 11 different states and left a fascinating legacy.
His presence is alive today in the Copper King Mansion. Built 120 years ago, the mansion is currently owned by the granddaughter of a woman who bought the mansion. Interestingly, when Clark died, the building became a Catholic convent for 17 years.
Today, this building serves as a museum, part Bed & Breakfast, and a venue for specialty events and holiday parties. The furnishings are all period pieces with some of the most unusual decorating techniques of cut wood, plastering, and painting that we have ever seen.
On Friday evening, the convention activities began with a service of remembrance. District Governor Pauline Cooper presided in the Copper Bowl–a room decorated in copper with a beautiful staircase–where readings, a slide show, and remembrances were shared. I was honored to be part of the service and sang a solo, “Make Me A Channel of Your Peace,” with Lion Richard Haight as accompanist.
The next morning, the convention activities began with one of the best flag ceremonies I have ever witnessed. The history of each flag was read by convention co-chair Ed Malesich, followed by the singing of the national anthems of Canada and the United States.
Several presenters shared short programs that served as reminders of the main service projects that Lions International coordinates: diabetes awareness; vision screening and vision mission trips; the measles initiative; and the work of the Lions Clubs International Foundation. I was asked to present a program and I spoke about the importance of speaking up for service. I shared with the delegates some suggestions for overcoming anxiety when asked to speak in public.
One of the benefits of attending conventions in other parts of the country is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances. Many of the leaders from 37N were among my District Governor class in Sidney, Australia. Pictured here are District 37N PDG Christine Lank and MD37 Council Chair Betty Ann Robson.
I met up with a MD5 Past Council Chair–Lion George Takashima, from Saskatchewan–who now resides in Edmonton, Alberta. The other District Governors from MD37 (Robert Hunter, Don Edy, and Tim Johnke) were welcoming and I enjoyed learning more about projects in their respective districts.
Two Past International Directors–Tom Lehman and Dave Hajny–and their spouses were always close by and generous intheir support for our presence in Butte. We also were so pleased to have Vice District Governor Judy Beaudry and her husband Lion Mac from District 5NW (western North Dakota) present at the convention.
Our hosts were great! Lions Mike and Annette Lawson are members of the Mile Hi Lions Club and they picked us up, took us to dinner, made arrangements for our tours, and provided just the right amount of careful attention to give us breathing room while making sure your needs were met.
In the evening, the banquet was held in a ballroom with guilded walls and chandeliers. The tables filled the rooms and because of the columns, when I presented my remarks, I walked among the tables. The intimacy of the space created a very special atmosphere and I felt that I was talking directly with members of the audience. I spoke of President Joe Preston’s goals and our plans to strengthen the pride of Lionism this year and in the future. I spoke of ways that Lions communicate love for their fellow human beings and challenged those present to act boldly and confidently as they accepted the challenges of the future.
As part of my presentation, I presented several Lions with my personal friendship banners and we gave our North Dakota gift bags to remind the convention that Kathy and I do represent the Fargo Lions Club, the Lions of District 5NE, and the Lions of Multiple District 5–as well as the Lions of the World.
One of the special highlights of the evening for me and those present was the induction of two new members: Racquel “Rocky” Smith, sponsored by her mother, Verna Cragwick of Butte Mile Hi Lions; and Julie Edelen, sponsored by her sister Jennifer Edelen Stone of Deer Lodge Lions. As the new members took their oath, and later when the sponsors and the entire assembly pledged their support, you could feel the love.
I was honored when the convention gave a financial gift in our names to the LCIF One Shot, One Life Measles Initiative. After the banquet, there were many hugs and handshakes. What a wonderful group of Lions! The Lions of MD37N made us feel so welcomed and appreciated.
As I write this entry, Kathy and I are reflecting upon our weekend in Butte and we will remember these things about the Lions of 37N: Their generosity as they welcomed us as strangers, but sent us home as members of their Lions family; their determination to recognize and celebrate their past history while proactively planning for what lies ahead after the redistricting; and their mindfulness to, “tap ‘er light.”
With every visit, I am humbled and honored to be an International Director in Lions Clubs International. What an awesome experience to be representing the world’s largest service organization. I am proud to be a Lion and grateful to have this opportunity to serve.
–ID Robert Littlefield