Lawnside Lions Club Honors 5 Men On Its First Anniversary

Posted: July 28, 1991

The Lawnside Lions Club marked its first anniversary July 12 by honoring five area residents at a dinner at Lucien's Restaurant in Berlin Borough.

Recognized as Lions Club Citizens of the Year were Paul Harris of Cherry Hill, Theodore Johnson of Pennsauken, Lloyd Romero of Lawnside and Edward Taylor of Somerdale. Clarence Still of Lawnside was named Lion of the Year.

The honorees were chosen, club president Joyce Gilchrist-Pierce said,

because of their contributions to community life in and around Camden County.

The Lions Club is an international service organization of men and women. The Lawnside Club, which has more than 50 members, was chartered July 20, 1990, and has completed several community projects related to education and health awareness.

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A member and former president of the Cherry Hill Minorities Civic Association, Paul Harris is founding president of the 1 1/2-year-old Camden County East branch of the NAACP. He is a native of Camden and a graduate of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

"When people normally think of the black population, they think of the 30 or 40,000 people in Camden," he said. "Well, there is an equal number of blacks who live in towns in and around Camden County, so we really needed another NAACP branch to help answer their needs."

Among those needs, he said, is a mentor program for youngsters in Lawnside, Magnolia, Somerdale and surrounding towns, in which adults would help children after school with a study program.

The organization is also helping high school youngsters find out more about how their local and county governments work, so they can participate.

After retiring as a division supervisor for Pathmark Supermarkets four years ago, Harris, 59, started the Sparkle Clean laundry chain; Paul Harris Associates, which specializes in the development of new products, and the Northeast Small Business Development Co., which trains and counsels young entrepreneurs.

"I always enjoyed business, and I always wanted to be my own boss," he said. "I also enjoy helping the young people get started. With the economy going bad and companies going out of business, this generation coming up isn't going to find the job opportunities we had starting out, so maybe if they start their own businesses, they won't face hard times."

Harris is also second vice president of a men's Christian organization that meets on the first Sunday of each month for a religious service and fellowship, and he also serves as a deacon at the Bethany Baptist Church in Somerdale.

He and his wife, Johnnie, have four grown children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

"When I was in first grade, I used to stand behind the clothes hamper and teach my younger brother," recalled Theodore Johnson, an associate professor of educational administration in the School of Education at Glassboro State

College and a retired superintendent of the Middle Township Schools. "I always had a great love for children and a desire to improve their quality of life."

Johnson has degrees in education, educational administration, and administration and supervision from Temple and Rutgers Universities. He started as a junior high school math and English teacher, and has since been assistant superintendent of the Camden City public schools and principal of Camden High School, Hatch Junior High School and several elementary schools.

Johnson, 57, remains active with several community organizations. In conjunction with the Burlington and Camden County chapters of the NAACP, he is

helping local police "achieve an understanding of the plight of minorities" and erase stereotypes.

He also works with the NAACP in Cape May, which, he says, has a 5 percent minority population, and chairs a Pennsauken committee trying to set up a human relations council for the town.

He mentors five students at Haddon Heights High School - youngsters he met as a substitute teacher in Lawnside - and "will help them get through their four years of high school."

But perhaps he is proudest of his work with Lawnside's Mount Zion United Methodist Church, where he not only teaches Sunday school, but also works with a men's group to "try to reverse the demise of the black male."

"So many boys are growing up without fathers at home," he said, "and they have no one to teach them what being a decent black male is all about. So we're trying to get them good role models - good men, good husbands, good fathers. We go into the schools and work with at-risk kids, showing them fisticuffs is not the only way to solve problems, that they have responsibilities to their mothers, their families, their church, their community."

The father of two grown children, Johnson described himself as a very traditional parent while they were growing up.

"You can express your opinions in respectful tones," he said, "but the bottom line is, you're under my roof, you live by my rules. Parents must realize they can say no to a child, and that child will live. Discipline with love is essential. Give them time, structure, direction, and teach them respect, obedience and responsibility."

In his spare time, Johnson sings tenor with a gospel/barbershop quartet. His wife, Margaret, is a former bank manager and telephone company employee.

A Lawnside resident for 15 years, Lloyd Romero, "a spry 70," has spent nine years as a member of the Mount Peace Cemetery Association, working to clean up and restore the historic black cemetery.

