CLINTON — A Clinton County farmer with a long history of volunteerism was honored Friday with the Clinton County Bar Association’s 2022 Liberty Bell Award.
Jerome Burken, of rural Clinton, is the recipient of the award given locally each May to recognize outstanding community service in conjunction with the national observance of Law Day on May 1.
When presenting the award to Burken on Friday at the Clinton County Courthouse, Clinton County Attorney Mike Wolf listed all the volunteer work Burken, who began farming in 1963, continues to accomplish throughout the county. Wolf then relayed comments Burken made to him earlier in the week about being named the award’s recipient.
“I like these comments he shared with me,” Wolf said. “He said, ‘Look, the reason I did (the volunteering) is I’m proud to be able to help somebody’, and he enjoys the fact that he just likes to meet a lot of people while doing it. And then he said about an award, ‘It’s nice to get an award but you have to live up to it.’ I think those are three very wise comments.”
Burken began volunteering when he joined the Clinton County Cattlemen’s Association, serving at both the local and state levels. He also is very active in his church, Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Clinton, and served on its building committee.
He served on the Clinton County Soil and Conservation Board for eight years and currently serves on the Clinton County Development Association Board, which he has been on for 25 years; the Clinton County Zoning Board for 23 years; the MercyOne Hospital Foundation for 10 years; as a Center Township trustee for 31 years; with the Low Moor Lions Club for 35 years; on the Low Moor Fire Department for 33 years; and on the Clinton Herald Editorial Board for two years; the Clinton County Republican Central Committee; and the Clinton County Condemnation Board. He also drove a school bus for 20 years.
In accepting the award, Burken introduced his family, including his wife Janis, to whom he has been married 58 years, and his six children.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought that I would qualify for the Liberty Bell Award,” he said, adding that he followed it and knew the names of several who have previously been honored with the annual award given since 1969. He also thanked his brothers, sisters and friends who helped him along the way.
“I am honored to be recognized in this way, it’s indescribable,” he said.
Wolf said the award is given every year in conjunction with Law Day, a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day in 1958 as a day of national dedication to the principles of government under law. Congress in 1961 designated May 1 as the official date for celebrating Law Day.
“It’s a day to celebrate the idea of our laws and the freedoms we have through those laws in our Constitution in this great and grand United States of America,” said Wolf. “The rule of law protects all of us and we want to celebrate it. In everything we do, we are benefitted by principles of freedom and liberty under the law in this great country of ours.”