Clifford receives Award of Merit

Brad Nading
Garden City Telegram
Dr. Bill Clifford, right, thanks those in attendance for an award Thursday at Fry Eye Associates as Dan Fankhauser looks on.  Clifford has been named the 2020 Award of Merit recipient by the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Bill Clifford is not a fan of surprises. But a surprise on Thursday brought a smile to his face.

Clifford’s wife, Jean, led him into the waiting area at Fry Eye Associates to an awaiting audience of his family, staff, Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce past Award of Merit winners and other chamber members.

Dan Fankhauser, the 2020 Award of Merit recipient, gave the traditional speech describing the life of a recipient before announcing Clifford as the winner. 

Normally the announcement is at the Chamber’s annual meeting and awards banquet, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually Saturday. Video of the winners in the various categories was taken leading up to the event so they could be added into the virtual program.

“This is a surprise, I don’t like surprises ... I’m honored and this means a lot,” Clifford said. “Many of the people who have made this town and this county what it is today are here today.”

Clifford graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1976 and flew F15s in Germany from 1979-83 during the Cold War. He met and married Jean while in the Air Force. They have six children, five of whom are adopted. He said that after the military they wanted to go to an integrated and diverse community - thus Garden City.

“Luther (Fry) allowed me to be my own person. He didn’t tell me how to practice, or what to do in the community, and I really owe him a lot for that,” Clifford said. “I’ve worked with so many of you throughout the years and continue to work with many of you. It’s meant so much to Jean and I to be here and part of the community ... we’re not leaving this community.” 

Clifford, like all Award of Merit winners in the past, received a framed drawing featuring his family, business and the community.

Other award winners for 2021 include:

-  Large business of the year: Tatro Plumbing

-  Small business of the year: Dick Construction

-  Not-for-profit of the year: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney/Kearny Counties

-  Emerging business of the year: Flourish

-  Ambassador of the year: Kim Grebe

Clifford concluded his acceptance remarks with “the more you give, the more you get.  So thank you.”