- Associated Press - Saturday, February 15, 2020

FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) - Jimmy Johnston is looking forward to helping the Rotary Club of Florence celebrate its 100th anniversary on Feb. 27. After all, he has been a part of more than half the club’s history.

Johnston, a retired certified public accountant, has been a club member for nearly 60 years.

“I joined in July 1962,” he said. “Mark Buyck came in 1963 about a year after.”

While he is the longest-serving member of the club, Johnston quickly added that he is not the oldest member.

After his father died in 1962, Johnston said, he came back to Florence as a CPA and was asked to join the club.

Back then the club accepted one member of each profession, he said.

“I was inducted the next month,” he said. “I liked the people.”

Johnston’s membership came as a package deal. His wife, Bunny, became their pianist. Each weekly meeting is started with members singing a song, often patriotic, followed by the pledge of allegiance.

When Johnston joined, the meetings were held at the Sanborn Hotel. They are now held on Mondays at Victors.

“We sat at one long table,” Bunny said. “There were no women, except me.”

Bunny stopped playing for a time but rejoined them as pianist in the 1980s.

She said Ed Young was her song leader back then.

Bunny remembers that when people would join, they used to have to give a “classification talk.”

That is no longer a requirement, but it was one she enjoyed, because it helped her to get to know the members.

The year Johnston was president, he said, the international convention, which he attended, was held in Minneapolis.

Bunny said it was really cold. It was in the winter.

The 2020 Rotary convention will be held in June in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Johnston had nearly perfect attendance during his active years in the club, he said.

“I’m not as active a member now,” he said.

Johnston said health problems have prevented him from attending like he once did.

One of his favorite service projects was supporting the Salvation Army’s “Red Kettle” project by ringing the bell at Walmart during the Christmas holidays.

“I am looking forward to Rotary continuing to grow,” Johnston said. “They do so many things for the community that the public isn’t aware of.”

“There are a lot of strong leaders in the club,” Bunny said.

She said she always liked the Valentine’s banquet where the members invited their wives or significant others. She said they would sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” to them.

Johnston is a native of Florence. He recently celebrated his 82nd birthday.

He was a CPA with Chasteen, Johnston and West until he retired 10 or 12 years ago.

After his retirement, he went help his son at Crown Beverages. He maintains an office there today.

Bunny and Jimmy have three children and nine grandchildren.

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