“He has a great sense of humor,” said Norwalk resident John Garcia, who has been on the board since 2007.
Garcia was 6 years old when Stark volunteered for the board at age 27. The advisory board advises The Salvation Army on its present and future and assists with finding the resources to meet its needs.
“I’m just amazed at the longevity. I’m sure he’s done so much for The Salvation Army,” Garcia said.
Stark’s sense of humor was on full display Wednesday when he was honored during a program at Berry’s Restaurant in Norwalk.
Near the end, Maj. Leonard Boynton asked Stark if it was time for him to give a speech.
“I would say, ‘spare them,’” Stark said.
Raised on Maple Street, Stark started his career as a meat market butcher. In 1974 at the age of 47, he changed career paths and started his own business, Stark’s Sanitary Service LLC. He sold it to his son-in-law, Greg Keefer, in 2003. Stark’s Sanitary Service remains a family business and is now owned by Stark’s grandson, Ty Keefer.
Boynton joked that Stark’s children never wanted their father to bring any evidence of either of his jobs to Show and Tell.
A Norwalk High School graduate, Stark is known for playing practical jokes and his three classic cars — a 1987 Volkswagen convertible, 1987 Corvair convertible and 1930 Model A pickup truck. He has driven them in the Fourth of July parade and has tossed more than 25,000 Tootsie Rolls to the crowd.
In 1948, Stark married his high school sweetheart, the late Betty Chapman, to whom he was married for 47 years. She died from cancer in 1994. Twenty years ago this month, Stark married his current wife, Reta.
“We are grateful to honor him today,” Boynton said.
Before reading a proclamation that heralds Stark’s dedication to The Salvation Army, his friendly nature and making others’ needs a priority, Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan teased him that “you were doing this before I was born, sir.”
“That means I’m old,” Stark quipped.
Just as Boynton and his wife Karen were about to read a “did you know?” tribute with trivia and facts about Stark, the Salvation Army major said: “Now to tell the truth. …”
“Don’t do that,” Stark said, which had many people laughing.
Several board members dropped 60 coins each in the red Salvation Army donation bucket to honor him.
Wende Dryden deposited 60 pennies to help remember that Jesus instructed people to remember “the least among us.” Garcia added 60 nickels, with the five-cent coin honoring the 1950s and the year 1957, which is when Stark joined the advisory board. Cindy Malcolm contributed 60 dimes to represent the “tens of thousands” of dollars and hours Stark has contributed to The Salvation Army. Finally, Erin Lendrum deposited 60 quarters for the “quarter of a percent” of what Stark has done for his family, community, church and the organization.
“It’s overwhelming and I can’t thank you enough because it’s been a pleasurable and enjoyable trip. I would do it all over again,” Stark said.