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Winston Churchill

Lion  Edward C. Peckham (far right), with fellow Lions Jack Rastrick, Dennis Venning and Richard Peacock of the Park Forest Lions Club of Illinois, presents a plaque to Sir Winston Churchill (far left) in 1956.

Lion Edward C. Peckham (far right), with fellow Lions Jack Rastrick, Dennis Venning and Richard Peacock of the Park Forest Lions Club of Illinois, presents a plaque to Sir Winston Churchill (far left) in 1956.

Winston Churchill

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Touchstone Story #100

Sir Winston Churchill, popularly known as “the Last Lion,” was prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940-45 (and again from 1951-55).

Known for his masterful turns of phrase (“If you are going through hell—keep going”) almost as much as his wartime leadership, Churchill was also an animal lover. During his lifetime, admirers from around the globe sent him animals as gifts. Churchill, in turn, gave the animals to the London Zoo, where he and the British public could visit them.

But in 1956, one of Churchill’s favorites—a lion cub—died suddenly in the London Zoo. American Lions decided to honor Churchill, who they called “the greatest lion of them all,” with a new lion, named Rusty.

Dennis Venning of the Park Forest Lions Club of Illinois, an editor of LION Magazine, was among those who delivered Rusty to the London Zoo. Venning also visited Churchill at his estate, remembering, “Sir Winston remarked it was a good thing we had not brought Rusty along to his home.”

Rusty the lion lived at the London Zoo before passing away in 1960. Churchill returned the hide of the majestic lion to Lions Clubs International founder Melvin Jones. Today, Rusty proudly resides in Melvin Jones’ office at Lions Clubs International headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois.

When recounting the wartime leadership he offered his country, Churchill said, “I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.” Lions all around the world can relate.

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