When Dr. Marshall MacPherson brought the gavel down for the first time to call his meeting to order, he started what has become seventy-three years of service to the community of Tilbury.
It was on June 26, 1934, that the Tilbury Lions Club was formed when 22 men accepted its charter under the guidance of the Windsor Lion Club, and Dr. MacPherson was to become the first of sixty club presidents to mould the Tilbury Lions into the premier service club in Tilbury.
Indeed, two of these presidents, Everett Wilson and Clifford Farr, would go on to hold high offices and become governors of District A-1, which now encompasses much of Southwestern Ontario.
Buoyed by early success, the Tilbury Lions would go on to guide the formation a second club, the Kent-Essex Lions, which received its charter January 2, 1947. Its first president was Tom Courey. The guest speaker on its charter night was Walter C. Fischer, who would go on to become Lions International President.
In 1966, Presidents Bill Bourdeau, of the Kent-Essex club and Cliff Giroux of the Tilbury Club would bring the two clubs together to better serve the community.
The Lions also sponsor the Tilbury Lioness Club whose members in their own right have their own accomplishment of service in which to be proud.
A number of sites have served host to the club, including the Empire Hotel, Tilbury Hotel, Recess Tavern, Empire Inn and the old Library Building. In 1975 the club leased the former school at the Third Concession and Gracie Side Road in Tilbury North Township. It was spruced up and served as a meeting place for members, which also used it for its fund-raising functions and as a rental hall. We will always remember the care with which Lion Bill Bourdeau looked after the facility and the many meals that Lion Ernie Thibert served us there. In 1988, the club purchased the old school, and it was later sold in 1993 when members voted to meet in the Community Hall of the Tilbury and District Memorial Arena.
In 2005, the club moved again to its current location when it purchased the Ouinn Community Hall just south of Tilbury. During that summer, many members, under the direction of Lions Mark Goodreau and Jay Dillon, assisted in the renovations to our newest meeting place. Renovations continue at a lesser pace since that date. A number of members have contributed such items as new lighting and bar stools to the facility.
During the past 73 years the club has entertained members and dignitaries from other clubs and districts with its own brand of fun and fellowship, and members have joined others in Lionism in visits to other clubs and conventions.
But service to the community comes first. In the 1930s and 1940s the club helped sponsor clinics for handicapped and sick children, student loan sponsorship program and agricultural fairs in the 1950s. More recently, the club has supported minor league sports programs, the boy scouts, provided eye glasses and hearing aids for the needy, supported the St. Leonard's Society in Chatham and has helped provide money for the district's camp for deaf children. Over the last few years the club has been heavily involved in the Eyes Right Foundation. The club under the direction of Lion Bill Steyn and Lion Gerry Lebert sponsored the Foundation's purchase of new opthamological equipment for the Chatham Hospital.
Each year members take residents of the Southwest Regional Centre in Cedar Springs to area ice shows or hockey games. They have helped in the building of the picnic shelter at Memorial Park, provided the playground equipment at Crawford and Dupuis Streets, purchased and built up Kirkham Park, provided the original rest rooms at Memorial Park, made provisions for the Town Clock during the confederation celebrations in 1967. They also co-operatedd with the Knights of Columbus to provide the Jaws of Life for the fire department, and in 1988 fund the Tilbury Fire Department rescue vehicle. In 1987 members buried a Time Capsule at the Town Hall to be opened in 100 years.
The club also made possible the purchase of two vans for the Tilbury Help Centre, the latest with a lift. It sponsors fellowship awards at the Tilbury District High Schools, Terry Fox Run, Chatham Pool Sharks, Tilbury Youth Centre, Tilbury Minor Baseball, girl guides, Tilbury Storm Soccer, Essex-Kent CNIB crocus drive, Tilbury Firgure Skating, A-1 Sight conservation, Leader Dog for the Blind, Lion Camp Dorset, Dialysis Machine Fund, CNIB Lake Joseph Centre and Lions Foundation of Canada. Each year at Christmas, as part of the Goodfellow, club members distribute 125 food baskets to the needy.
Lions contributed generously in the early years to the building of the Tilbury Arena, and were there again when it was replaced with the new Arena, with a pledge of $50 000 towards its construction. A few years later installed a walk-in cooler in the kitchen of Ryder Hall at the Tilbury Arena.
In order for us to contribute to the many projects previously listed we must of course raise funds. This is the "work" part of Lions and we do this with a variety of fundraising campaigns. These include: raffles, Goodfellow's dinner dance, chicken & rib dinner and of course our biggest event the Annual Seafood Festival which serves over 1200 people each year.
Members of the Tilbury Lions Club have contributed to District A-1 over the years. Lion Romeo Marchand was a Region chair in the early seventies. Lion Bill Steyn was zone chair in 1982-83 and again in 1998-99 and 1999-2000, and Cabinet Treasurer from 2001 to 2003, while Lion Ralph Roels served as zone chair in 2005-06. Lion Gary Mackie served for many years as a director of the Eyes Right Sight Conservation Foundation, including chair thereof for several years in the nineties. Many other members have served on district committees, including in recent years Lions Dan Harvieux, Gary Phelps, Chris Marentette, and Mike Tayor.