The Paul Harris was the founder of Rotary in Chicago in 1905. The Paul Harris Fellow was established in his honour in 1957 to express appreciation for the contribution to the humanitarian and educational programmes of The Rotary Foundation.
These programmes include an array of projects that save and invigorate the lives of people around the world and enhance international friendship and understanding.
Foundation programmes provide educational opportunities, food, potable water, health care, immunisations and shelter for millions of persons. These activities are funded, implemented and managed by Rotarians and Rotary Clubs around the globe.
Rotarians designate a Paul Harris Fellow to recognise a person whose life demonstrates a shared purpose with the objectives and mission of The Rotary Foundation to build world understanding and peace.
Thus it can be made to a Rotarian or a non-Rotarian. Our Club has from time to time recognised people from the wider community who clearly share the values we espouse.
This year, the Rotary Club of Toowoomba East will again recognise people who demonstrate those qualities. We thank them for demonstrating in their life and vocation a commitment to helping people in need here and around the world.
Today we award a Paul Harris Fellowship to a non-Rotarian from our community.
Judy Antonio is well known to us all for the work she has done in this community. She was born in Toowoomba and raised, schooled and worked in Millmerran.
Judy married Paul Antonio, in 1969 and they have 3 children and 9 grandchildren. In her early years she was an avid sportsperson, excelling in tennis (Duncan Thompson trophy) and basketball. She worked in Toowoomba in banking and real estate, while her children were being educated.
As Paul has been involved in local government, recently as Mayor of the Toowoomba Regional Council, Judy has taken an interest in various community groups, not the least being the Council Disability Advisory Committee.
Unfortunately, in May 2009, Judy was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. Even though this was tragic for her and her family the essence of Judy’s humanness (courage, dignity, love) has shone brightly in this community. The following quote exemplifies what I mean:
The experience of life-threatening illness is a crisis many of us will face and that may have a dramatic effect on us - clarifying our values, reordering our priorities and stiffening our resolve to live the best life we can.(Nothing fuels our zest for life like the prospect of losing it).In such circumstances some people slip into self pity and perpetual victimhood, but most do better than that.... a serious illness sometimes fuels a fresh resolve to start living well - and that means living more consciously for others; seeking to live in harmony with the community; being alert to all the ways we might be able to make life a little easier for someone else, or add to their quotient of wellbeing. After all, the paradox of the 'good life' is this: we are at our best when we are striving to give others the very things we ourselves most desire - respect, recognition, kindness and compassion.
We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy.
Judy has repeatedly demonstrated what ‘living more consciously for others’ actually means. She has been a strong supporter of the Toowoomba Flexi School (one of this club’s major projects), holding the position of Chair of Friends of Flexi for a number of years, being a key member of the inter-generational mentoring program (bringing her counselling skills as a Lifeline Counsellor to the task) and more generally just ‘being there’ for the students at the school.
The love between the students and Judy is obvious when they exchange greetings, share good times and bad and demonstrate an understanding of what mutual vulnerability actually means. Students have visited her in hospital, sent her their good wishes (flowers and posters) and asked constantly after her when she has been in hospital recently. She knows what it means to care.
May I indulge with another quote, which defines Judy so well:
To care first of all means to be present to each other. From experience you know that those who care for you become present to you. When they listen they listen to you. When they speak, you know they speak to you. And when they ask questions, you know it is for your sake not their own. Their presence is a healing presence because they accept you on your terms and they encourage you to take your own life seriously and to trust your own vocation.
Judy understands that by ‘emptying our own cup’ (e.g. our worries and concerns) and by recognising our human sameness we can participate in caring for one another. She has said to me often (not in the same words) that such participation allows us to form a new community – and such thinking is much needed.
It is with great pleasure that I recognise our newest Paul Harris Fellow – Judy Antonio.
I now invite the Immediate Past District Governor, Phillip Charles / President of the Rotary Club of Toowoomba East, Henry Campey to present Judy with her Paul Harris Medallion, Certificate and Badge in recognition of her selfless service to the Community and, particularly Toowoomba Flexi School.
24 March 2016