DUNCAN -- Ron Burton's travels have taken him around the world multiple times. As president of Rotary International and as a Rotary Foundation Chairman, Ron and his wife, Jetta, have visited dozens of countries, met with heads of state and captains of industry.
But the most rewarding trip may be the 75 miles between their Norman home and their hometown of Duncan.
"There's nothing like coming home," Burton told a lunch picnic gathering of fellow Rotarians and guests Wednesday. He was the guest of honor of the Duncan Rotary Club that worked with the City of Duncan in renaming a park as Ron Burton Rotary Park.
Rotarians rolled up their sleeves and cleaned the park in advance of the dedication. The club and other donors helped buy playground equipment shaped like musical instruments.
"I've seen Rotary at every level," said Burton. "There's no question we do important things on the international scene. But the most important thing is what's done on the local level."
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He said he was impressed that club members came together to work on the park. It was the first time club members had gathered since the COVID-19 crisis began this year.
"Every now and then you need to get out and get a little paint on your pants," he said.
Ron and Jetta grew up just a few blocks from the park. Ron shared the story of working as a carrier for the afternoon delivery Duncan Banner and riding by the small park on his route five days a week. Later, he drove by the park as he and Jetta were dating in high school.
Duncan Rotarians took over the Jayce Radio and TV Auction that had raised money for needy children at Christmas time.
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The new park's musical theme makes sense as Ron and Jetta were members of the Duncan High School band. The club plans to add more equipment, picnic tables and other improvements.
Burton, a longtime member of the Norman Rotary Club, said he was humbled by the city and Duncan club's honor. Later Wednesday he was inducted into the Stephen's County Historical Society Hall of Fame. He joins Erle P. Halliburton, T.H. McCasland, Nolan Fuqua and Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.
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Burton attended the University of Oklahoma and began working part-time in the university's accounting department. He later worked for the OU Foundation while attending law school and became the executive director of the Foundation in 1978.
He served as president of Rotary International in 2013-2014. Jetta was a longtime teacher for the Norman Public Schools.
Only one other Oklahoman has served as Rotary's leader. Everett W. Hill, of Oklahoma City, was president in 1924-25.
Burton was president of the Norman Rotary Club in 1983-84 and later served as a Rotary District Governor. He was elected to the board of Rotary International in 1996.
In addition to the park, the Duncan City Council proclaimed June 24 as Ron Burton Day in Duncan.