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The lifespan of a man born in 1868 was not long. A man of 37 was not considered young at all. That was Paul Harris' age when he started Rotary.  At the age of 44 he suffered what he said was a "heart attack."  Rotary secretary Ches Perry, in "The Founder of Rotary" writes about a serious physical breakdown.

In The Rotarian under "More or Less Personal", often short notes about Paul are found, mostly concerning his health. The first one I know of is from October 1912:

"President Emeritus Paul P. Harris has been confined to his residence for a couple of weeks by a severe cold. They say: "You can't keep a good man down" and sure enough Paul is back at his office but he admits that he feels a little run down and intends to take things easy for awhile now he has shifted the responsibilities of Rotarianism." Submitted by: RGHF Senior Historian Dr. Wolfgang Ziegler 31 July 2006

Ches Perry write further about Paul's health in a memorial speech at the 1947 international convention in San Francisco

What is remarkable, as was reported in our "What Paul Harris Wrote" in early 2002, is that Paul Harris continued a grueling schedule for Rotary and one of Chicago's most successful law practices for 35 more years. This was an uncommon man.

Another clue about his recovery may be found in a discovered copy of "This Rotarian Age." He describes in this section and attests to it in the cover of book, that he had a serious mental breakdown in the early 1930's

To learn more about the weekly series: "What Paul Harris Wrote" click here

What Paul Harris Wrote

“What Paul Harris Wrote” – 1912 and we almost lost our founder.  

“On a never to be forgotten day, I was standing at the speaker’s table at a great meeting, having just finished an address, when my lights went out. The last that I remember was of falling across the table and of being surrounded by folks. Heart attack, they called it. The specialist said it all when he said that I had over drawn my account; that I was bankrupt and must liquidate my account with nature.”  Paul P. Harris from My Road to Rotary, Page 289

“At the end of his second term of office (1912) he suffered a serious physical breakdown from which he recovered only because of his indomitable will to do so. He has constantly retained a deep interest in the movement, together with a keen desire for its successful development.” Ches Perry, General Secretary of RI, in the forward to “The Founder of Rotary” by Paul Harris in 1928. 

Paul Harris often described himself as too exhausted to attend events in his lengthy overseas travels. Regardless, his remaining 35 years, after his 1912 “breakdown,” were his most productive. He leaves a legacy that we will be discovering at Rotary Global History for years to come. The entire forward by Ches Perry is now online in the “Paul Harris” section of our project. 

And that’s a Rotary minute from Rotary Global History.

PAUL HARRIS' Journeys.

PAUL P. HARRIS, Founder and President Emeritus of Rotary International, recently returned to his Chicago home after several months' absence.

His first stop was Clifton Springs, N. Y., where he underwent a serious operation, from which he has thoroughly recovered. His next stop was in Vermont, where he lived as a boy, whence he returned to Chicago.

While at Clifton Springs, FOUNDER PAUL addressed an intercity meeting of Rotarians with the Clifton Springs Club as host. About 400 guests from New York and Canada, including many officers and past officers of Rotary International, attended.

 Speaking on "The Genesis of Rotary," FOUNDER PAUL said, in part:

 I am introduced tonight as the Founder of Rotary. . . . But in a movement which has been so fortunate as to have tens of thousands of important business and professional men always ready and willing to throw down their own business affairs and devote their time to the service of the movement, the meaning of the word "founder" has its limitations. . . .

Thoughts of Rotary seldom turn backward. Some think they do not turn even to the present as often as they should. As a matter of fact, I am still what I was in the beginning, a dreamer. . . . To me, the glory of Rotary is still in the future and my thoughts most naturally turn to its glory, as my eyes to the rising sun. The past is dead. Let it sleep in peace. . . .

I want to say that I believe Rotary Is one sound foundation on which world peace can be predicated, and on no other foundation can permanent world peace be successful. We consider ourselves ambassadors of goodwill, both going and coming, planting friendship trees on all continents, emblematic of the international understanding and goodwill for which Rotary is standing.

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