CLARK, NJ - Clark resident David Toma was recognized at a recent Town Council meeting for receiving the Legion of Honor Gold Medallion Civilian Award. The award is described on their website as “the highest and most prestigious award presented” by the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation to honor an individual “whose leadership has brought his/her actions to national or international attention, and whose very life epitomizes the spirit of the sacrifice of the Four Chaplains.”
Toma, 87, is a motivational speaker, former detective, veteran, six-time author, recipient of several honorary doctorate degrees, two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and inspiration of both the Toma and Baretta television series. He has lived in Clark for 53 years and claims in all his travels, domestic and abroad, he has never found anything like Clark.
The regular order of business at the Town Council meeting was suspended so Mayor Sal Bonaccorso and Recreation Director Ralph Bernardo could highlight and honor Toma for the lifetime of achievement that led to this award. First Bonaccorso read a Clark Mayoral proclamation into the public record.
Then he commended Toma for his many accomplishments saying he thinks one of Toma's greatest contributions has been talking to, reaching out to and helping youth stay clear of drugs. “This is so well-deserved, and I am so honored to be the mayor that is able to do this for you,” said Bonaccorso.
Bernardo spoke next and referred to Toma as an honorable and truly outstanding individual. He praised Toma for lecturing for decades and being there for others. “I know you would help anyone in a second, because you have,” said Bernardo.
When Toma addressed the audience, he spoke of his love of Clark and told the story of how he found his way here from Newark during a visit to an old military buddy. During his time at the microphone, Toma made it clear that the he didn't see this as an award to just him, but something more important and that Clark and the people and the resources in it, are part of it too.
“All the things I did as a detective, lecturing, in the Marine Corp, talking to kids and parents all over the world, some that still call me to say I saved their lives 25, 30 years ago….,” said Toma, as he quickly rounded back to give credit to Clark, the mayor, council and police for always being there to help if he needed support to continue his work. “Very proud to be here, proud for tonight,” said Toma in closing.
Toma also took time to thank the Town Council and the mayor for all they do for senior citizens and veterans, two audiences along with youth that he holds near and dear to his heart.
Individuals given recognition by the Four Chaplains Memorial Foundation are recognized as having taken action and sacrificed for others. The foundation itself is based on the heroic true story of four chaplains on the U.S.A.T. Dorchester during World War II. According to their website, the Gold Medallion has been given to other notable individuals such as; President Jimmy Carter, Marian Anderson and Bob Hope.
Mayor Bonaccorso's Proclamation: