Bob Traill checks out the Flags of Honor display last year at the Maine Mall. The annual display honors local heroes in the community. Courtesy / Rotary Club of Portland, Maine

PORTLAND — Longtime Portland Rotarian Bob Traill, 98, embodies a lifetime of service. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran has served as the chairman of both the Salvation Army Advisory Board and Maine Medical Center Annual Fund Committee and was an corporator of MaineHealth.

Traill, of Cape Elizabeth, was honored earlier this month by the Rotary Club, which named him a Paul Harris Fellow. The honor, the highest recognition given to a Rotarian, is named for Rotary International Founder Paul Harris and is given out by clubs all across the country to members who have made a big impact in their communities.

Portland Rotary Club President Ellen Niewoehner talks with Bob Traill, who was honored Sept. 11 with the Rotary’s top recognition for service at the 2020 Flags for Heroes event at the Maine Mall. Courtesy / Rotary Club of Portland Maine

“It’s the highest award given to a Rotarian,” said Rotary Club of Portland, Maine member Charlie Frair. “He’s been our president and is always involved in our community projects,” said Rotary Club of Portland, Maine, member Charlie Friar. “Even at 98, he is one of those people who never stops. He is the perfect person to be given an award like that because of all his service (to the community).”

Traill is in good company. Among other Paul Harris Fellows are U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, NASA astronaut James Lovell, United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and polio vaccine developer Jonas Salk.

“It was a great honor for me and unexpected. It was quite the thrill,” Traill said this week.

Traill has been involved with the Rotary since 1980. While some Rotarians travel overseas to Africa, South America and Europe to help those in need, Traill focused his service at the local level. He has particularly enjoyed volunteering at the Preble Street and St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchens, he said.

He also made regular visits to Lyseth Elementary School to help students learn to read and appreciate books.

“It was one of the most interesting and effective programs I have been involved with,” Traill said of the Lyseth literacy program.

Service has always been near and dear to Traill’s heart. It started with service to his country. Traill, a Rhode Island native, was a student at Brown University when he  joined the Marines shortly after Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941. He joined the 8th Marines Regiment, 2nd Marine Division as an assistant regimental intelligence officer, taking part in the invasion of the islands of Sapian and Tinian, then Japanese strongholds, in June 1944. In 1945, his division was preparing for the invasion of Kyushu, the southern-most island in Japan. Plans changed, however, when atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and Traill’s intelligence division was then used to disarm the Japanese military.

Traill, who was awarded the Bronze Star for his efforts as an intelligence officer, returned to Rhode Island after the war, where he settled down, married, started a family and in time began a long career with Mobil Oil as a salesmen and later recruiter.

After 60 years working for  Mobil, Traill retired to Maine, where he owned and operated the Olsten Temporary Help franchise in Portland before starting his own executive search company. He also helped his daughter and her business partner turn Maine Molecular Quality Controls into a multimillion dollar business.
“Service to me is the utmost important way to live,” he said.

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