Celebrating 100 Years of Lions Clubs International 7

Meet Mr. Lion – Harley Morlock of Smithville

When Harley and Jackie Morlock moved to Smithville in 2006, one of their first stops was at Platte Valley Bank to open a new account. A clerk commented on Harley’s attractive ring, a gift from his wife in 1988.

One thing led to another and within minutes, Harley and Jackie were committed to a dinner meeting the coming Tuesday, thus continuing Harley’s 45 years of perfect attendance as a member of Lions Clubs International.

This month, more than 1.5 million Lions in 46,000 clubs around the world are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of this community service organization by a group of Chicago business leaders on June 7, 1917.

Lions Clubs contribute to any number of community projects, from sponsoring Boy Scout Troops to environmental initiatives to college scholarships for high school seniors. But it was at a national convention in 1925 in Cedar Point, OH that the guest speaker solidified the service project for which the Lions are most known today.

A young Helen Keller challenged the young organization to become “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

That’s why you’ll find a collection box for donations of old eye glasses at Nellie’s Sweet Shoppe, co-owned by Harley and Jackie Morlock, and their daughter Ronna, in downtown Smithville.

In 1972, the Morlocks were busy parents of five children living in Saint Louis Park, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis. Harley was a Boy Scout leader in a troop sponsored by the local Lions Club. Because he wasn’t busy enough with work and kids and church, he joined the Lions and hasn’t missed a twice monthly meeting in 45 years.

Back then, women were not allowed to join the Lions Club, so Jackie soon joined the local Lioness Club. In 1987 at the international convention in Taipei, Taiwan, male members voted to allow women in the organization. That meeting coincided with Harley being sworn in as District Governor.

A few years later, at an international gathering in Denver, Jackie was sworn in as District Governor as well. She hasn’t missed many meetings either.

“We’ve eaten at a lot of pancake breakfasts over the years,” laughs Harley. “Our kids learned to schedule their activities around the second and fourth Tuesday of each month.”

Their daughter, Janelle, was the reason the Morlocks moved to Smithville. Janelle lived here and worked at VML, an advertising agency based on the downtown airport, when she had a recurrence of an aggressive form of malignant melanoma. She passed away in January 2007.

The fudge and ice cream shop in her name on Main Street is now where the 15 members of the Smithville Lions Club meets twice each month. That he opens the family business for the Lions, and that he and his wife have given so much to the organization, is one reason Smithville president Jeff Becker calls him “Mr. Lion.”

Although it’s a small group, the Smithville Lions Club gets pretty busy this time of year. They sponsor the Smithville Farmers and Makers Market that fills the downtown square each Wednesday afternoon and evening. The club’s goal this year is to make enough money to buy a building and expand the market to a year-round service to the community.

Another big fundraiser for the club is Hot August Nights, a family friendly event on Saturday nights in August that includes music, outdoor movies, and other activities.

Harley Morlock is particularly excited about Aug. 5, the first of the four hot nights. Entertainment that night is none other than Smithville’s hottest celebrity – Casi Joy who hit it big on NBC’s The Voice earlier this year.

And who do you have to thank for getting Casi to return home from Nashville for this extremely local event?

That would be Mr. Lion himself – Harley Morlock.