Mystic Lions Club Celebrates 65 Years of Service


Incoming President Lion Joe Gush and Cabinet Installed

Former Senator Cathy Cook Awarded “Knight of the Blind” 

The new leaders of Mystic Lions Club ( l – r) : Teresa Fields, Eric Garafano, Cathy Cook, Claudette Hull, Past President Tim Fields, Lions District Governor Nanette Burdick, Mystic Lions President Joe Gush, Nancy MacDonald, Lori McCullough, Ed Hutter, John Read, Maryann Read

Lion Joe Gush, retired USN Master Chief, takes the helm of Mystic Lions Club


Ledyard resident Joe Gush has taken the leadership of the Mystic Lions Club as the group prepares to celebrate its 65th year of service to the community. Retired Master Chief of the US Navy Submarine Force and a current manager at Electric Boat, Gush loves to be a Lion.  He is the chief cook and bottle washer for all events involving food especially regional Lions Club Steak Nights.  President Joe lives the motto of all Lions, “We Serve.”  He takes leadership of this civic organization that for the past 65 years, has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the community, the nation and the world.  Mystic Lions have built playgrounds, collected food for soup kitchens, cleaned up parks, organized health fairs, performed preschool eye screenings, recycled eyeglasses and hearing aids to the poor, donated large print books, helped the homeless, supported community centers and libraries, planted trees and much more.  

“I learned that Lionism is a participating sport.  And we have fun all year!” says President Joe Gush, pictured in the kitchen (left) with Lions Henry Rohrs (right).

In this 65th year, the Mystic Lions will continue their partnership with the Mystic Aquarium.  Mystic Lions are on call whenever the Aquarium may need “Lion Power” like directing traffic at the Penguin Walk-a-Thon or lighting thousands of luminaria candles for the annual December Festival of Lights. Other local projects include raising $30,000 for charity by serving Pancakes with Penguins, selling hot dogs and kielbasa at the Mystic Irish Parade, walking to Prevent Blindness, selling garlic soup at the Annual Garlic Festival, and hosting the 10th Annual Wine, Beer & Spirits Tasting and Auction this November 1st at the Mystic Aquarium.


Cathy Cook named Knight of the Blind

The Mystic Lions recently presented one of their own with one of the highest honors in International Lionism – “The Knight of the Blind Award.”   In 1925, Helen Keller challenged Lions to help prevent blindness around the world.  Lions have been Helen Keller’s “Knights of the Blind” ever since.  To honor outstanding service, the Connecticut Lions Eye Research Foundation established “The Knight of the Blind Award.”  This year, in recognition of her “generosity, compassion and concern for others,” the Mystic Lions named Lion Cathy Cook as a “humanitarian of distinction” with the 2014 Knight of the Blind Award.  “This honor has been bestowed on others who have given themselves to our community.  I am humbled,” says Cathy Cook, former state senator and Mystic Lion for over 25 years since her induction by her Mystic Lion father, the late Russell Welles. “I hope I can continue to live up to the spirit of Helen Keller’s challenge to Lions.”   Cook (left) forged the partnership with the aquarium and chairs the Annual Mystic Lion Club Pancakes with the Penguins Breakfast.  

Mystic Lions Club is one of the 46,000 clubs with 1.35 million members in Lions Clubs International, the world’s largest civic organization. Lions International Foundation is one of the world’s most effective relief programs, providing hope to those with eye disease, offering disaster relief where needed and building clean water facilities to prevent blindness all around the globe.  Members of the Mystic Lions Club have ventured to Korea, Mexico, Germany, Canada and other nations to join Lions from the world in service.   Locally, Mystic Lions volunteer with the Eastern CT Lions Low Vision Center, helping local citizens with vision impairments.  The club supports Connecticut’s CRIS Radio for the Blind as well as training programs for Seeing Eye dogs; and vision screening for young children and needy veterans. 

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It’s easy to join Mystic Lions Club!

You don’t have to live in Mystic to join Mystic Lions.  If you are interested in becoming a Mystic Lion, visit their website  or email to   Mystic Lions Club meets the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at 6:30 pm.   New members are always welcome.                  

Photo credit:  Cathy Cook

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