Posted by Kent Bohls
Most days, I take a few minutes to read the obituaries in the local papers. I am not looking to see if my name or picture is there.  Every obituary is a capsule life story
and in reading slowly, I imagine all the lives touched by the person I am reading about.  I think of the impact of the lives written about and the grief, sadness and thanksgiving that erupt for each and every one.  Some obituaries are written far in advance and some are hurriedly put together with no pre-warning.  Some have been composed by the deceased hands personally, and others are the best attempts by someone trying to capture the essence of the one who has died. 
I wonder; does the author of your obituary know what you would want them to write?  Maybe there is a key moment or a key turn that is not widely known by everyone even someone close.  Is there someone you wish to thank? Some organization you wish to lift up?  Is there a passion you wish to proclaim?  Is there a word of faith to be stated?
An obituary of someone not on the district list I just happened to see, stated that he became a Rotary Fellow in Heidelberg, Germany after graduating from college.  He had a memory of Rotary that may not have been lived out in a club but the memory lasted a lifetime.
The opportunity to write your own obituary is a gift I hope many of you give to your loved ones and friends. We have been blessed in this district with some remarkable men and women who have been a part of Rotary and have been a witness and blessing to us.  The average age is 83.3 years.  Join Rotary and live long!  There were 32 deaths we are aware of this year.  Interesting to note that we have 35 clubs in our district that have 32 or fewer members.  Their obituaries tell us many thhings:
Many have served their local Rotary Clubs as past presidents and through many other offices and committees.  Most were Paul Harris Fellows, several on the District Roll of Fame, two served as District Governors, one was an RI Director; they served on International committees, and one had 50 years of perfect attendance visiting many clubs while traveling.  One joined Rotary in 1964 and was still active.  One is a Polio Plus Pioneer.
Rotarians are a patriotic brunch.  They served in the US Army, Air Force and Navy in World War 2, Vietnam, Europe, First Gulf War, around the US, Europe, and in Korea.  One had three Purple hearts and two Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with a palm and one with a gold star.  Most received the Good Conduct medal. We remember a Colonel, Lt Colonel, lieutenant, tank battalion chief, commander, pilot, submarine officer, a nuclear weapons specialist, JAG, and a West Point professor.
They attended college in ten states across our country.   Eastern Illinois State University, University of Southern California,  Arkansas Technology College, Trine University, University of Houston, SMU, University of Texas, Texas A & M, George Washington University, Texas Tech, University of Nebraska, Tulane, University of North Carolina, Northwestern, Texas State University, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, Texas Lutheran University, Baylor, Yale, Southwestern University.  There was one Taylor Duck and “once a duck always a duck!”  I am a Taylor Duck as well.
Many are people of faith and regularly practiced their religious faith.  Church membership included Lutheran, Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist.
Occupations varied even more widely than we could ever imagine; they  included: wholesale magazine distributor, professor, NBC television, taught in Native American Schools, and Phoenix College, truck driver, pharmacist, dentist, doctor, sales and marketing, band director, school counselor, engineer, financial consultant, manufacturing specialist, Dean of Engineering, automotive repair, boat manufacturing, real estate appraiser, associate justice of the Texas Supreme Court, banker, rancher, feed store operator, furniture sales, IT Business manager, politician in Texas House of Representatives, and the Texas Senate, lawyer, florist, coin and stamp sales, nursing home administrator, surgical appliance sales, founder of a NPR radio station, graphic designer, commercial artist.
Rotarians know about service above self and that is certainly not limited to serving exclusively through Rotary.  Causes involved in other than Rotary: Planned Parenthood, Habitat For Humanity, Meals on Wheels, Settlement Home, Warm Springs Rehabilitation, UT LAMP, Parent Teachers Organization for children and grandchildren, Kiwanis, Scouting (Silver Beaver), missions around the world, chamber of commerce’s, Jaycees, Fayette County Fair, Historic Waco Foundation, Cameron Park Zoo, Keep Waco Beautiful, Keep Texas Beautiful, Waco Symphony, Art Center of Waco, Methodist Children’s Home, Masonic Lodge, Shriners, CASA, YMCA, Boys’ Club of Topeka, Mexia city commission, President of Mexia Chamber of Commerce, Methodist Affiliated Hospital board, Baylor Bear Board, Hill Country Community Theater, Highland Lakes Service League, Marble Falls Chamber of Commerce, Texas Conservation issues.
Their hobbies covered the waterfront and  included: drone flying, lifelong learner,  cattle raising, ham radio, sailing, hiking, camping, private flying, raising paint horses, raising longhorns, sculpting, 4 wheeling, pheasant hunting, fishing, grandkids, scuba diving, clay shooting, gun collecting, tennis, search and rescue, woodcarving, painting, hunting, gardening, birding, raising bulldogs, square dancing, music, playing the violin, visiting all 50 states, golf, taught Sunday School, serve church leadership, philanthropy, reading, coaching little league and soccer, high school football officiating, playing poker, opera, running a tree farm, Carter Center, Smithsonian, flute playing, summer ranger in national parks, taught ESL, middle school math mentor, cooking.
Words and phrased in their obituaries that are special: Service Above Self, lived well and fully lived; never met a stranger; role model to many; warm, affectionate and loyal; man of principle and integrity; warrior for peace, fight with a typewriter; real happiness is helping others; great character, integrity and honesty; generous; service to his country, his community and his family; put others first; “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God”. 
One included a poem:  A Personal Motive for Volunteering:  I care enough to give myself To things, I feel worthwhile; For life is richer, self more blest, When giving with a smile. Many things demand my time; Commitments great abound; Family, friends and needs untold Are always to be found.  But caring calls for action now Before life’s day is spent; And somehow duties will get done If that is my intent. So, as for me, I’ll share my time With those whose needs are dear: And reap the joys that come to all Who gladly volunteer.
One of a kind: 1952 undefeated quarterback of the Henrietta Flying Hens; graduate from Five-in-One High School and studied with a coal oil lamp; was on beach at D Day; favorite longhorn was Bubba; had polio during 1952 Polio outbreak in Omaha; when a teen, had a 1931 Model A Roadster convertible; received the August Busch Award for boating safety; 6 grandsons received their Eagle Scout award and granddaughter the Girl Scout Gold award; helped to raise 4.3 million dollars to convert a bank to the Temple Public Library; did a puppet show on the Johnny Carson show in Nebraska; one of founders of Austin’s Seton Hospital on 38th street; Rotary trips to Bosnia, Bolivia, Mexico and Nigeria; opened a public radio station; after retirement, he could do what he loved to do most: giving back to his community. Two weeks and a day ago on Easter eve my friend, Dennis, a Rotarian from New Mexico took his life.  He was a past president of his club, a PDG and dedicated father, spouse and an active Rotarian.   That day Dennis helped upload a truck delivery of food for the needy; he later called to inquire as to the time of worship services the next day.  We do not know what each other is going through. 
As we remember and celebrate these lives today, we are grateful for the breath of life. We must renew ourselves to show compassion to one another; to listen and be present.  May we be renewed and inspired in our service and in our care for one another, our communities and the world. 
We give thanks for those who have served and modeled for us “Service above self”.  We have been blessed by these precious relationships. And we say, Thanks be to God?