More than a hundred Brazil Rotarians and guests plan to party tonight. They are celebrating the 100th anniversary of Rotary International and, more particularly, the life of one of its founders and former Clay County resident, Sylvester Schiele. Or, Silvester Schiele, if you will.
While Rotary International records and history indicate his first name was spelled with an "i", he was known in Clay County as Sylvester with a "y".
"He went by 'Sylvester' in Clay County," said Amos Thomas, Brazil Rotarian and historian. "The histories of Clay County show his name spelled with a "y", the Clay County Census shows his name spelled with a "y", but when he moved to Chicago he apparently preferred spelling it with an "i" and who are we to say he shouldn't do that?"
So it is that a stone monument in Clay City spells his name the way his friends and family spelled it -- with a "y". The monument, unveiled today, is located between the antique gas pumps at the old service station converted into the Clay City Welcome Center on S.R. 59, downtown.
In addition to the marker and the dinner, Brazil Rotarians laid a wreath today at the site of Schiele's log cabin birthplace on S.R. 59, one mile north of Clay City. His parents were Michael and Elizabeth Krieble Schiele and he had eight siblings. Michael had immigrated to Clay County from Wittenburg, Germany, arriving in New York City in 1852. Members of the family continue to live in Clay County.
But the real question is, why. Why did his life make such a difference that he is still honored so many decades after his death?
The answer to that question can be found in "Well Done, Silvester!" by Phillip Lovejoy, an article in the February 1946 issue of The Rotarian Magazine.
The article appeared as a tribute following Schiele's death on Dec. 17, 1945.
"Hundreds of crippled children owe their rehabilitation to the pioneering educational work of Silvester. Hundreds upon hundreds of young men, sore pressed for adjustment in the depression days, give thanks for the privilege of having been befriended by Silvester."
The article continues to describe Schiele as successful in his home life, married to Jessie L. MacDonald "who was his constant partner in good works in the great city of Chicago" and successful as a Christian businessman, president of the Schiele Coal Co. from 1902 to his retirement in 1939.
Schiele became co-founder of Rotary International after meeting Paul Harris, a young attorney, to whom he turned for advice when trying to collect a debt around 1896.
Schiele became president of the first Rotary Club and five months later initiated the practice of having members give talks about their businesses, a practice that continues today.
Lovejoy concluded, "As the minister said at (Schiele's) funeral service, Silvester didn't have a Sunday profession and a Monday practice. He was a man of honor and righteousness, which is no mean achievement in these hectic days."
The latest numbers available indicate there are 1,214,127 Rotarians in 32,176 clubs in 159 countries around the world.
Each year, the Brazil club raises tens of thousands of dollars through its annual 4th of July Celebration at Forest Park. This money, combined with dues and other activities supports local organizations, such as purchasing dictionaries for elementary students in Clay County schools and helps support the work of Rotary International around the world.