In 2013–2014, President Howard Eddy instituted an award for Rotarian of the Quarter, which recognized service to the club. The recipient was chosen by the board of directors from nominations submitted by club members. Recipients for the year were:
2013–2014 Q1: Will Carlton, Sr.
2013–2014 Q2: Anil Vira
2013–2014 Q3: Jason Thomas
2013–2014 Q4: Sid Vogel
The Rotary Club of Fairhope presents two awards and one scholarship annually. These are the Benjamin C. Barnhill Community Service Award, the L. E. Rockwell Memorial Meritorious Service Award, and the Thomas S. Scoggins Memorial Scholarship. In most years the club also presents the “highly coveted” Gravlee Award, a tongue-in-cheek recognition of dubious distinction.
Benjamin C. Barnhill Community Service Award
In keeping with the object of Rotary International of honoring both the principle of volunteerism and the service to the community performed by volunteers, the Rotary Club of Fairhope annually recognizes a local citizen who has made a significant contribution to the community as a volunteer. The award, instituted by Vocational Service chairman Joe Bullington in 1997, is the highest honor given by the club to a nonmember. Formerly called the “Rotary Volunteer Award,” this award was renamed in 2016 to honor Ben Barnhill on the fiftieth anniversary of his year as club president. Previous recipients are:
1997: Al “Duke” Smith, Chief Fairhope Volunteer Fire Department
1998: Cindy McBrearty
1999: Virgil Spivey
2000: Vann Saltz
2001: Kate Fisher
2002: Harry and Peggy Bennitt
2003: Dick Charles
2004: Denise Lores
2005: Mike Lyons
2006: Seth Peden
2007: Terry Thompson
2008: Dr. Phillip Norris
2009: Nancy Fontenot
2010: Dr. Barry Booth
2011: Dr. John A. Rodriguez-Feo
2012: Glenda Gravlee
2013: Robert B. Keyser
2014: VFD Chief Chris Ellis
2015: Slade McLendon
2016: Nancy Raia
2017: Clint Martin
In 1972, a man named Hal Votey was the editor of our club bulletin, and he had the idea of interviewing all the members of the club and printing what he called “mini-biographies” in the bulletin. The bulletin for August 23, 1972, contains the mini-biography for Ben Barnhill, from which the following details are excerpted.
Ben was born in Loxley, Alabama, in 1930. His father died when he was just six, leaving Ben’s mother with nine children, the oldest 18, to “feed, clothe, educate, discipline, and get to church every Sunday.” But everybody pitched in, and somehow they made it through. Hal Votey wrote that “It is such a situation that develops character.”
Ben met Betty in early 1954. In March of that year, he left Auburn with a B.S. in pharmacy. Within a month he was in the Army Medical Corps, stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, as a hospital pharmacist. Betty wrote daily, Ben about twice a week. When he returned in 1956, they got married.
Ben worked for a drugstore in Mobile before coming to the Fairhope Pharmacy in 1957. In 1959, he bought the store, which has become one of Fairhope’s enduring landmarks.
Throughout his business career, Ben was community-minded, active in his church (First Baptist of Fairhope) and the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation as well as Rotary. Many stories could be told of his going the extra mile to serve customers. As a talented musician, he was a constant cheerleader for music at our meetings, which he facilitated by donating a piano.
At his death in 2017, Ben had been a Rotarian for 60 years, having joined the Rotary Club of Fairhope in 1958 and served it as president in 1965–66. Until he became Attendance Exempt in 2001, he had maintained perfect attendance for 43 years—ever since he joined—and even afterward he very rarely missed a meeting. It was his “job” to lead the Pledge of Allegiance (concluding with “Play ball!”), so any absence was noticeable, and his loss is deeply felt.
L. E. Rockwell Memorial Meritorious Service Award
In keeping with the object of Rotary International of honoring the dignity of all vocations and the ideal of service to the community, the Fairhope Rotary Club annually honors a Rotarian who has made a significant contribution to the community through her/his vocation. This award not only honors its recipient but is also a tribute to the late Rotarian L. E. Rockwell, M.D., who gave meritorious service to this community through his vocation. This award was also instituted by Joe Bullington. Previous recipients are:
1997: Owen Bailey
1998: Dr. J. Larry Newton
1999: Mac Walcott
2000: Jim Nix
2001: Ben Barnhill
2002: Audie Waters
2003: Clarence Bishop
2004: Dr. Hollis Wiseman
2005: Gary Wolfe
2006: Dr. John Stump
2007: Gene Brabston
2008: Suzanne Barnhill
2009: Bob Callahan
2010: Dr. Paul Holk Fellers, Jr.
