Optimist Le Ila Dixon, who has the longest service as club president, is shown at the podium with MHS Senior Ronald Williams who won the Walmart gift certificate at this year’s S.M.I.L.E. event, left, and MISD Counselor Zach Davis, right.

The Noon Optimist Club of Marshall met online Wednesday, with President Le Ila Dixon telling the story of Tom Moore.

The 99-year-old World War II army veteran smashed his original £1,000 target and has raised more than £14M to help the British National Health Service fight Covid-19.

He aimed to complete 100 laps of his Bedfordshire garden by Thursday, walking with the aid of a frame (British term for walker). However he now says he will not stop and hopes to do another 100.

Nearly 170,000 people from around the world have donated since his fundraising page was set up last week!

Optimists Rachel Hankins and Melissa Al-Ahmadi are missing their normal family visits and Optimists Julie Brock and Michele Fuller have furnished lists to help Optimist Richard Magrill in his research for our 75-year history.

Also, Optimist John Fortune has a list of buildings to photograph for the book.

And this week Le Ila Dixon, our 2nd longest serving member (she joined in 1995) who is in her record-setting 6th year as president (she first served in 1999) shares her story:

“I was born the second of five to a painting and decorating contractor and a nurse in the Willis-Knighton Hospital system. Birthed into a Baptist home — Dad was a deacon; both taught Sunday school and sang in the choir — I have spent my life as a student and teacher of the Bible. My parents instilled in me the Christian value that “Love is something you do,” i.e. serving God by serving others.

I am a product of Caddo Parish schools, ETBU, and UT Tyler; I taught children in the public schools of Texas for 32 years, ending my career as an educator in Hallsville ISD. My husband Charles and I have three children: Charles Jr. who teaches anatomy and physiology at LeTourneau University, Debbie who works with the Corp of Engineers in Huntsville, AL, and Tiffany who works as a human resource manager in Dallas. We have six grandchildren. And, we claim the family of James and Jennifer King — he a chemist at Cabot Corporation and she a teacher in MISD and their seven children — as if they were our children and grandchildren.

In 1988 Charles and I had opportunity to teach a summer course in Guangzhou (Canton) China. That experience extended my love affair with China which began when I shared the lives of two different ETBU roommates from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

After retirement from teaching I worked at ETBU for the next seven years, five as Director of International Education recruiting international students to ETBU and encouraging American students to study abroad. In that capacity I was able to continue my relationship with the Foreign Language Normal School of Guangzhou. I hosted many language scholars and teams of educators from the Bureau of Education of the Guangdong Province. Texas and Guangdong have several similarities — each is located in the south of its county and they are about the same size in square miles. However, the province is on the same latitude as Mexico City.

After my years at ETBU, I worked with a Tyler foundation building a relationship between the city and China’s Yunnan Province (just above Vietnam and east of Tibet.) The foundation assisted the Brookhill School (private, college-prep K-12), as it set up its international student exchange, and I was pleased to travel with school groups to Yunnan, the flower-growing capital of China and also a photo op for pictures of farmers growing rice on terraces climbing the mountainsides.

By then Charles and I were worshiping with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Marshall where I teach an adult Bible study group, sing in the choir and serve as an elder. In 2008 I returned to Jinping in Yunnan Province with a team of teachers from the Chinese Cumberland Presbyterian Church of San Francisco. I was the only Anglo/Native English speaker on the team. That church has provided summer institutes for many years for teachers of English in that poor, rural Chinese town. Getting to Jinping was an exercise in endurance, an 8-hour trip from the provincial capital on a mountain road, often times only one-way, with multiple switchbacks climbing up and then down mountain after mountain. This last journey was to one of the most beautiful parts of China, a tropical rainforest, adding an abundance of memories. On all my trips I have seen marvelous things — the Great Wall of China, the Terra Cotta Soldiers, the Ming Tomb, Buddhist temples, pagodas, and bicycle/motorcycle parking lots.

But it is the Chinese people I remember most — that warm spot in my heart beginning with my college roommates and continuing with my 14-years with Guangdong Foreign Language Normal School whose teachers spent time in our home and shared our lives at family gatherings like birthdays, weddings, and Christmases. The Chinese are a warm, welcoming, friendly and gracious people. Our governments may have differences about how to govern, but the Chinese have strong family and friendship bonds which have blessed my family and me personally.

People count most and for me; children count most of all! Thus, joining the Optimist Club was a natural step when I retired in 1995 from teaching because the club spends 99% of its money, time, and energy on children. This club has allowed me to continue my life-long emphasis on

“Bringing Out the Best in Kids,” a slogan of Optimist International. I am proud to support the Backpack Program for MISD (weekend meals for kids who, during the week, depend upon school meals for most of their nutrition), the Texan and Texanne Honors Program, the S.M.I.L.E. Day (Student Mock Interview Learning Experience) at MHS, and our newest effort, begun just last fall, a birthday party for foster kids in Harrison County.”