By Jack Murray
When the Palos Lions Club needs volunteers to “shake the can” collecting donations at intersections on Candy Day, Lion Jack Clifford enlists his trade union friends to help get the job done.
During the Lions’ Christmas tree sale, Clifford works at the tree lot to help sell the fresh firs and load them onto buyers’ cars, vans or trucks.
When the Lions need signs, sawhorses or police security for the tree sale, Clifford, a Palos Heights alderman, arranges for the city to provide them.
For its annual raffle fundraiser, the club can count on Clifford to be among the top producers who sell the most tickets.
And when the Lions need raffle and door prizes for a Bears’ game party or other fundraiser, Clifford makes the rounds visiting businesses around town to obtain donations.
For all this and more, the Palos Lions Club presented Jack Clifford the highest honor that Lions Club International can bestow last Wednesday night.
And it came as a complete surprise.
The Melvin Jones Fellowship recognizes an individual’s dedication to humanitarian service. Melvin Jones Fellows are “patrons of humanity possessed of a worldview, performing deeds that outlast a lifetime.”
The honor is named for a founder of Lions international. The worldwide charitable organization serves people with hearing or vision loss and others in need.
In his introductory remarks before the presentation, Palos Lions Club President Herb Schumann listed Clifford’s many accomplishments on behalf of the Lions during his nearly 25 years as a member and 15 as Candy Day chairman.
“Jack’s efforts have raised a lot of money that we pass along to charities,” Schumann told fellow Lions and guests at the club’s monthly dinner meeting at Mama Vesuvio’s East, in Palos Heights.
Clifford is a Marine Corps veteran who supports veterans’ causes and longtime public servant, Schumann also noted. “As an alderman, he takes care of his constituents and keeps on top of his ward,” Schumann added. “Riding with him in his car, I was amazed what he knew about almost every house in the neighborhood.”
Clifford accepted the Melvin Jones plaque from past district Gov. John Coleman, a Burbank Lions Club member who is also a Melvin Jones Fellow.
“I’m outspoken at times with the city, but I take care of my ward and all the people there,” Clifford said in his acceptance remarks. “I was sitting there wondering why Herb is saying all this about me. I had no idea and I really, really appreciate it.”
No words could fully express his gratitude, Clifford added before the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
For weeks, June Clifford kept the closely guarded secret that her husband would be so honored.
The Palos Lions’ board of directors voted unanimously last month to pay the Melvin Jones tribute to Clifford when President Schumann broached the idea. He urged its members to keep it secret in order to surprise Clifford at the club’s first meeting of the new year.
Several of Clifford’s municipal colleagues attended last week’s meeting to see him honored. They included fellow Aldermen Michael McGrogan and Robert Basso, Police Chief Larry Yott and Deputy Police Chiefs William Czajkowski and Dave Delaney.
Before last week’s meeting adjourned, Clifford went to each table to shake hands with and receive congratulations from everyone in attendance.
Palos Lion Tom Post was the club’s most recent Melvin Jones Fellow, honored last year, prior to Clifford’s big night. Among his many achievements, Post has collected thousands of eyeglasses donated to needy people who cannot afford them across the globe.
Club members Tom Crowhurst, Frank Oswald, Bruce Frazier, Gene Adams, Forest Reeder and Casimir Gresik are also Melvin Jones Fellows. Twenty-six Palos Lions have earned the honor since 1989.
Published in The Regional News on January 23, 2020.
Photo by Jack Murray