Gary Clark is described as a workhorse for fellow veterans, keeping them abreast of legislation that may affect them, organizing public activities in their honor, issuing alerts to generate charity whenever one is in need.

Gary Clark is described as a workhorse for fellow veterans, keeping them abreast of legislation that may affect them, organizing public activities in their honor, issuing alerts to generate charity whenever one is in need.

For the hundreds of hours he freely devotes to veterans causes, Clark, 71, of Lakeland, a retired Air Force colonel, has been named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year by the Florida Society of Daughters of the American Revolution.

Clark will be honored next month during the society’s annual convention in Orlando. The award puts him in the running for a national volunteer of the year award.

“I don’t really think it’s deserved but I’m honored,” Clark said. “The credit goes to the folks in this community who support veterans. It’s a veteran-friendly community and it’s a pleasure living here.”

In their letter nominating Clark for the state award, members of DAR chapters in Bartow and Lake Wales cited his many projects, including his work as founder and chairman of the Polk County Veterans Council, which gives voice to veteran causes and concerns, and serves as a forum for the county’s many veteran organizations to network.

The council meets monthly in Lakeland and bi-monthly in Lake Wales. Through Clark’s leadership, the group plans and organizes parades, town hall meetings and day-long field trips to Washington, D.C., giving aging veterans a chance to visit war memorials, said Gay Harlowe, regent of DAR Bartow.

“He (Clark) does a lot of work behind the scenes,” she said.

Earlene Head, regent of DAR’s Lake Wales chapter, said few people in Polk work as hard as Clark does on behalf of veterans, giving 30 hours or more a week of his time.

“His service hours are tremendous,” she said. “He certainly is deserving (of the award).”

Clark retired in 1993 after 26 years in the Air Force, including active duty in Vietnam and the Gulf War. He received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Kansas State University in 1967 and completed a master’s degree in operations research from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1969.

After leaving the military, Clark was employed 13 years by the city of Lakeland, serving stints as civil service director and director of retirement systems. For the past 10 years he’s worked as a consultant in the institutional retirement plans division of CPS Investment Advisors.

— Eric Pera can be reached at eric.pera@theledger.com or 863-802-7528.