Bob Anderson joined the Rappahannock Lions Club back when Richard Nixon was president, 42 years ago. The club, then 10 years old, had dwindled to just nine members and was in danger of dying.
Last Thursday evening, the Rappahannock Lions — now a growing service organization with more than 50 members — honored Anderson, a past president and its most senior member, with the Club’s highest honor, The Melvin Jones Fellowship Award, which recognizes a member’s exceptional dedication to humanitarian service.
Anderson, a modest man who retired last month after 20 years of service on the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, probably would blush to be called a great humanitarian. But it fits a man who has spent 42 years as a Lion — volunteering for such duties as checking the eyesight of thousands of county school children, serving meals at a camp for kids with cancer, and making and selling apple butter to raise funds for the club’s projects. He also served as club president in 1974-75, “back when I had black hair.”
It also fits a man who never in 20 years missed a monthly meeting of the Board of Supervisors and who served on countless community and regional boards and commissions, concerned with everything from soil and water conservation to regional planning and clean rivers.
“Roberta and I were in Warrenton recently in a fast-food place and a kid there said to his mother, ‘Momma, Momma, that’s the man who checks my eyes at school!’” Anderson said in an interview. For 15 years, Anderson has volunteered for service in the Lions Club’s roving eye van, which provides free eyesight and hearing tests for school children.
Anderson and the other Lions volunteers in the van check 300 or more county students each year in state-mandated tests for kindergarten, third, seventh and tenth grades. “Several years I did the whole school,” he recalls. The tests have uncovered some serious eye ailments in some children, and many more who need glasses or other attention.
Anderson, now 78, spent 27 years as a pilot with Eastern Air Lines. He has lived in Rappahannock County for 41 years, with his wife of 57 years, Roberta. A native of Mobile, Alabama, with a southern gentleman’s soft drawl and manners, he looks forward in retirement to having more time to tend his farm and cattle and doing some traveling.
“I am going to try to catch up on some fencing here,” he said. “And we haven’t had a vacation, other than a few days here and there, for God knows when.”
The Melvin Jones Fellowship Award is named after the founder of Lions Club International. When a local club chooses a person for the award, it donates $1,000 to the Lions Club International Foundation, which uses the contributions to fund humanitarian efforts around the world, such as buying medication needed to fight diseases like river blindness in Africa. Recipients of the award receive a plaque and a Fellowship pin. Only two other current members of the Rappahannock County Lions club—Joel Daczewitz of Woodville and Hal McDermott of Washington — have been honored with the award.