The novel coronavirus has taken a long-time pillar of Heber Springs and Cleburne County which has prompted Cleburne County Judge Jerry Holmes to order the flag on the square in Heber Springs to fly at half staff.

Wetzel Hermon Stark, 89, of Heber Springs passed away due to COVID complications on Dec. 18. He was a business owner, member of the Heber Springs School Board, and served as Circuit and County Clerk, and on the city council.

“Being raised by that generation of people, I told someone I was with leaving a funeral about a year ago that we are losing our Salt-of-the-earth generation,” Holmes said. “Wetzel was no doubt a part of that era. A gentleman, historian, and a pleasure to work with. He will be missed.”

Stark was born April 20, 1931, in Pearson, Arkansas.

An Army veteran, Stark served with the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

After leaving the Army, he and wife Dorothy returned to Heber Springs and purchased a grocery store from his step-father, Jay Chesbro. Following the purchase, Wetzel changed the name of the store to Stark Grocery. He then operated the grocery store until 1982, when he decided to run for public office. In 1982, he was elected to the office of Circuit and County Clerk for Cleburne County. Wetzel held this position for 12 years until his decision to enter retirement.

Throughout his career, Wetzel held many civic positions including, but not limited to: Heber Springs School Board (10 years – 7 as president) where he only missed one meeting in 10 ½ years; Board Member of Cleburne County Bank (38 years) and First Arkansas Bank & Trust, Jacksonville (7 years); Heber Springs City Council; First Electric Roundup Board; Arkansas Rural Development, Heber Springs Rotary Club (49 years), White River Area Agency on Aging; 33rd Degree Mason; Shriner; Pearson Cemetery Board; Mountain Top Water Board; and Vice President of the Heber Springs Historical Society. He was also a member of the Cleburne County Quorum Court/Justice of the Peace where he performed hundreds of weddings. His highest civic distinction was the Heber Springs Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Honor in 2017.

He was a faithful 65-year member of First General Baptist Church (aka Connection Church) where he was a deacon for 60 years and taught Sunday School for 64 years.

Holmes made his declaration of honor for Stark over the weekend on his Facebook page.

“In honor of the passing of Wetzel Stark, I have ordered the flags at the Courthouse to be flown at half staff from sunrise to sunset Monday, December 21,” Holmes posted. “Our prayers for the family.”

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