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A portrait of Rusty Asaff from his club picture in 2019, the last year he served as program chair for August.

The Noon Optimist Club held its first 2021 meeting online Jan. 6 with prayers for President Ned Calvert and sorrow for the death of Marshall realtor and long-time Optimist Rusty Asaff. President Calvert’s illness with the Covid-19 virus led the club to cancel what was planned to be an in-person meeting (now rescheduled for Feb. 3) and it is a reminder of the record high infection rate reported for Harrison County this week. Vice president Julie Brock presided over the ballots sent out by Secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi for club actions this week.

Many Optimists like Josh Moore lamented the necessity of canceling the club’s in-person meeting but noted “that it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.” Optimist John Fortune reported that he was one of the lucky ones to secure a reservation for a vaccine shot from the Marshall-Harrison County Health Department on Friday, Jan. 8.

Optimist Le Ila Dixon shared the week’s “good news” based on the Jewish mitzvah tradition. (A mitzvah is a good deed that’s performed with a good heart simply because it’s the right thing to do.) “And that’s just how Evelyn Topper described the kind act of a homeless stranger who’d gone out of his way to return her lost wallet,” Le Ila reported.

Topper likely dropped the wallet when she and her granddaughter, Mikayla Gounard, were leaving a local coffee shop in San Rafael, California that they’d just patronized, but Topper didn’t realize it was missing until she got home. With her credit, debit, and medical cards gone, she was understandably upset.

The next day, however, Topper got a call that put her worries to rest.

Sean Curry had found the wallet in a dumpster behind the coffee shop. Except for the cash, its contents were intact. Even though he’d been homeless for five years, rather than take advantage, Curry reached out to make arrangements to return Topper’s property.

While Topper lauded his behavior and declared it a mitzvah, Curry didn’t believe he’d done anything out of the ordinary. He’d done it, he explained in an interview with NBC, because he “[had] a heart” and “that’s the way I was brought up.”

While a true mitzvah is performed without expectation of recognition or reward, sometimes the powers that be—with the help of a determined young girl—take matters into their own hands.

Mikayla Gounard had already planned a socially distant “drive-by” party for her upcoming 12th birthday. Rather than presents, she’d decided to ask for contributions to be donated to charity in her name.

Gounard hadn’t yet chosen which charity the money would go to, but after learning more about the man who’d so selflessly returned her grandmother’s wallet, the choice seemed obvious.

It was Gounard’s turn to set her own mitzvah in motion. On the day of her party, the newly-minted 12-year-old placed a photo of Curry and a collection basket next to balloons and party favors on an outdoor table in her driveway. By the end of her “Happy Birthday!” processional, she’d raised several hundred dollars.

When Gounard and her mom met up with Curry the next day to give him the money, he admitted to feeling truly humbled by the heartwarming gesture.

Rather than merely giving lip service to the idea that “one good turn deserves another,” like Curry, Gounard chose to make that good turn happen—because she knew it was the right thing to do.

The last item of business was to take note of the death of Rusty Asaff who passed away in Marshall Dec. 18. Optimist Richard Magrill provided a report based on the working draft of his new 75th anniversary club history.

Rusty was born here Aug. 31, 1950 and graduated from Marshall High School in 1969. He became the 324th Noon Optimist when he joined the club May 3, 2003 and served as the club’s president for the 2016-17 club year.

Rusty loved all sports and watched every channel that aired them. For years, he agreed to arrange monthly programs in August regularly featuring the MHS and ETBU coaches. In 2019, the last year he was August program chair, he arranged visits with MHS Athletic Director Jake Griedl, ETBU Athletic director Ryan Erwin and MHS Assistant Athletic Director Jodi Satterwhite.

These reports were always interesting, especially the notes on the ETBU team’s mission trips, such as the time in 2009 when due to lack of work permits, the team could not get into London to do their work and spent their holdover time witnessing to the staff at Heathrow Airport before being sent back home.

Rusty was an active participant in club programs and shared his real estate insights with visiting speakers, pointing out that new Marshall residents buying homes needed to be sold on the benefits of MISD schools. During the period the club was raffling off long guns at the FireAnt Festival, Rusty secured donations of ammunition from the Texas Department of Public Safety to add to the prizes. He was also active in the community, donating the lot for construction of the 11th Habitat for Humanity build in Marshall. One of his last activities was to present to the club a banner which he had designed for its use.

The club takes note of his passing by sending condolences to his wife Judy, making a donation to Optimist International Foundation in his memory and adding a patch embroidered with his name to the club’s Honors/Awards banner.

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