Rotarians tell Jack Mayo 'Y'all come back'

Kay Kellam autographing books ordered through the website for Jack Mayo at Bernardo Press.
(Photo by: Angie Gallegos)

By Pat Kumpan

Last week's meeting of the Rancho Bernardo Rotary was like a slow roast over a seasoned, mesquite grill as tasteful morsels about a gracious, humorous, dedicated community leader - Powegian Jack Mayo - were served up Texas-style.

Dishing out helpful advice to fellow Rotarians has been Mayo's calling card for years, either during his days as president of the RB Noon Rotary or as district governor.

Last Thursday, however, Mayo was nearly speechless as fellow Rotarians turned the tables on him with jokes, fond memories and farewell wishes before he and his wife Nita Louise move to Austin, Texas.

"Our hearts will always be with our friends (Rancho Bernardo and Poway), but it's like going home (to Austin)," said Mayo. "Austin is where we (Nita Louise and I) met at the University of Texas. We met, we courted and got married there, so it has always been a special place for us."

The name "Mayo" isn't likely to be forgotten here in several Western states where Mayo has trained new Rotary presidents, or in the Austin area.

Former RB Rotary president Jim Reading recalls Mayo's words of advice as Reading was preparing for his president's term. "Anything I can do to help you, just let me know. Our motto is 'Service Above Self' and Jack always exemplified that."

Mayo finished his Naval career as a public affairs officer, saw duty in Vietnam and other ports and felt the camaraderie of a Navy ward room could never be duplicated in civilian life.

His neighbor Phil Bohart was about to change all that once Bohart introduced Mayo to the Rancho Bernardo club members.

"I was wrong. People from the outside think it (Rotary) is just a lunch club, but coming to the meetings and having perfect attendance is about the bonding," said Mayo.

Since one of Rotary's main goals is world peace and the friendships between people, Mayo said the transition for him from military life to being a Rotarian "was a smooth transition. I found a club where members shared the same value system, the same triumphs and tragedies."

Before becoming a Rotarian, Mayo had his own one-word philosophy about life: "Perseverance - when you stumble and fall, get right back up."

And for those who know Mayo, righting himself with a smile is the "Mayo" way.

"Jack came into Rotary late in life, pouring himself completely into it, so much so that his whole family embraced it," said Reading.

Nita Louise has been involved with Inner Wheels, a group for Rotarian spouses, while the Mayos' grown daughters Kathleen, Carolyn Pruitt and son John are finding their own ways to be involved with Rotary.

Mayo is retiring from his publishing business, Bernardo Press in Rancho Bernardo, which has printed non-fiction works, including his daughter's book on Princess Diana.

Leaving his business doesn't mean Mayo won't dabble in penning his own book.

"Let's say I'm on to the next chapter of my life: The Golden Years," said Mayo.

"I've written several books including 'Bulletin From Dallas' about LBJ's return after Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. It was very draining emotionally, but it was therapeutic. I put my experience on paper, put it on the shelf and moved away," said Mayo.

During the mid-1950s, Mayo interviewed Rev. Martin Luther King, poet Robert Frost and Eleanor Roosevelt as an NBC News stringer in Chapel Hill, N.C.

"I learned that celebrities are normal people. I was so young and they were so famous. I was so nervous and they were so nice," said Mayo.

"Rev. King asked me, 'Aren't you going to ask any hard questions?' but I had no idea what to ask," said Mayo. "Rookies think they're the next Peter Jennings, but it takes years and years of hard work to be good. Be patient and remember - practice, practice, practice. That's good advice for almost anyone."

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