Martin C. Evans

Posts Tagged ‘Suffolk County police’

Friend of needy vets, Shoreham’s Stephen Clark dies of cancer

In Uncategorized on December 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Stephen Clark, pictured in Kuwait in 2006, said his job there processing trucks destroyed on Iraq battlefields convinced him that some US troops would need help adjusting to civilian life.

Despite a fast-spreading cancer that had riddled his body with agonizing tumors, Stephen Clark, the Shoreham founder of a veteran’s charity, wanted to lend his support that October night.

Having learned that a soldier was coming home from a jail sentence many considered unjust, the founder of 9-1-1 Veterans struggled out of a sick bed to join the crowd of well-wishers who greeted the soldier at a Rocky Point veterans hall.

“We have a duty to let veterans know that no matter what, they are not alone,” Clark told Newsday at the veterans hall Oct. 29.

Clark, 54, a Suffolk police firearms instructor who spent the last three years of his life helping veterans regain control over their lives, died shortly before noon Wednesday at a Port Jefferson hospice. His wife Terry was by his side.

Since its founding 2007, Clark’s  organization has distributed more than $200,000 to veterans in need of help with rent and mortgage payments, car repairs, utility bills and other challenges, according to Chris Delaney, who took over much of the charity’s workings as Clark’s health declined. 9-1-1 Veterans doled  $18,000 in aid last month, Delaney said.

Clark, who started the charity by passing a bucket among his colleagues  at the Suffolk Police Academy, eventually built a network of individuals and organizations who were willing to collect money and refer needy vets. Last June, MacArthur Airport raised more than $30,000 for 9-1-1 Veterans by staging a charity run on the airport grounds.

One person who got help this year was Daryl Lewis, 42, a bus driver from Freeport and 20-year Army reservist who served in Baghdad in 2003.

Lewis said after an injury caused him to fall behind in his car payments and homeowners insurance earlier this year, a Department of Veterans Affairs social worker referred him to Clark, who provided cash to get him caught up.

“I’d been struggling for a year to catch up, but every time I’d come up for air, I’d sink again,” Lewis said. “That little push helped me so much.”

Clark often said his desire to help struggling veterans grew out of his appreciation for how his 33 years of military service helped him structure his life, and his belief that ex-GIs are unfairly left to fend for themselves once they are discharged from the military. He retired from the reserves this year with the rank of Command Master Chief.

“He told me this only once, that before he joined the Navy his life had gotten so low he was living out of his car,” said a sister-in-law, Irene Kamps, of Levittown. “He said the Navy saved his life.”

“Coming home and seeing guys he knew suffering, he was very upset that people were getting discharged and had to fend for themselves,” said Chris Delaney, who took over many of the charity’s workings this year as Clark’s health began to fail.

Clark, who immigrated from Bracknell, England when he was 13, joined the reserve in the 1970s. His wife had been a fellow reservist. He joined the Suffolk police force in 1987, and was named Officer of the Year in 1991 after pulling a victim from a burning vehicle. Last month, Suffolk Executive Steve Levy presented Clark with the first-ever “Key to the County.”

In addition to his wife, Clark’s survivors include his daughter Ashley and son John, his mother and stepfather, Sheila and Arthur Forster, of Beverly Hills, Fl, and brothers Nicholas and Rory, of Florida, Brian, of North Carolina and Stuart, of Long Island.

Viewings are scheduled for 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at O.B. Davis Funeral Home in Miller Place. Funeral at 10 a.m. Monday at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Rocky Point, followed by burial at Calverton National Cemetery.