By David Jones, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Upper Arlington/Grandview (TriVillage), Columbus, Ohio, USA
In 2008, my world changed when my wife of 29 years was killed by an impaired driver. She was returning from a college visit with our 17-year-old daughter. My life revolved around Judy and our four children (Anne, Michael, Geoffrey, and Lara). We were so close that it felt like I had died too.
A year later, our youngest child left for college and I was alone in a five-bedroom house. I had to choose between curling up in a ball or going on living. I chose the latter and began speaking to first-time offenders convicted of a driving under the influence offense for several programs in central Ohio.
In 2011, I joined Toastmasters to become as effective as I could in delivering my message with the goal of saving lives. Over the years, I have spoken to over 15,000 drivers and hopefully prevented some number of innocent deaths. Besides being a mother, artist, cook, and gardener, Judy was also an ordained minister and served for 10 years as Director of Children’s Ministry at our church. Her death impacted an entire community, not just our family.
In 2011, I remarried to a widow, Diane, who had lost her husband to a sudden brain aneurysm shortly after my wife died. Since Diane had a real estate business in her community, she sold my house and I moved into hers. I joined TriVillage Rotary Club in 2012 to make friends in my new community and serve others through the numerous projects our club sponsored.
I started a global grant project in 2018 to help a village in Uganda that a friend had been supporting for the last 12 years. The $110,000 project is now in the approval stage and will provide water for around 2,500 people, put in new toilets at the village school (700 pupils), and provide sanitation training. I visited the village of Namabasa for two weeks in November 2019 to meet all the parties involved, especially Reverend Abraham Namugowa and the president of the Mbale Rotary Club, Bonny Mark Alinga.
I started this effort for my High Performance Leadership Project as the final step in achieving the Distinguished Toastmaster Award from Toastmasters International, but it has become much more than that. It has added purpose to my life. While I was visiting Uganda, I even led two Toastmaster workshops for local leaders that were well received. I feel this Rotary global grant project is exactly what my late wife Judy would have wanted me to do and was why I chose it.
As of July 2020, I am serving as president-elect for my Rotary club, and Vice President of Education for my Toastmaster club. I feel that serving in various officer roles in Toastmasters has helped prepare me for my upcoming role as Rotary club president. I truly feel both organizations have a lot to offer members and each other. Both my clubs meet in the morning and they help energize my day. I retired from working as an IT Director at the end of last year and just started a three-month position with the US. Census that I found out about through Rotary. It leverages my skills from Toastmasters.
My days are filled with purpose between church, family (15 grandchildren), work, Rotary, and Toastmasters. I may be “retired” but life is busier than ever.