In a ceremony marked by high spirits and fond memories, the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada Flintridge honored longtime community volunteer Clyde Hemphill as its La Cañadan of the Year.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Hemphill, 80, said to more than 100 Kiwanis members and other well-wishers who gathered Wednesday afternoon at Van de Kamp Hall in Descanso Gardens. “This is probably the most prestigious award that La Cañada gives to anyone, and I’m really humbled to have it.”
La Cañadan of the Year awards have been presented annually since 1951 to the community member whose lifelong efforts best exemplify a broad-based commitment to volunteerism, said Kiwanis President-elect Mary Gant.
Affirming Hemphill fills the bill, local dignitaries, Kiwanis organizers, friends and family members took turns at the podium recalling his roles in a number of community activities.
“In a city that’s known for its spirit of volunteerism, Clyde stands at the head of the class,” said City Councilman Donald Voss, one of those who had nominated Hemphill for the award.
During his remarks, Voss held up a dictionary in which he had taped Hemphill’s picture under “volunteer extraordinaire,” he said.
Hemphill, a native of New Jersey, first arrived in La Cañada in 1969 to run a JPL field office for the Martin Marietta Corporation. The father of four almost immediately began lending a hand to the La Cañada High School football program.
After his retirement in 1995, Hemphill went to work at building an extensive volunteering résumé that currently includes roles as vice president of the La Cañada Flintridge Coordinating Council, member of the city’s Public Works and Traffic Commission, board member for the Valley Water Company and organizer with the local Tournament of Roses Association.
Hemphill was previously honored in 2008 with the Coordinating Council’s Les Tupper Service Award and has also received an Older Americans Recognition Award from City Hall.
“He’s the hardest-working retiree I’ve ever met,” said local Chamber of Commerce chairman and LCUSD Governing Board member Joel Peterson.
Peterson joined Mayor Dave Spence, LCUSD board member Jeanne Broberg, Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Dave Silversparre and Assistant L.A. County Fire Chief Bill Niccum in presenting their own proclamations to Hemphill, as did representatives for Congressman David Dreier, state Sen. Carol Liu, state Assemblyman Anthony Portantino and L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich.
Hemphill joined Kiwanis in 2002, instantly taking on a leadership role in its Soap Box Derby Project, which he helped organize for eight years. Hemphill has sat on the club’s board of directors since 2006 and has long overseen hamburger sales during city Fiesta Days celebrations.
He also does Christmas lights.
“I can always count on Clyde to help me put up the lights at Glenola Park,” said Margaret Pankratz, honored recently as a Chamber Ambassador for her many volunteer efforts.
In one of the more touching moments of the afternoon, Hemphill shared a hug with his 9-year-old granddaughter Halley and thanked his wife Bobbi for her support.
“For over 56 years she’s put up with all of my nonsense,” he said of his wife. “Basically, she’s got to be a saint.”