Rotary Minute: Dr. Peter Jacobi

Editor’s note: If Dr. Peter Jacobi is/was as good a doctor as he is a storyteller, this Minute also illustrates how good a Rotarian he will be. In his own words…

I don’t know about you, but aside from March Madness, I have been thinking about spring a lot lately.

Perhaps you remember that delicious feeling during the spring of a school year.

Yes, there were assignments due, but there was something irresistible calling you outside.

As a family physician I should know the difference between hay fever (a condition of the nose) and spring fever (a condition of the soul).

What I am talking about is spring fever.

So, you may wonder where I am going, but I promise you I am coming back to Rotary.


I am going to tell you about my older brother Rob.  Now, he had spring fever. Big time. All year ‘round.

Like me, Rob grew up outside of New York City. Always a rebel, at age 17 he rode the freight trains to California. Later he migrated to California; became a certified hippie; and no secret, lived in a commune – the Turkey Hill Farm- where he didn’t wear many clothes, grew his own vegetables, and smoked his share of mind-altering drugs.

15 years later Rob became a real estate developer in Sonoma County, and sure enough, joined Rotary.

As a committed Rotarian he became a Paul Harris fellow.  He colored his hair green for the annual St. Patrick’s Day fundraiser. He headed the local scholarship committee. He expected me to write a check.

Rob died suddenly, and prematurely, 18 months ago on his way to a scholarship meeting.

He loved his family, wolves in the wild, big waves in Hawaii, and his own vineyard of zinfandel grapes. He was absolutely serious about his legacy to plant 1000 trees. He had lived his California Dream.

As a Rotarian, he aspired (as we said in today’s invocation) to live a life of gratitude, service and peace.

Last week Rob in spirit woke me up before dawn.

“The chestnuts,” he said, “Tell ‘em about the chestnuts!”

“Rob”, I said, “I can’t tell them about the chestnuts…it’s personal.”

“Tell ‘em,” he said, “about the chestnuts!”

Well, he is my older brother.

So here’s the thing:

Because he loved big trees, after he died, I started collecting chestnuts, which seemed to be a fitting symbol of his spirit. Sometimes I drop one in a place that needs a tree. I have one in my pocket today.

I think what he meant was to make sure I told you about the way he valued the fellowship of Rotary in his life.

I am supposed to spread the chestnuts.

He was one of the people, like Andy Barada and Jim Leak of our Club, who invited me into the fellowship of Rotary.


Like so many of you, I am motivated by Rotary and the ideal of service above self.

I am also taken with the idea that having lived in Durham for almost forty years, Rotary continually teaches me new things about our community.

But what I like – really like – about Rotary is that we are an organization that wears patriotism and tolerance on our sleeve.

I am moved when we pledge allegiance, or when Seth Warner, Vince Simonetti, and so many others lead us in our national anthem – as though they really mean it.


That’s my Rotary story. Thanks for welcoming me in the fellowship of Rotary.

And, Oh…If anybody else has trouble staying on task and feels like kicking up your heels, you can blame it on the weather.

Peter’s Invocation:

A Spring Prayer

Creator God,

Forgive our moments of ingratitude,

The blindness that prevents us

from appreciating the wonder that is in this world,

the endless cycle of nature,

of life and death and rebirth.

As Rotarians,

Help us to live in gratitude, service, and peace.

Open our eyes to see,

our lips to praise,

our hands to share,

and may our feet tread lightly

on the road that, together, we travel.


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