Odessan gives back to community - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

Odessan gives back to community

By Royal McGregor rmcgregor@oaoa.com | Posted: Sunday, June 9, 2019 4:00 am

During the final years of his private sector career, Henry Clark was attending night classes to prepare him for life after retirement.

Those night classes were to obtain his peace officer license.

Clark went through the academy at the age of 53 in 2002, then officially retired from the private sector in 2006 and short after that became a reserve deputy with the Ector County Sheriff’s Office.

During an ECSO ceremony Tuesday night at the Ector County Commissioners’ Courtroom, 70-year-old Clark was honored with a Commendation Award. Clark has spent the last four years serving as a reserve deputy at the Ector County Courthouse.

“I’ve always thought very highly of the sheriff’s office,” Clark said after he received his award from Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis. “I was 53-years-old before I went through the academy and I was surprised I made it through. It was a godsend to me, because it was something that I wanted to do.”

After he retired from a machine shop in 2006, Clark went full time with ECSO. He rode on patrol with Griffis, who was a lieutenant at the time, and also spent time at the detention center.

Griffis said Clark and his father, Eldon, are the two oldest men that he knows personally to earn their peace officer license. Mike Griffis said his father was 62 when he became a licensed peace officer at the night academy at Odessa College.

“Henry has a lot of energy for his age,” Griffis said. “He did then and he does now, even though he has health issues that sometimes prohibit him from helping us out. He’s just an awesome guy.”

Clark continued to go on patrol and work in the detention center until December 2013 when he was diagnosed with rectal cancer. He had surgery on July 1, 2014, to remove his entire large intestine. Clark has to wear a colostomy bag.

About six or seven months after surgery, Clark said he decided that he felt strong enough to continue as a reserve deputy. Clark said he has been cancer free since that surgery in 2014.

“I’m just showing them how much I appreciate them and letting me do what I can in the times that I can,” Clark said. “That means a lot to me.”

Clark said his workload can fluctuate between a couple of days and a regular work week. He said he’ll know if he feels good enough to work a couple hours prior to when the courthouse opens at 8 a.m.

Griffis said there have been very few times that Clark hasn’t been able to work when ECSO has asked. Griffis said he’s appreciative of Clark’s dedication to the sheriff’s office.

“It shows a lot of character in a man,” Griffis said. “It shows the love he has for the community. It shows the love for being in public service and doing things for others. Henry isn’t all about Henry. He’s about everybody else. He’s not a selfish guy. He’s always helping other people. He has helped us tremendously. He’s been a blessing to the sheriff’s office.”

The appreciation between Clark and ECSO is a two-way street.

Clark said he’s living his dream by being a peace officer. He said he wants to continue to work as a reserve deputy until he hits the 20-year mark with the department, which would be in 2022. ECSO estimates that Clark has donated more than 1,000 hours per year as a reserve deputy.

“That badge means the world to me,” Clark said. “It’s an accomplishment that makes you feel like you completed a goal. It’s something that you set out to do and I have almost 17 years now. I want those 20 years.”