Early each September, members of the Rotary Club of Lansing fan out across cemeteries throughout Greater Lansing to place flowers at the gravesites of more than 200 of their departed colleagues.
It’s a solemn, near-century-old tradition that Lansing Rotarians call “Loftus Day,” and have carried on ever since club member Frank Loftus decorated the grave of deceased Rotarian Charles Nichols with garden flowers in 1924.
It’s a time to remember, pay respect, and reflect on the many dedicated people who contributed not just to our club, but to the causes they’ve helped to support throughout our history, ranging from local charities to Rotary’s worldwide effort to eradicate polio.
It all started in the fall of 1924 when Loftus brought a bouquet of fresh garden flowers to the regular meeting of the club. Afterwards, he took the flowers to the grave of Charles W. Nichols, a past Rotary president who had recently died. The custom grew in an informal manner and when Loftus died four years later, the official Frank Loftus Day Memorial Service was held- a cherished Lansing Rotary Club tradition that each September honors deceased club members who are buried in the Lansing area.
It was not surprising that Frank Loftus started this revered tradition. A longtime grocer and life-ling Lansing resident, he was known for his compassion, often extending credit at his store on Washington Avenue to families who were encountering difficult financial times. His civic dedication was legendary. Whether is was posters encouraging people to buy war bonds, leaflets urging Lansing citizens to contribute to a charitable cause or just a short notice telling about a church concert, Loftus was always willing to give them prominent display in his store. He also gave his time to volunteer with the local Red Cross with his church and with the Knights of Columbus. When he died on May 30, 1928, the major headline in the Lansing Capital News was “Loftus Dies Suddenly” and the accompanying article went on to describe the many contributions he had made to his community.
Loftus Day survives into the 21st century, probably in a way Frank Loftus would have approved.