New officers, from left are, President Ned Calvert, Secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi, Vice President Julie Brock, and Treasurer Michele Fuller. The New Optimist International banner is used for the first time.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met —drumroll and fanfare— in person Wednesday, Oct. 7 for the first time since mid-March when Covid-19 shut them down. President-elect Ned Calvert was the first on the scene and welcomed Optimists Janie Moore and Richard Magrill when they arrived with the new lectern and Optimist International banner.

Club members filtered into the meeting room of José Tequila’s Restaurant where the Lions and Rotarians have led the way before them. Optimist John Fortune arrived with his camera equipment to record the installation of new officers and to take a group photo.

Some of the members entered through the front of the restaurant and others by a back door directly off the parking lot. One member, incoming secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi, spends about five minutes waiting at the front before staff figure out she is with the Optimists and direct her to the right place.

Covid-19 has delayed the meeting for months and most recently from two weeks ago. The virus announces its continuing presence with the masks drawn across noses and mouths and the frustrating protocols it invokes as friends who have only seen each other on zoom and brief encounters out back of Louis A. Williams Associates (LAW) deal with the fact that they can’t shake hands and hug.

Instead the club members perform the strange meander of social distancing, settling into seats spread out around the room. Optimist Julie Brock and Michele Fuller, who share an office at LAW are, nevertheless, required by company rules to travel to the meeting in separate cars.

It is a special honor to have Jim Oswalt, still busy with his tax business, present in their midst. He joined in 1973 and has been an Optimist for 47 years! On the other end of the scale is Josh Moore of AutoBody Express. Our most recent member, he is busy coaching flag-football at Elysian Fields ISD where his team has a 3-0-1 record!

Optimists Le Ila and Charles Dixon arrive and stay to the end because it is decided to assemble for the group picture at the meeting’s conclusion. Optimists Josh Moore announces he has just received a message on his phone that Optimist Ben Dickson and Rachel Hankins will not be able make the gathering. Optimist Charles reports that he had a brief encounter in Super 1 with Optimist Adam Adair, the club’s youngest member, who is heavily engaged with his work and final term at East Texas Baptist University. The club missed all absent members including Optimist Isabel Martinez and Optimist George Bennett (who joined the club in 1952!).

President Le Ila calls attention the important business of the day: the installation of officers for the Oct. 2020 — Sept. 2021 year of Optimist International.

“Fellow Optimists,” Le Ila reminds the group, “when the Noon Optimist Club of Marshall was formed in 1945, it was created with high ideals. It was established to promote the purpose of our organization and all it symbolizes. The beginning of a new club year and the installation of officers are appropriate times to review those purposes. They are: To accelerate active interest in good government; To plan and participate in community service activities; To inspire respect for law; To promote patriotism; To help develop friendship and understanding of people throughout the world; and To aid and encourage all activities and measures that contribute to a better future for the youth of our world.”

“These” she says “are noble purposes and to live out these purposes, we elect and install officers to lead the activities of this club.”

President Le Ila asks Melissa Al-Ahmadi to stand and reminds her: “As secretary you have one of the most important positions: to keep the record of club activities, report to Optimist International, handle correspondence and assist the president in pursuit of the goals of the club.” As treasurer Michele Fuller is charged to keep the club’s financial records, report to Optimist International and to receive, handle, and account for all funds. Julie Brock is reminded that as vice president she is to assist the president, encouraging member participation in meetings and projects, and preside at meetings when the president is unable.

To Ned Calvert, Le Ila says, “in years to come the members of our club won’t refer to the 2020-21 Optimist Year; it will be remembered as Ned’s year because the members of our club have chosen you to be their leader. No higher compliment can be paid to you by our club. It is now your responsibility to continue this club’s outstanding accomplishments and to lead us to even greater achievements.” She concludes with the challenge of meeting the requirements for the club to be recognized by Optimist International as a Distinguished Club for 2020-21. President Le Ila brings out a collection of Optimist International pins and presents one to each of the officers.

All officers stand and repeat the Oath of Office with Le Ila: “I hereby solemnly promise, on my honor as an Optimist, that I will carry out the duties of the office, to which I have been elected, to the best of my ability, in loyalty to my Club, and in harmony with the constitution of my Club and Optimist International.” Then she makes the following joyful declaration: “On behalf of the authority vested in me by Optimist International, I am happy to declare you duly installed to your respective offices. My compliments to each of you and best wishes for a successful year!” There is a round of applause.

New President Ned Calvert briefly addresses the club and members discuss future plans. Optimist Julie Brock reports that the MHS Seniors designated each month as Young Taxon and Young Texan will not be able to join us in meetings due to Coved-19 restrictions. She expects to be admitted to MHS next week to present certificates to the Young Texans for September and October. For the foreseeable future, the club decides to meet in person on the first Wednesday of each month in Hatches Hall of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the next in-person meeting to be on November 4th. In all other weeks, we will continue to meet on-line. Following other business, the meeting concludes with the recitation of the Optimist Creed.

For the first time in a decade the club assembles with the Optimist International banner in their midst (newly purchased to replace the old smoke-damaged one). Optimist John Fortune takes the photo.