Rotary lauds Remberts for 'Service Above Self'
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.
The Rotary Club of Gainesville on Tuesday surprised Judi Rembert and her husband, Davis, with an award for their community service efforts, but she'd already received amazing news.
Rembert told the audience of about 200 people at the Rotary luncheon where she received the honor that she had learned the day before her MRI scan was negative for cancer after her previous battle with a brain tumor.
The Remberts have devoted their time and money for years to various service projects. The couple were the largest donors for the construction of the Shands Cancer Hospital at the University of Florida, according to the club's event program.
"We enjoy it," she said of their philanthropy. "We have the capacity to help."
The pair of Gainesville natives received the Rotary Club's 2012 E.T. and Vam York "Service Above Self" Award, established by the Yorks in 1984. Its first recipient was former UF President J. Wayne Reitz in 1985, said Melanie Shore, a previous recipient and chair of this year's selection committee.
As winners, a $1,000 gift will be donated in their honor to the Rotary Foundation to support international scholars, and their names will be inscribed on a permanent plaque that includes the names of past recipients at the Gainesville Regional Airport. Winners also are designated Paul Harris Fellows of the foundation and receive a plaque.
Rotary Club members can nominate individuals or organizations for the annual award, but the nominees and committee members are kept secret, Shore said. There were about half a dozen nominees this year.
"We knew we couldn't make a wrong decision," she said.
Judi Rembert, who turns 69 this week, said she will focus on offering support to people fighting cancer by sharing her experience with them and listening to theirs.
While she and her husband have been able to donate a lot of money and much of their time to the community, she said everyone can help.
"Fifty cents adds up real quick," she said, if everybody gives.
The Remberts live in Alachua on their farm, where they have held fundraisers for Haven Hospice and other organizations in their barn. Their nonprofit, the Rembert Family Foundation, has donated to United Way, Children's Miracle Network and other groups.
Davis Rembert, 72, a business owner and Rotary member, retired with his wife in 1998 after selling United Fuels and Sprint Food Stores, she said.
He knew his wife would receive the award but didn't realize he was also a recipient. He told the roomful of Rotarians, "We just love doing what we're doing, one day at a time."
The Remberts were nominated in past years, and multiple members nominated them this year, said Dana Nemenyi, a past president of the club.
Dr. Roger Brill, who has known Judi Rembert since grade school, spoke about the couple at the luncheon. He called their numerous community contributions "encyclopedic."
"They have not only given financially, but they have given in service," he said.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 352-338-3104 or email@example.com.