On the Road Again

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

We laughed intermittently for weeks about our decision to embark on a 3,000-mile road trip because we didn’t have time to fly. As the date neared and mass media folks conveyed horror tales of passengers stranded in airports or delayed, our decision to take to the highways seemed well-founded.

Dr. Don Newbury

Our ultimate destination was Hunt Valley, Maryland, where Lions Clubs from Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia were meeting–more than 200 strong–to observe their 100th anniversary of Lions International.

Best “bibs and tuckers” were pretty much left behind, even though the “Grand Poobah” of Lionism–International President Brian Sheehan and wife Lori–would be honored guests for the two-day conference. He heads this world-wide organization of more than 1.4 million members. However, he may have overslept the day formalities were handed out. (For folks who can’t remember “Grand Poobah,” in popular culture this was the name heard regularly on TV’s Flintstones to describe a high-ranking elected position in a secret society called, uh, the “Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes”.)

We stood several times in honor of the Minnesota couple who quickly put people at ease, urging them to give their best to the world’s largest civic organization that is ever seeking ways to serve humanity.

He established himself as an “ordinary Joe” from Bird Island, Minnesota, where they don’t lock their doors and welcome “virtual” ways to boost Lionism when pandemics persist and the place freezes over.

Lori is passionate about the Lions’ multifaceted work in Europe, and the former health club owner has been largely homebound since COVID reared its ugly head. She raises huge sums for Lions’ projects by accepting challenges of long treadmill walks. She is “fiddle-fit,” even though her husband is hesitant to take up serious exercising. He says she can use him for one of those “before” pictures in “before and after” ads.

President Sheehan likewise has immense energy for Lionism, probably knowing many airport personnel around the world on a first-name basis. (Only hours before reaching this community adjoining Baltimore, he and Lori visited a Texas Lions camp event in Kerrville.)

His energy is exceeded only by his passionate devotion–as well as admirable vision–for Lions International and its clubs in more than 200 countries of the world.

The Sheehans–from a community of 936 people–have come far, and in these days, rarely are at home. There, they raise exotic animals, with a few birds thrown in. He favors penguins, and hands out miniature pliable penguins he calls “relaxers.” He maintains that squeezing the tennis-ball size objects are “go to” aids in a world growing ever more stressful.

So far in our trip, ironies have abounded. When we left the Metroplex, there had been no rain in many areas for more than 40 days. On our trip, however, it rained daily for an entire week, including our two-day stop in Charlotte to visit in-laws Ken and Rita McDaniel and an unsuccessful attempt to tour the Billy Graham Library. It is under extensive renovation, closed until next year.

Soon after arriving in Hunt Valley, the tap-tap-tapping we heard in the hotel lobby resonated from canes carried by five dozen college student members of the National Federation of the Blind. They were convening at the same time as the Lions. Past International President Clem Kusiak, Council Chair Wayne Cole and Convention Chair John Lawrence took oaths that neither organization knew the other was meeting, but the students were constant reminders for the Lions of their work in helping the blind.

My assignment was to keep Lions awake for a breakfast speech. Let’s don’t vote on it!

However, I am now a Lion again, after a 55-year hiatus, and sworn in by the “Grand Poohbah.” Ray Hildebrand, our friend from college days, sang The National Anthem and his 1963 hit, “Hey, Paula.”  He was accompanied by The Fabulous Hubcaps, whose musical beginnings began soon after Ray’s.

Now, it’s off to Kentucky, where heavy rains have shaken The Ark. We’re counting on our friend John Duke Smith (our “Gober-Uber driver”) to deliver us there safely.

Dr. Newbury is a longtime university president who writes weekly and continues to speak frequently. Contact: 817-447-3872. Email: newbury@speakerdoc.com<mailto:newbury@speakerdoc.com>. Facebook: Don Newbury.

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