Bran Yaich Receives Special Service Award for his 53 Years in Rotary

(Rodney Lai, Photographer)
Bran Yaich has seen lots of changes in the Orinda Rotary during his 51 years as a member. He had his first exposure to Rotary as a high school senior in San Francisco.

    His father, a cable car gripman, Bran Yaich and his family lived in a modest home in a blue-collar section of San Francisco where he attended Commerce High School. If people would have told him at the time he would spend most of his life across the Bay in a little place called Orinda, he would have thought they were crazy. But that’s exactly what happened.
    Yaich and his wife Kathy moved to Orinda 52 years ago, long before the unincorporated town became a city. They raised their daughter here while Yaich taught math and science at Miramonte High School and coached baseball and football. When Yaich became assistant principal, Principal Bob Callan decided they both should join the two prominent service groups in the area: Lions Club and Rotary Club. Callan became a member of the Lions with Yaich opting for Rotary.
    “At the time, the most prominent professionals in Orinda belonged to Rotary. We had many dentists, doctors, attorneys and architects. The district governor for Rotary, Jack Schneider who owned Orchard Nursery at the time, was from our club,” said Yaich.
    Fifty-one years later, Yaich found himself, along with fellow Rotarian Peirce McKee, honored for his service at an awards ceremony in September. Together Yaich and McKee accrued more than 100 years of Rotary membership to date.
    “I actually had a connection to Rotary from my San Francisco high school,” said Yaich. “I was student body president at Commerce, and the SF Rotary invited all of the area’s student body presidents to attend a meeting at the Garden Court of the Palace Hotel. I came from a very modest family, and the Palace Hotel and the Rotary meeting made a big impression.”
    Yaich remembered what that meeting meant to him many years later when he became Principal at Miramonte High School. He began inviting a few students each year to attend Orinda Rotary as his guests. He recently heard from one of those former students, now a successful producer in Hollywood, saying how important the experience had been to him as well.
    The long-time Rotarian remembers how all of the club’s service was directed toward the local community. In 1969, the club donated $7,000 for an ambulance for the fire department. Many of the club’s projects continue today, such as the Jack Schneider Scholarship program at Miramonte, the Frank Isola Field Day, where inner-city students are invited to a day of fishing and fun at the San Pablo Reservoir, and Career Night at Miramonte.
    Yaich also noted the many good things that changed with Rotary over the years, such as now having women members. Old school still, however, he doesn’t feel cancelling mandatory attendance at meetings is as positive. “While I had to make up all the Rotary meetings I missed when I was in the Army Reserve, I think it was very valuable having mandatory attendance,” Yaich said. “We all became very close, and I’m still friends with many former members. Now, there are some members we don’t see for months at a time.”
    Yaich looks back over his 51 years in Rotary with fondness, recalling all the good friends he made and the fun they had together doing service projects and enjoying social gatherings.
    “It was a far cry from the kid who rode the streetcar to Commerce High in SF and sometimes created a little ruckus with the boys from Sacred Heart High School as we rode to school,” he said. “It was nothing by today’s standards, but it sure got me in trouble with my dad.”

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