Rod Buell was the manager of the Sobeys store in Stellarton when the bank manager next door persuaded him to join the Lions Club. Forty years later he is a Lion for life.
AMONG FRIENDS BY ROSALIE MACEACHERN
“I’d heard about the Lions and the work they did. I also knew I was the kind of guy who’d prefer to put a lot of time into one organization than to join a dozen different groups,” he said.
Buell grew up in Stellarton and joined the Sobeys organization right out of high school.
“I was sweeping in front of the store one morning when my physics teacher walked by. He stopped, shook his head and growled that I should have been in university.”
But Buell liked the grocery business. He had grown up helping his father service the oil stoves that replaced coal burners and in the process he realized he enjoyed meeting people and providing a service.
“I liked the store but my brothers were in the Air Force and after a while I told my manager I was thinking of enlisting. He told me they’d like to keep me and I was offered a bit more money. It didn’t take that much to keep me.”
Six months later Buell was assistant manager at the west side Sobeys.
“They gave me a great opportunity to learn the business. Baxter Steeves was the manager of the west side store and I learned a lot working with him. ”
Buell was transferred to Charlottetown and Moncton before returning to manage the Stellarton store he started in.
“I was married by then and happy to be back living in Stellarton. By the time I was invited to join the Stellarton Lions I was beginning to realize I’d been pretty lucky. The sociability of the Lions appealed to me and I guess I figured I had something to offer them,” he said.
When he left the store to take a variety of office positions with Sobeys before retiring, he maintained his involvement with Lions. Connections made through work helped him with Lions’ projects and vice versa. On both fronts he learned to do his homework before jumping on a bandwagon.
“I remember a day when the old gent (Frank Sobey), who commanded a lot of respect, came into my office with a shopping bag. He emptied 10 cans of sardines onto my desk and asked point blank, ‘What do you know about sardines?’”
Sight has always been a priority of the Lions organization and locally Lions collect used eyeglasses for developing countries and sponsor a child with juvenile diabetes to attend Camp Brigadoon, formerly Camp Lion Maxwell. Another project in the works is a Christmas meal for the visually impaired, jointly organized by Lions clubs in Stellarton, Pictou and River John.
“A lot of what the Lions do is done quietly and with respect for other organizations. The local food bank does an excellent job of helping those who need groceries but we provide Christmas baskets for people who may need a bit of help at that time of year. It may be a case of a working single mother who is having a hard time to provide the extras for her family at Christmas,” said Buell.
The Lions sponsor a regular blood donor clinic, provide some assistance for the deaf and hard of hearing and take part in the Relay for Life as well as assisting the Red Cross and Emergency Measures operations.
“One recent project our Stellarton Lions have gotten a lot of satisfaction from is providing school supplies for children who just don’t have what they need. We’ve had a great response from teachers,” said Buell.
The club has 13 members and Buell would like to see it increase to 20.
“On the one hand we’ve got great members who want to provide service. We don’t have anybody trying to make a name or build an empire but more members would bring new life new and new ideas. We only have one female and we’d love to have more,” Buell said.
He is hopeful there will be resurgence in service club membership in general because of the benefits the clubs bring to their communities.
“We were really distressed when Stellarton town council banned road tolls because that is the main fundraiser for Lions and Rotary. We appreciate there is a bit of inconvenience to the motorist but people give very generously. If we stopped doing what we do in the community we’d be missed. The town would not be picking up our projects. Fortunately, the town reversed its position,” he said.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, an Oprah Winfrey show regular who has since become a celebrity in his own right, recently joined a California Lions Club.
“That’s a bit of a boost for Lions, in general.”
Buell was presented with a lifetime membership earlier this year, an honour that comes at the recommendation of the local club.
Aside from his work with Lions Buell and his wife, Lorraine, visit children and grandchildren in Ottawa as often as possible and he keeps busy servicing the old oil burners he worked on with his father.
“There’s still a few of them out there, still working away with a little bit of service now and again,” he said.