Baby name story: Rotary

St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps during 1918 influenza pandemic

The 2012-2013 flu season is shaping up to be a pretty bad one.

But no flu season on record can compare to the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918-1919, during which tens of millions of people died.

Jean Blum of San Francisco was told he would be one of those people.

It was November of 1918, and he was in Mount Zion hospital, severely ill with the flu. His doctors had told him it was “all over.”

Jean’s wife, Mildred, was due to give birth any day to a baby “who most probably would never see or know his father.”

Jean was a member of Rotary, and around this time some fellow Rotarians — donning masks, gloves, and gowns — came to see him. He was so moved by their visit that “he later credited them with restoring his will to live.”

Mildred was soon brought to the same hospital, to give birth. Jean is reported to have said something along the lines of, “I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, I want that child named ‘Rotary.'”

On November 16, 1918, Mildred gave birth to a baby boy. He was named Marshall Rotary Blum.

As an adult, Marshall Rotary Blum followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a member of the Rotary Club in San Francisco. He even served as the club’s president from 1986 to 1987.


  • “By The Way.” Editorial. Rotarian Jul. 1977: 3-4, 8-10.
  • Greene, Jan. “Second to None.” Rotarian Nov. 2008: 46-47.
  • White, Will. “By The Way.” Rotarian Sept. 1986: 1-2, 8.

Image (St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic) from Library of Congress

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