DANVILLE – Dr. Ron Serfoss got a pleasant surprise when Danville Noon Rotary President Amy Henkelman came to see him at his office recently.
"When I heard Amy was here, I thought she was going to tell me if I didn't start coming to meetings, I was going to have to drop my Rotary membership," Serfoss, 64, said with a laugh.
Instead, Henkelman told Serfoss he had been selected to receive the club's 14th annual Rotary Vocational Service Person of the Year Award.
Serfoss follows such recipients as astronaut Joe Tanner, Vermilion Advantage CEO Vicki Haugen, businessman Louis Mervis and last year's winner, state Rep. Bill Black.
The award is based primarily on the nominee's vocational success, Henkelman said. She sat in on award discussions as the club's president.
"It was a fascinating process to watch," Henkelman said. "There were excellent nominees from club members, but the committee kept coming back to Ron, his contributions to his field and to the community."
When Henkelman just "dropped in" to bring the news, she had to wait.
"His patients come first. There's no doubt there," she said.
Serfoss was taken aback by the news.
"I am honored and humbled by the company that precedes me," Serfoss said. "If I have contributed to my profession and my community anywhere near as close as these people, it's only because I've been here a long time."
Serfoss said he loves his profession as an optometrist with Chittick Family Eye Care.
"When I graduated from school in 1969, I wasn't allowed to put a drop in an eye to test pressures," he said. "Now, we can diagnose, do therapy and can prescribe a limited amount of medication."
Serfoss' degree from New York University was in public health, and he thought about going on for a doctorate, but family circumstances didn't allow it at the time.
"I remember my father telling me, 'When you can go in and make people see, what more can you ask for?' " Serfoss recalled, adding that he believes his community involvement was because "your children do what you do." His father served on the school board and handed him his high school diploma.
"He only went to eighth grade, but he was a hard worker and was involved in his community," Serfoss said.
Serfoss came to Danville in 1973 and joined the practice of Dr. Angelo Anaclerio, later moving to join Dr. Sean Mallady at Chittick. Serfoss recently introduced Anaclerio at the Danville Area Community College donors' recognition banquet.
"I called him a mentor, but he later told me it was a shared learning experience," Serfoss said. "I was fortunate either way."
The example of community involvement by his father has stayed with Serfoss, as he has served or serves on boards of Lakeview College of Nursing, DACC, Vermilion County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council, Vermilion County Mental Health 708, North Ridge Middle School PTA, Danville Area Chamber of Commerce, Center for Children's Services, Danville Symphony Orchestra and its foundation, Danville Country Club, Provena United Samaritans Medical Center Foundation, Danville Library Foundation and has been active with St. James United Methodist Church as well as other organizations and event committees.
"I've been blessed with great colleagues," Serfoss said. "You don't get to do what I do without good people around you. Danville has been good for and to me civically, personally and professionally."
Serfoss will be honored at noon Oct. 29 at the Days Inn at the regular club meeting. He would receive a Paul Harris Fellowship Award in conjunction with the honor but has asked that the honor be given to his wife, Susan. The award is made from the club by a $1,000 donation to the Rotary Foundation to be used toward programs that promote peace, understanding and goodwill throughout the world.