Award honors Grace Clark’s Tupelo spirit

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Friends, family and well-wishers stood to applaud when Grace Clark was named 2012 Outstanding Citizen during the 49th Junior Auxiliary Charity Ball at the BancorpSouth Arena on Friday.
She walked through an aisle lined with paper lanterns and bamboo, then family members with flowers met her on stage.
“What an overwhelming honor this is, and how humbling,” Clark said.
She said Tupelo’s dedication to service inspired her to donate her time and talents. She accepted the award in part on behalf of all of the people who volunteer with her.
“It’s been a privilege to be a part of this community,” she said.
Julie Smith, JA president, said Clark “represents Tupelo’s great volunteer spirit.”
“She has served our community in a variety of ways,” Smith said, “but it is her devotion and servant’s heart that speak volumes.”
Clark’s contributions include serving as board president for North Mississippi Habitat for Humanity, United Way of Northeast Mississippi, Tupelo Junior Auxiliary, Tupelo Symphony League and CREATE Foundation.
“Grace has no ulterior motives for her service,” said Lewis Whitfield, the 2000 Outstanding Citizen. “She only wants to help other people meet their needs and, by doing so, to improve our community.”
Over the years, she’s devoted her energy to Good Samaritan Free Clinic, Community Development Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mississippi University for Women Foundation, Family Resource Center, Family First, Tupelo Housing Authority, HealthWorks! and numerous others.
“Grace has been involved in many charitable endeavors, but the one that is dear to our hearts is the Gardner-Simmons Home for Girls,” said Sue Gardner, owner of Sue Gardner Realty. “Without the hard work and forward thinking of Grace, the home would have never gotten off the ground. Grace spearheaded the organizational efforts and did whatever it took to get it operating.”
Dean Hancock, president of Health Care Foundation of North Mississippi, cited Clark’s vision, leadership, personal commitment and advocacy for others.
“When Grace Clark speaks, people listen,” he said. “They do so because they respect her strong, compassionate character traits, and they know she will back her words with action.”
Clark grew up in Pheba. After graduating West Point High School, she went to MUW, where she majored in mathematics and minored in political science.
She and her husband, Dr. Douglas Clark Jr., have three children, Chris Clark, Kelly Clark Putt and Sally Clark Adams, and eight grandchildren.
“We’re a partnership, Doug and me,” Clark said. “I may have been out front, but he was there supporting me.”
A member of First United Methodist Church for nearly 35 years, she’s past chairman of the church’s Administrative Board and the Staff Parish Relations Committee. She’s also taught Sunday school.
“Many of us have teased Grace by calling her ‘Amazing Grace,’ but it is truly an appropriate appellation,” said Aubrey Patterson, the 2006 Outstanding Citizen. “She is an amazing individual who has provided leadership to practically every worthwhile organization in our city.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com