Editor’s Note: In preparation for its 100th year, the Marshall Rotary Club is remembering its history through “Backflashes” through its near century of existence.
There are three events that everyone my age remembers as if they happened yesterday — JFK’s shooting, Lady Diana’s car crash and the 9/11 attack.
But not everyone had an intimate connection to any of them, as did one young lady from East Texas, who has a special memory of the last two, and the story is as fascinating as it is moving.
Heidy was working for QVC in London and wanted to spend a year studying in a foreign country as did hundreds of other young men and women looking to take advantage of Rotary International’s educational scholarship offered to post-graduates around the world.
Heidy reached out to me from London in 1993 to ask for my help in applying for a very special scholarship offered by Rotary International to only a very select group of graduate students. It was called the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship.
Years before Heidy’s scholarship, Bill Moyers received one in 1956, and said in a speech to the Rotary District Conference in 1988, “I reached out to the only people I knew, the Rotarians of Marshall, for help and advice. They said, ‘Bill, You Matter, and we will help.’”
So, in much the same manner as Bill Moyers did in 1956, Heidy reached out to the club and asked for help in securing the scholarship, and much like Bill’s experience, the Marshall Rotary Club told her essentially the same thing, but it was not going to be an easy process, and the odds of getting it were stacked against her.
She submitted the application, complete with photo and choice of schools, and sent it to me to have the Marshall Rotary club and the district governor sign it and send to the scholarship committee chair, who then sent it to Rotary International for their approval.
To her dismay, she was told by Rotary that she would not be able to study in any of the countries that she had requested, because of a restriction that the university be taught in the native language of the country, and that she would not be able to study in England, which was her current residence.
Undaunted, Heidy resubmitted a request to attend a university in Australia, which was approved, much to her joy and my relief.
Her story, is a story much like Alice’s journey through Wonderland:
The whole experience certainly opened my eyes and set me up for success with all kinds of cultures and male/female relationships in business and beyond, and a Rotary businessman who employed my South African friend Michelle Oosthuizen as his financial controller in his winery biz for years to keep her from having to go back to South Africa.
I also keep up with the Rotarians closest to me, such as former Rotarian District Governor Neville Chambers before he died.
My hosts, Nev and David Walcott, took great care of me, and Prime Minister John Howard whom Nev introduced me to, hugged me so tight I had to let me him know there was no further he could pull me in ... lol.
After encouraging Rebecca Barrett, actress in Superman 2 , to come study acting in the states, I got to help comfort and assist her when she took in and cared for people who escaped from the twin tower’s attack on 9/11.
Rebecca had arrived 5 days prior to the horrific event in her penthouse flat, which was now covered in human ashes 3 days after the tragedy.
I met Gwyneth Paltrow and many others there during the days after.
We were interviewed on the news, as were some of the very few people still living two blocks from the 9/11 wreckage.
Now I have been asked to be on the Board of Stars of Hope born from the 9/11 tragedy and posted on my Facebook often.
I was invited to a lunch in Sydney Harbor honoring Princess Diana. I happened to be nearby as she was looking for the lady’s “loo.” I uttered, “Di,” to which she swiftly turned around and greeted me in the middle of flashing cameras, then followed me to the “loo,” where I guarded the entrance during her brief “interlooed.”
Meeting and dining around Princess Diana gave me a glimpse into manners and royalty in a way I could’ve never otherwise prepared or been exposed, enough so to feel comfortable volunteering to personally host the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Queen of England’s cousin, her Lady in Waiting, and the Beefeater.
Kerry Packer’s partner ... Charles Curren... big tv mogul who got me work and leveraged my cable experience in London with launching QVC in Australia.
Charlie Daniels ... who I met at Tamworth festival where he told me I was the shyest Texan he ever met because I waited in line politely and super patiently letting others go in front of me.
It was during that meeting that Charlie’s CMT host, Sam Laws, saw me and took a liking to me ... and thus began a lifelong relationship with him ... crazy how life works.
Smokey Dawson and his horse — honored to have breakfast at his home with he and his wife who were in their 90s. He was a famous cowboy whom Disney wrote a comic story about.
Met a Rotary former Rotary exchange student, sent to Australia by his parents to grow up (Rotary was prestigious in Australia, Africa, India, etc.).
A dear friend, Adrian Moors, from South Africa and heir to Coca-Cola bottling in southern Africa. I have visited in his multiple homes with his mother, their matriarch, who sits on the Coca-Cola board.
Finally, it was my Rotarian businessman who developed a liking and respect for me, asked if I had any wishes as I left after 3.5 yrs. I said, ‘Please give Michelle a job so she can escape the cruelty and wrath of apartheid South Africa.’ He did, and thanks to him, my South African girlfriend Michelle Oosthuizen has been integrated into the same rotation friendships in Oz.
Heidy will be remembered with great pride at the Rotary Celebration at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24 the Marshall Convention Center, because as you can see, she mattered, too.
Register and come and met her: www.marshallrotary.org/page/centennial-celebration-registration-promotion.