On September 19, 2017, Rotary District 5340 officially recognized Robert and Beatrice Tomko Day, in celebration of Past District Governor Bob and Bea Tomko. At a special ceremony in Vista, California, Bob was surrounded by friends, family, and fellow Rotarians, including several from the Vista clubs. Roughly a dozen past district governors also came out to celebrate Bob's achievements, and to look back on 63 years of service to humanity through Rotary.
Bob Tomko served from 1968-69 as District Governor of what was then known as Rotary District 534. A member of the Vista Rotary since 1954, Tomko was instrumental in raising awareness and support for PolioPlus during its early days, and helped raise the profile of District 534 both locally and across the globe.
Bob and Bea left Ohio to move to Vista, California in 1953. It was there they opened Tomko's Vista Video television sales and repair. The following year, Bob joined the Rotary Club of Vista, where he was a true force of nature. Bob went on to serve many leadership roles within the club, as well as District 534 that encompassed much of Southern California.
In 1977, Bob and Bea built a second home near Bishop, California, and it was there that they founded the Rotary Club of Mammoth Lakes in 1981. Over the following decades, they continued to split their time between Bishop and Oceanside. Before Bea's passing in 2016, the two of them spent 70 years together, traveling the world both for pleasure and with Rotary International.
In the November 1975 issue of The Rotarian Magazine, Tomko shared his experience of traveling to New Guinea, where he had served during World War II as a combat radio operator with the U.S. Army. Little did he know that he would return to Papua New Guinea decades later, not as a soldier, but as a Rotarian and ambassador for world community service.
Tomko arrived on the island with a financial contribution from District 534 to help equip the St. Theresa Maternity Hospital. The hospital was started by Sister Camillus, who Tomko described in the article as a "human dynamo," and served as a crucial center for medical assistance and training for the island's residents.
Tomko was one of 30 Rotary members to make the trek in 1971 to deliver the needed financial aid in person, and even ran into another Rotary member who was a member of the same military unit he served in back in 1943. He described the experience as a defining moment for him.
"Past District Governor Bob and Bea truly embody the Rotary spirit," said Scott Carr, District Governor for Rotary International District 5340. "And while Bea is no longer with us, their commitment to building peace and world understanding was second only to their commitment to living life to its fullest. On behalf of all of the members of our district, as well as the members of Rotary International, thank you for your amazing service to our organization, and to humanity as a whole. We are truly grateful for all that you do."
When asked to give a speech during the September 19th reception, Bob was surrounded by two of his daughters, and introduced the crowd to his family members (including two great grandsons). He then challenged those assembled, "Be a Rotarian. Just BE a Rotarian." Rotary District 5340 salutes an amazing couple who truly lived by that creed, and shared their love of humanity through Rotary.