After nearly 53 years of perfect attendance as members of the Mount Airy Lions Club, Murray Ryan and Jack Steel continue to sing the praises of the local service organization they helped to begin.
As charter members of the group, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Steel were two of the original 26 members when the club started in October 1940. While perfect attendance for this long -- under any circumstances -- is remarkable, their record is outstanding because Mr. Ryan has lived in Timonium for the past 33 years and Mr. Steel does not drive.
During the past half-century, "Lionism" has become a way of life for both men, who attended their club's Installation of Officers on July 27 at the Ceresville Mansion near Frederick.
For Mr. Murray, Lionism has opened many doors beyond Mount Airy. He said he went from holding a number of offices at the club level, including president, to serve as Lions District Governor in 1953-'54 and as an International Director from 1982-'84. He said he maintains active membership in the Mount Airy club because "it's home."
Lionism has also provided the opportunity for Mr. Murray to travel around the world. He said he has attended 41 Lions' International conventions, traveling to many faraway places, including South Africa, Copenhagen, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. His future travel plans include the Lions International Convention in Korea in two years.
"I have friends all over the world," Mr. Murray said. "It opened up the whole world. It does that for any Lion. It gives you the opportunity to know so many people."
Mr. Steel, who served as the Mount Airy postmaster from 1951 until his retirement in 1968, has grounded his dedication to Lionism in Mount Airy.
A club past president, he has served in many offices, including nTC 16 years as club secretary and eight years as the bulletin editor.
He also served as the cabinet secretary and treasurer to District 22W Gov. Herman Beck in 1982-1983.
A talented pianist and artist, Mr. Steel continues to be an active member and recently designed the cover and did calligraphy for this week's Installation of Officers' program.
To maintain his perfect attendance record through the years, Mr. Steel has visited Lions Clubs all over the world when traveling.
"I've made my visits in California, England, France, Italy, Florida and New York," he said.
Mr. Steel has seen the club's membership swell to 75 and then level off to its current roster of 42. He said he likes to help new members who join the Mount Airy Lions Club.
"We have a good club," said Mr. Steel. "I enjoy the camaraderie."
Mr. Steel noted that Mount Airy residents Norman Etzler and Henry Runkles are charter members of the club who also have exemplary attendance records. He noted that illness in their families prevented them from attending Tuesday's Installation of Officers.
Through the past 52 years, these dedicated original members have seen the club fulfill its purpose of service to others through countless projects that have benefited Mount Airy area residents.
Mr. Murray noted this service to others is once more in great demand in the community, as it was in the early history of the club, because of the decline in government services to people in need.
Many of the Lions' projects have targeted the less fortunate, such as the eyeglasses, hearing aids and related exams provided to local children and adults in need. Mr. Ryan noted that delivering Christmas food baskets to the needy "tears at your heart."
Other projects have helped Mount Airy maintain its small-town ambience of caring and sharing. From walking canes to hospital beds, the club under the chairmanship of Ralph Buckman
provides medical and convalescence equipment to anyone free of charge.
Area children look forward to the Lions' annual carnival in June -- the club's major fund-raiser that makes its service projects possible. Many children also enjoy the annual Halloween Parade and Costume Contest co-sponsored with the Mount Airy Jaycees.
The highlight of the year is the club's holiday gift to area youngsters -- Santa Claus Lane, the frosty five-evening event held each December on the municipal parking lot.
Mount Airy's Lions also support service projects beyond the town. Mr. Murray pointed to the organization's work with the Lions Vision Research Foundation and its international goal of eliminating preventable blindness in Third World countries.
"It's a great way of life -- to be able to serve," Mr. Murray said. "It makes you feel good."
Congratulations to Taylorsville's Jay Fulmer, who will serve as president of the Mount Airy Lions Club for the coming year.
Mr. Fulmer, a member of the club for four years, was installed with fellow officers during a dinner meeting at the Ceresville Mansion near Frederick on July 27. David A. Fisher of Hagerstown, District 22W governor, conducted the installation ceremony.
At the event, immediate past president and the club's first female chief executive Tamra Barton was honored with a "100 percent Mount Airy Lions Club president" plaque, recognizing her leadership.
Among the evening's many award winners was Dennis Ahalt, the group's longtime treasurer, who was honored as the Lion of the Year.
Mr. Fulmer set as goals increased membership and membership involvement. "We have a lot of good talent and interest to draw from," he said. "We can do a lot more things."
Other officers for 1993-1994 include: Bob Disinger, first vice president; Mike Vlahos, second vice president; Martha Paisie, third vice president; Rick Clower, secretary; Dennis Ahalt, treasurer; Clyde Gibson Jr., "Tail Twister"; Arthur Sotzsky, "Lion Tamer"; Jim Glazier, membership chairman; and Tamra Barton, assistant secretary and bulletin editor. Bill Krantz and Russ Ray will serve as one-year directors; George Harne and Bob Shaw will serve as two-year directors.
Mr. Fulmer is a new house salesman for Firetti Builders in Mount Airy's Twin Ridge subdivision.
A graduate of Penn State University with a degree in agriculture, Mr. Fulmer is a former farm manager and beef farmer. He is the father of three sons -- 2, 5 and 11 years old.