The Norman Transcript

February 3, 2013

Rotary President-elect Burton nearly dropped out of club

The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — In 1979 Ron Burton, a longtime OU Foundation employee, joined the Norman Rotary Club at the urging of colleagues. He tells the story that he came close to dropping out after a few months. The food was bad, the programs weak and the club was not that receptive to newcomers.

He changed his attitude, got involved with the club and eventually became president a few years later. In June, Burton will take office as president of Rotary International, leading its 34,000 clubs and 1.2 million members in more than 200 countries.

When they are not traveling the world, Ron and Jetta Burton have been living the past year in Evanston, Ill., near Rotary’s world headquarters.

A contingent of Oklahomans will be on hand for the Lisbon, Portugal, convention in June where Ron will be sworn in as president. The Burtons will be back in Norman this week with current Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka of Japan.

It’s possible that a cure to polio, Rotary’s longtime goal, could come on President Burton’s watch. Quite a legacy for a man that came close to dropping out of the club nearly 35 years ago.

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In a cemetery in St. James, France, in Plot N, Row 8, Grave 23, lies the remains of a Cleveland County soldier, who left behind some things that the French would like to return, nearly 70 years late.

Private L.G. Bailey died Sept. 13, 1944, and is buried in the Brittany American Cemetery. Michael Beach of Maysville, who has visited the area, was contacted in hopes of reuniting the clothing with Bailey’s relatives. His last known address was in Cleveland County.

Bailey was with the 175th Infantry Regiment. He was among about 75 Cleveland County residents killed in World War II.

Beach, a Navy veteran, has made it something of a life mission to research and visit foreign cemeteries. He leaves a small rose rock on the graves. He’s visited about two dozen sites. He can be reached at

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Except for the coaching brothers, today’s Super Bowl lacks excitement. It will never live up to the build-up to the first Super Bowl, played in the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1967. After watching the game, my neighborhood friends replayed the Green Bay Packers’ lopsided 35-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs across two north Norman front yards.

We were not on the city’s water or sewer systems yet so the septic tank laterals served as our yardage markers, the streets and houses were out of bounds and black-top driveways became the end zones.

It was January but still warm enough to play shirts and skins. If my memory serves me, it seems like Gary Duncan, playing the role of Green Bay’s Bart Starr, tossed a Hail Mary pass into the end zone (our neighbor’s driveway) to Paul Russell to win it for the shirts.

To the victors went a box of Dreamsicles and a year to brag. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Andy Rieger


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