By John Butters, The JOURNAL
In 1967, the year Dean Garrett attended his first Kiwanis meeting, the average cost of a new house was $14,250, the average income was $7,300, gas was 33 cents per gallon and the Beatles had just released ?Sgt. Pepper?s Lonely Hearts Club Band.?
The Washington Noon Kiwanis Club honored Garrett recently for 50 years of perfect attendance. Garrett was also awarded the Walter Zeller Fellow award for his dedication to the club.
?Having perfect attendance even for one year is quite an accomplishment. For Dean to have done that for 50 consecutive years is astonishing. We meet weekly and we can always count on Dean to be there,? President Dean Kurtz said.
Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 by a group of businessmen in Detroit. The mission of the organization is to serve the children of the world. The members meet weekly in their home communities. Those who miss meetings are encouraged to maintain a good attendance record by visiting other Kiwanis Clubs.
The name ?Kiwanis? was coined from an expression in an American Indian language of the Detroit area, ?Nunc Kee-wanis,? which means, ?we trade.? In 1920, the motto of Kiwanis became ?We Build.? It remained the motto until 2005, when members voted to change it to ?serving the children of the world.?
When unable to attend his regular Wednesday meetings on the third floor of the Washington YMCA, Dean has kept his attendance record perfect by attending meetings with the local morning club or nearby clubs.
But his meeting make-ups have not been limited to area clubs.
?I have attended clubs in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Denver and Arizona,? he said.
There are no strangers in Kiwanis, however, only friends you haven?t met. Garrett found that he was not all that far from home after introducing himself to an Arizona club.
?I found myself seated near members from Mount Pleasant, Fairfield and Muscatine,? he said.
His most memorable meeting was conducted at 30,000 feet aboard an airliner carrying a group of Kiwanians to Spain. He was traveling with a club from Cedar Falls and their president called the meeting to order midflight.
His long membership has enriched his life, he said.
?I have met a lot of people in Kiwanis that I wouldn?t have met otherwise,? Garrett said.
The professional associations he has experienced have been very helpful to him, leading him to make new contacts within the community.
Garrett specializes in long-term relationships. He is a lifelong resident of Washington. He also has a long history of service with the National Guard, serving 41 years and retiring with the rank of major.
?I like long-term memberships,? he said.
Garrett said the clubs haven?t changed that much over the years.
?We were probably over-organized in the early years. We have fewer committees now,? he said.
Fifty years and counting. An attendance record to be admired and remarked upon. And it?s not over.
Dean says he plans to continue attending club meetings whenever and whereever he can.