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He’s there every school day in his reflective vest, guiding Chiefland’s children back and forth across the street, greeting them by name, telling drivers to mind the school speed zone.
Probably the most visible citizen in Chiefland, crossing guard Kary Colson is so devoted to his job that when the recession hit in 2008 he offered to do it for free if the city and county school board could not come up with the money to pay him and provide the safety equipment.
“It says something about the caliber of man,” said Police Chief Robert Douglas. “It’s not about the money he gets; it’s about protecting these children. And I am glad to see him recognized.”
On Tuesday Colson was revealed to be Chiefland’s “2013 Citizen of the Year” by the Greater Chiefland Area Chamber of Commerce at its annual banquet.
“Thank you very much ... It was a surprise, I don’t have a speech prepared,” Colson said adding that he especially wanted to thank his wife of 45 years, along with members of the many organizations he is involved in.
“Service really is part of his DNA,” Pastor Terry Wines said at the banquet. “Kary Colson is the hardest working man in Chiefland.”
Colson and his wife, Joyce, have been actve contributors to the community and children’s and veteran’s causes for many years.
It is his most visible job that leaves an imprint on the community’s future leaders. “I can always remember he was good about helping the kids get across the road and making sure they were safe,” said Jordan Stalvey, a Chiefland High School graduate. He was more than someone who sent students on their way.
“He’d interact with them, try to talk to them and get to know them,” Stalvey reminisced.
Colson, always smiling, is a familiar figure at events through the city and Levy County. He attends athletic games, student activities, parades, is an active member of First United Methodist Church of Chiefland, and an ardent member of Chiefland’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 5625, leading the post’s Honor Guard.
“He was key to the Veterans Day parade — every parade we’ve had,” Douglas said. Colson was an organizer for the county parade that rotates between the municipalities uniting veterans groups to participate, along with fellow veteran Ivan Chubb.
But Colson also leads almost every parade in the county as a member of the post’s Honor Guard. He also leads the group in Memorial Day observances and they provide the service for veterans’ funerals, picking up what the military cannot provide in this area.
He also works for the Supervisor of Elections office as a deputy for early voting and assistant clerk at polls on election days, including Chiefland’s elections.
“Kary’s one of those people who is a worker. He’s always busy and people may take him for granted and he’s overlooked,” said Wayne Carrnigan, post past commander and state commander of the VFW.
Colson is a member of American Legion 236, AMVETS 42, Disabled American Veterans. 92, Moose Lodge 325, Eagles 4194, Brown Masonic Lodge, York Rite.
“He keeps so active you’re not really sure what he’s doing,” Carrnigan said. He said Colson cleans up the post, helps with serving dinner on Fridays, visits veterans at the VA Medical Center in Gainesville and is active in the VFW’s honor degree organization, The Military Order of the Cootie. Colson is past post commander and past Seam Squirrel, past head of the Cooties.
“That’s great to hear, he works himself to death,” said Susan Haines, a fellow Cootie, of the honor.
He even looks after the post-sponsored baseball team in the CAAA, Carrnigan said.
“It’s unbelievable the stuff this guy does. He’s active in everything,” Carrnigan said.
.Colson is on the county’s veterans wall of honor in the county courthouse lobby. He saw service in Vietnam and Grenada as a member of the Army’s 101st Airborne. As a paratrooper, he had 125 jumps to his credit.
A military retiree who served 24 years, Colson was also awarded the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal.
“He deserves it,” said Supervisor of Elections Tammy Jones, a Navy spouse who organized the honor wall at the courthouse.
“He has done a lot for our community . . . He does it because he’s proud of his community.”