Dave Cooley, left, enjoyed a meal with Dawson Springs Mayor Chris Smiley prior to COVID-19. Cooley has been an active Dawson Rotarian for more than 30 years.

The Dawson Springs Rotary Club will bid bon voyage to its historian, Dave Cooley, as he and wife, Charlotte, descend upon their new home in Melbourne Beach, Florida next week.

Cooley has been an active member of the club for a quarter century over two stints — from 1998-1990 and again from 1998 until next week’s departure.

Dave and Charlotte — who will celebrate 52 years of marriage in August — first arrived in town in 1988.

“I worked for the Louisville Post Office for a number of years and then got promoted to the postmaster job in Dawson Springs,” said Cooley. “I transferred to the southern region headquarters in Memphis in 1990. I came back to Dawson in 1998 as the postmaster again.”

Cooley said it was the people that brought his family back.

“We came back because we liked the community and the people and we wanted to retire on Lake Beshear,” he said.

Cooley retired from the postal service in July 1999. Before that career, Cooley served in the U.S. Army.

“I joined in October of 1964,” he said. “In 1965, I went to Officer Candidate School, and in January of 1966, I was commissioned to Second Lieutenant Artillery. In October of ‘66, I went to Vietnam.”

After spending a year in Vietnam, Cooley retired from active duty but remained in the Army Reserves.

“In addition to the post office, I stayed in the Army Reserves until I got my 22 years in,” said Dave. “I retired from the Army Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel.”

During his time as a Rotarian, which includes serving as president of the local chapter for two years, Cooley has been named a “Paul Harris Fellow a few times over,” said Melissa Larimore, the Dawson Springs Rotary Club’s current president.

According to Rotary International, The Paul Harris Fellow recognition — established in 1957 — acknowledges individuals who contribute, or who have contributions made in their name, of $1,000 to the Rotary Foundation.

There are over 35,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide. Those clubs work in unison on six primary goals: to promote peace; fight disease; provide clean water, sanitation and hygiene; save mothers and children; support education; and grow local economies.

Of those initiatives, Cooley’s efforts have been strongly focused on the community’s economy, which includes raising money for several local benefactors.

“Rotary raised money and built the big gazebo over by the swimming pool for the park, which sits where the old high school used to be,” he said. “All of the barbeque fire pits — Rotary built those — plus all of the scholarships for local high school students, and Rotary is partnering to build a gazebo to be used during Mule Days.”

Cooley’s presence and contributions will be missed, according to community leaders.

“When I came to Dawson Springs eight years ago, Dave Cooley was an extremely active member, “ said Leonard Whalen, member and past president of the local Rotary Club. “At that time, he was one of the younger members — Deward Stallins, Dudley Riley, the late Dr. Herbert Chaney, and the late Ed Beeny were some of the ‘seasoned veterans’ of the club.”

Cooley said he’s OK with being the old guy now.

“I guess after they (Stallins and Riley) left, I have the designation of being the oldest active member,” said Cooley.

Past president and member Lindsey Morgan spoke fondly about Cooley’s significant impact on the club.

“Dave’s knowledge of the history and traditions of the Dawson Springs Rotary Club have been an asset to the community of Dawson Springs for nearly three decades. His influence, perspective, and input will be greatly missed,” Morgan said. “Dave’s example of ‘Service Above Self’ will be a legacy for the members of our club.”

“Losing Dave to the warmer climate of Florida will be a huge loss to our club and our community — Dave is a top notch Rotarian and an even better person,” said Whalen. “He cares about people and the community. We sure will miss Dave Cooley.”

“He is a good guy, and we are proud to have had him as one of our Rotarians,” said Larimore. “We hope the move is smooth and he enjoys the warm weather.”

As the Cooleys depart for their new home next week, he is confident he is leaving the club in the most capable of hands.

“The Dawson Springs Rotary now is pretty much dominated by women, and it’s been a boom to have the ladies of Dawson Springs step up and kind of take over and keep the long history of Rotary in Dawson Springs going.”

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