"There are some 17 acres there, but you couldn't tell that because it had become such an eyesore," he said. "So far, we've removed trash and debris, washing machines, refrigerators, and I've got an 18-foot boat with a tree growing out of it that's waiting for me. But we've uncovered about 90 graves of Civil War veterans, and have built two roads. It's a great job," he quips, ''because nobody talks back to you."

Romero is also a former member and captain of the Lawnside Volunteer Ambulance Squad; he concentrated on organization and recruitment for the group.

"I had to give it up last year, because I realized that getting up at 3 a.m. to pull a drunk out of a car wreck or revive a drug overdose is a job for a younger man," he said.

A native of New York City and a graduate of St. John's University and Fordham University Law School, he worked for the U.S. Department of Labor in various positions, the last at Indiantown Gap, Pa., which served Vietnamese refugees. After he retired in 1981, he continued to work with refugees as a consultant to Catholic Social Services.

He developed a special relationship with a young Indiantown Gap interpreter, a French African Vietnamese who studied petrochemical and electrical engineering and now owns his own Silicon Valley-based company. And he remains in touch with some of the 85 Cambodians who were in the last group he settled in 1980. Romero helped take over an entire Philadelphia apartment house to shelter them.

He and his wife, Miriam, volunteer at the Opportunities Industrialization Center in Philadelphia. He works on funding projects; she teaches.

The Romeros are the parents of three grown children and grandparents of five.

"I've been very blessed; I've had a good life," he said. "It's only right that I try to give something back."

"It's so rewarding to help children who are disabled - and learning problems are a disability - to see them graduate, get jobs, start a good life," Edward Taylor said.

Taylor, 48, is supervisor of child study teams for the Camden Board of Education. A graduate of Delaware State College, he has master's degrees in student personnel services and educational psychology from Glassboro State

College and is certified as a school psychologist.

"I grew up in Delaware, when the 'separate but equal' issue was being faced and schools were being desegregated," he said. "I learned about how important education is. It's the key to everything. Now I have two boys at Delaware State, and we've always advocated education in the family. If the educational services in Camden matched the medical services available, we'd have a lot less problems."

Taylor is also a member of the state's Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committees and serves on the board of trustees of the state Youth Correctional Institution Complex.

He has been a member of the Somerdale Borough Council for three years and serves as chairman of public safety, mainly overseeing the police and fire departments.

Taylor is also a trustee of the Bethany Baptist Church and a Thirty-Third Degree Mason, and is active with Masonic scholarship programs.

He and his wife, Margaret, have two children.

A charter member of the Lions Club, Clarence Still is official historian of Lawnside and family historian for the huge Still family, whose famous annual reunions, a tradition since 1870, attract more than 500 members.

It was through studying about his own family that Still, 62, learned about the history of black families in the area.

"It's hard to say how far back we go," he said. "Some records show a prince of the Mandingo tribe from Guinea arrived here in the late 1600s. And black families worked for plantation owners in Runnemede. The land there wasn't good for farming, so they farmed in Lawnside. That was in the 1830s and '40s."

Still is also founding president of the Lawnside Historical Society and spearheaded the drive to restore and preserve the historic Peter Mott House in Lawnside. The house, which dates from the early 1800s and was scheduled for demolition to make way for modern townhouses, was found to be a stop on the Underground Railroad, by which many of the South's black slaves escaped north to freedom.

"We're trying to formalize an ownership deal," he said. "We hope to rebuild the house on the same site and include a museum and library to house some of the historical materials we've collected."

He said he hoped the materials would be a resource for students of black history as well as local families.

"For example, we found 46 Civil War graves in Lawnside that a lot of people didn't realize were here. A Cornell student recently toured the cemeteries at Mount Peace, Mount Pisgah and Mount Zion with us, looking at the gravestones. She eventually got her doctorate," he said.

Still himself studied industrial management at Rutgers University; worked for the Budd Co., a Philadelphia-based transportation systems manufacturer, for 37 years, and was a psychiatric technician at Ancora State Hospital.

He and his wife, Verline, have two grown children and three grandchildren.

Of his recent honor, he said, "It was quite a surprise. You know, you just go along day to day, doing the best you can, and you never know anyone's watching. When you find out someone thinks so highly of something you've done, it's quite a good feeling."

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