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A tribute to 'Mr. Rotary' of Newton

Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 11:27 a.m. CDT

This past week, Newton lost another outstanding stalwart and unforgettable individual, 90-year-old Fred Pittman.

Old timers will remember Fred as a long-time partner and owner of the Newton Farm Implement firm at the east edge of Newton. Fred was a rather quiet, behind-the-scenes individual who took care of the finances with his steady, mathematical demeanor. He was known and respected far and wide.

I first became acquainted with Fred back in 1972, when I joined the Newton Rotary Club. Fred had been a Rotarian since 1957. He served in many capacities, including president, as well as club secretary for a continuous 35 years. Fred never missed a weekly luncheon meeting for 45 years straight. When away from home, he “made up” in areas all over the United States, and in many parts of the world. Talk about dedication to a service club — Fred broke all records!

In recent years, many fellow club members gave Fred the well-deserved honorary title of “Mr. Rotary.” He was a great husband, father, businessman, community volunteer and friend to everyone.

I will never forget Fred’s comments when my duties as club president began back in 1988. He said, “John, my job as club secretary is to make you look good.” He had performed the same task countless times before, and held true to his word. Fred was an integral part of many of our community projects that year. They are filed away in my memory bank, and in historic files.

Fred and his wife Betty joined Mary and me on a week-long journey to the Rotary International Convention during my year as president. We spent two delightful days driving to Philadelphia, four memorable days at the convention, and two more days heading home by another route. That time together really cemented our friendships. I learned much from Fred over the years related to dedication, commitment and tenacity. He was a great teacher, by example.

Fred and I were also long time members of the Knights of Columbus and a local Newton Investment Club. His meticulous research and reports gave me further insight related to commitment. He was generally a somewhat quiet person of few words, but with great insight, and well thought out actions.

My last visit with Fred was just a few days before his untimely death. I was preparing material to submit his name as a candidate for honorary marshal of our upcoming Fourth of July Parade, and I need a few more “particulars” from him. Fred had taken a severe fall that same day, but nonetheless wanted to reminisce about several of our good times together over the years.

Little did I realize this would be my last personal visit. Our conversation ended on a high note, as usual. His humor and quiet, witty remarks were something I always admired.

Fred Pittman will not be riding in a convertible as marshal in our Newton parade this year. But, you can be sure he will be looking down on all of us from his new Heavenly Home up yonder, with a friendly wave and a warm smile.

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