Joe Fairlie would rather shuck hundreds of ears of corn than stand for recognition before a cheering crowd.
Perhaps that is why his fellow Rotarians from the Hatboro club said Fairlie, 98, a retired osteopathic physician who practiced from his Hatboro home for 55 years, epitomizes the Rotary Club’s motto of “service above self.”
“He always does it in a low-key, behind-the-scenes kind of way,” Fairlie’s son and club member Russ Fairlie said. “He’s not one who looks for recognition.”
But, that is just what the elder Fairlie got during a recent breakfast meeting, during which time his 70 years of service was celebrated. Fairlie, in fact, has been a Rotarian for as long as the borough’s chapter of Rotary International has been in existence. The club formed in May 1942 and Dr. Fairlie was the first non-charter member to join in July of that year.
“He might be the longest-standing Rotarian in the whole area,” said Hatboro Rotary Club member Bob Johnston.
Tony Jannetta, the district governor of 45 clubs totaling 1,900 members from Fort Washington to Easton, Reading and the other side of Lahaska, said he knows of no one who has served longer than Fairlie. “We’re actually going to do a little research,” Jannetta said.
For Fairlie, whose son and grandson were all Hatboro Rotary Club members until recently, staying involved was not something he ever gave much thought.
“The group I was with kept going,” the soft-spoken Fairlie said after the recognition ceremony.
Through his medical practice and his volunteer efforts, Rotarians said Fairlie encouraged everyone to keep moving forward for the greater good.
President and CEO Joe Tryon, a Rotarian since 1980, credits Fairlie with straightening out his back following an injury.
“I’m still standing upright thanks to Doc Fairlie,” Tryon shared with the crowd gathered during the breakfast meeting.
But, more importantly, Tryon described Fairlie as a “quiet giant” always first to lend a helping hand.
“He would always inspire you to think to the next level,” Tryon said of Fairlie, who served as president of Hatboro Rotary Club from 1948-1949.
In the July 30, 2003 issue of The Billet, a monthly publication for the Hatboro Rotary Club, Fairlie said he had stayed involved because “I thought it was something that I owed the town.”
Indeed, Russ Fairlie, who recalls helping his father shuck corn and clean up after the club’s annual as a kid, said the greatest lesson his father taught him was one of community service.
“And helping and respecting the people around you,” Russ Fairlie said. “That’s always been his style.”