With his wife, Marci, at his side, Chuck White was out at six in the morning July 4 placing 80 flags around town as a volunteer for the Kiwanis Club of Hays.
“My wife helps me with my route,” said White of the Kiwanis fundraiser, which he says is one of his favorites being he’s a patriotic Marine veteran. “It takes us about an hour and a half.”
Things like that are why Madison White nominated her dad for the All American Citizen Award as part of the city’s four-day 25th Annual Wild West Festival, which started Wednesday evening and ended Saturday night.
“He is a terrific person, a real Patriot, a huge asset to our community and is so deserving of this award and recognition,” wrote Madison in her comments on the nomination form.
A beginning nursing student at North Central Kansas Technical College, Madison described her dad as “one of the friendliest people I know, and he always has a smile on his face and a happy greeting for everyone.”
“It is a wonderful surprise,” said Chuck White of the award. “I couldn’t have a better daughter, a sweetheart.”
White is a detective with the Ellis County Sheriff’s Department, where’s he’s worked since 1990. A native of Hays and the only boy in a family of four sisters, he graduated from Hays High in 1986.
“I’m just trying to follow the example that was worthily set by my parents,” White said on Wednesday in talking about the honor of winning the award.
“Volunteerism and playing a good role in your community is one of the more important things you can do,” White said. “I really think I owe my parents a lot for trying to stay on the right side of life and giving back to my community.”
He learned his work ethic from his mom, Jan Parks, a native of Hays from the Westerman family, who spent almost her entire teaching career at Lincoln Elementary, retiring about a decade ago, he said.
“My mother was a grammar school teacher for not quite a million years here in Hays,” said White. “She was the first to arrive at school and the last to leave.”
She met White’s father, Asher Bob White, a native of Larned, while the two were attending college at Fort Hays.
“My dad, I don’t know a more compassionate and kind, more patient person than him, and he volunteered,” White said. “He was a member of Kiwanis Club and he helped with Habitat for Humanity when it first got started here.”
“He and his wife were also foster parents, so they took in disadvantaged children, and the children lived with them for a long time,” White said. “They still have contact with him and keep in touch with him. They are adults now and have their own families and it’s really neat to see how my dad helped them work through what they were going through in life.”
After high school, White at 18 joined the U.S. Marine Corps, serving during the Persian Gulf War.
He’s not sure what prompted him to join, other than perhaps an uncle, who served in the Navy, and a great uncle, who was a war hero in World War II.
“My military service was really unremarkable, I went where they told me to go and I did what they told me to do,” said White. “What I did learn was a strong sense of duty and commitment, and that I’m obligated to give back to my community because I’ve had such a good life here.”
Going to work for the Sheriff’s Department, he specialized in drug investigations and was on the drug enforcement unit for 20 years until 2014. In the early 2000s he started specializing in child and elder abuse investigations.
White met his wife at the wedding of a friend. She is a social worker. They celebrate 25 years together this August.
“So I ended up marrying my best friend,” he said. “I adore her.”
Over the years, White has been a Little League coach, as well as active with the Edwin A. Schumacher Marine Corps League No. 740 in Hays and volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters.
He’s also president of the board of directors of the Mary Elizabeth Maternity Home.
“Despite the overwhelming amount of time he devotes to work and volunteerism, Chuck consistently finds ways to help his family and friends, his co-workers and neighbors,” said Madison. “His willingness to assist others in the community and his commitment to his family and friends is unequaled.”
Besides Madison and her daughter, White’s 2-year-old granddaughter, Harper, White and his wife have a 24-year-old son, Derek. He just finished a four-year stint in the Marines Corps and has enrolled at Fort Hays State University.
Including White, there are now 51 winners of the All American Citizen Award since it was launched in 1997. There are sometimes multiple winners in one year.
He joins the list of Hays residents whose names are familiar for their involvement in the community, including Brenda Meder, Guy Windholz, Pete Felten, Ed Harbin, Jean Ross, Sandy Jacobs, Robert Maxwell, Mary Karst, Stan Dreiling, Dusty Glassman, Eber Phelps, Glenn Staab, Rose Arnhold, Jim Blume and many others.
White and his wife rode in the Wild West Fest’s “Freedom at it’s Best” Main Street Parade on Saturday morning. He was presented the award onstage Saturday evening before the final concert of the festival.
“I don’t know that there’s a better community to grow up in, than Hays,” White said.