2011: Seth Moore
2012: Dr. Russell Eubanks
2013: James Edward (Jim) Jeffries
2014: Dr. Beverly Brown Thomas
2015: Dick Charles
2016: Rick Phyfer
2017: Mike Ford
Dr. Lovic E. Rockwell, Jr. (known to all as “L.E.”) made countless contributions not only to the Eastern Shore medical community, where he was well respected and popular, but to Baldwin County in general. When he died suddenly on August 18, 1995, at the age of 62, he had served on the Baldwin County Board of Education for 15 years and on the board of directors of Thomas Hospital for 26 years, having practiced medicine on the Eastern Shore for more than 30 years.
Colleagues described Dr. Rockwell as personable, caring, and gentle. “A lot of his patients became friends,” said fellow family practitioner Dr. Ferdinand Dietz, Jr.
A native of Vinegar Bend, Dr. Rockwell earned his medical degree from the University of Alabama Medical College in 1963. He served his residency at Mobile General Hospital from 1963 to 1965 before opening a family practice in Daphne. He was the first and only physician to serve on Thomas Hospital’s board of directors, where he provided insight into hospital issues from a physician’s perspective. Owen Bailey, the hospital administrator at the time of Dr. Rockwell’s death, said, “He added a very important dimension to the board in that respect. He was a guiding hand through tremendous growth of the hospital. I think the impact of his life on our hospital and off of the county will go on for many years to come.”
Much the same could be said of Rockwell’s service on the school board, where tremendous population growth created a variety of challenges. Then-superintendent Larry Newton said, “He touched so many lives through the Board of Education and even more through his medical practice. He was one of a kind.”
Rockwell’s ardent support of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide was also well known. Every weekend during football season, he would pack up his motor home, and the family would travel to wherever the Tide was playing that Saturday. Three of his four sons played for the Crimson Tide as well. In addition to the Rotary Club of Fairhope and many professional organizations, Dr. Rockwell was a member and past president of the Baldwin County Red Elephant Club. He was the Fairhope High School football team physician for 20 years and was an inductee into the Fairhope High School Football Hall of Fame.
The Gravlee is a special Fairhope Rotary award, presented yearly for Excellence in Gratuitous Self-Promotion. The three-foot-tall trophy is crowned by a softball-sized eyeball with a large stainless steel rod shoved into its pupil, mounted on a dinner fork. Beneath the eye are three gold sculptures: a weightlifter (symbolizing strength of conviction), a rodeo bull rider (persistence), and the rear half of a horse (bravado). The photo at left shows Dr. John Stump, 2012 recipient (left), with Charlie Baumhauer, who initiated the award.
The notion for the award was hatched when ophthalmologist-inventor Dr. Joseph F. Gravlee, Jr., made a presentation to the club during a lunch meeting. On that day, we were served delicious but runny spaghetti and meatballs. Dr. Gravlee wowed the crowd with a beautiful Technicolor video presentation of actual cataract surgery (demonstrating the use of his patented Gravlee Safety Bevel probe), complete with a huge needle being shoved repeatedly into a largely magnified eyeball. Truly, the ultimate combination of scientific wonder, graphic visual terror, and food that had bloody elements.
Since the inception of the award, no recipient has topped Dr. Gravlee…but many have come close. Qualifications for consideration of awardees include: an over-the-top single self-promoting act, an ongoing need to be recognized, any inadvertent act that draws excessive attention to oneself, and/or excessive news or press coverage other than company-placed advertising. Determination of worthiness is decided by the “Secret Committee,” and the award is presented at the annual installation banquet in June. Past deserving recipients are:
2007: Mike Lyons
2008: Lee Turner
2009: Not awarded
2010: Suzanne Barnhill
2011: Dr. Rob Clark
2012: Dr. John Stump
2013: Charlie Baumhauer
2014: Mike Zoghby
2015: Xavier Hartmann
2016: Clarence Bishop
2017: Becky Jones
Joseph Frank Gravlee, Jr., M.D. (1954–2018), was a graduate of The University of Alabama and Tufts Medical School. He received his ophthalmology training at The Eye Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, and practiced ophthalmology in Fairhope and Baldwin County for 25 years. In addition to the Rotary Club of Fairhope, which he joined in 1985 and served as president in 1989–1990, he was a member of St. James Episcopal Church, Red Elephant Club, and various other civic and professional organizations.