ES Independent Column – Ned Shank

Sometimes I overindulge in the luxury of preconceived notions and it takes an outside force to nudge the trajectory of my thinking. In this case, it was my short association with Ned Shank in the Eureka Springs Rotary Club.

I was working as an accountant in town and my boss was the incoming president of the club. He said he’d put me up for membership (or however it worked) and as I do occasionally try new things, I hesitantly agreed. I didn’t know the first thing about civic clubs at the time and though I had agreed to join, I was a little skeptical about it all.

The Rotary Club met weekly downstairs at Myrtie Mae’s. I showed up at the appointed early hour bleary-eyed but curious. After an omelet made to order, the meeting got down to business and I was surprised at how closely the proceedings mirrored some church services, with music and singing led by Alan Epley and his horn, introduction of guests and a weekly speaker. It all ran smoothly despite some good-natured grumbling by those in the back seats.

I don’t remember if it was the first meeting I attended, or the second, but when things drew to a close, Ned Shank made a bee-line for me. We shook hands, and he loomed over me (he was quite tall) and he enthusiastically endorsed the work of the Rotary Club, both local and world-wide. That was 15 years ago and I don’t recall the exact words Ned spoke, but I’m thoroughly aware of the impact those words wrought. What struck me as interesting is that he seemed well aware of my skepticism, but used reason to make his case. We had a good conversation and I looked forward to more.

It wasn’t too long after I joined the Eureka Springs Rotary Club that Ned Shank was killed in a tragic bicycle accident just west of Eureka. The Ned Shank Wikipedia article states that he was posthumously made a Paul P. Harris Fellow, which is an award given by the Rotary Club.