- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

STRATFORD, S.D. (AP) - Lloyd Jark may have a house in Sioux Falls, but his heart is clearly in Stratford. The longtime resident has been a pillar for continued vitality in the town of approximately 70 people.

Grain elevators used to be the hub of many small agricultural communities. The same thing went for Stratford - the Wheat Growers elevator was where many community members and farmers started their day with a cup of coffee. They would share weather and crop reports and other daily happenings. Now many of those elevators have closed, including the one in Stratford.

Well, the grain may have left the elevator in Stratford, but the communal hub did not, thanks to Jark, the Aberdeen American News (http://bit.ly/1MMgG4z ) reported.

“When they sold it, it was part of the community. Everyone sort of relied on it from the next generation to the next generation,” Jark said.

“When Wheat Growers closed their elevator and the office area gathering place for coffee, Lloyd bought the elevator and kept the coffee area open for the community,” Bill Johnson, Stratford resident, said. “He initially hired a young woman, Lona (Bryce) Kruger, to open it up in the mornings and lock it after everyone left. When she had a baby and was unable to continue, he gave out keys to various people.”

Jark eventually resold the elevator, but with strings attached.

“When Lloyd resold the elevator to another farmer, he sold it with the stipulation that the coffee area must remain open to the public. He personally paid for heating and electricity for the coffee area, even though he no longer owned the elevator. After that, he decided to build a coffee shop on Main Street,” Johnson said.

When Jark built the L.B. Jark Grain Company and Coffee Shop, he kept a friend’s best interests at the forefront of his planning. Johnson, a retired teacher and farmer, has been in a wheelchair for 18 years after an accident removing snow from his roof. Jark never liked how the wheelchair access to the original elevator was cumbersome and the bathroom was in the basement, so he made the new facility much more accessible for his friend.

“I built it kind of for him. His wife thanks me a lot,” Jark said.

“There’s no step. It’s level with the rest of the street, so he could just come right in,” Bill’s wife, Darlyne Johnson, said. “I thank Lloyd for keeping the shop going because it’s important for farmers and community members to have a place to gather.”

Approximately 10 to 15 people show up on any given morning at the shop, just like they have for generations. They sit and have coffee. It’s well known that if you need to get a hold of someone, the shop is where you start. Jark has adorned the walls with antique toys, collectibles and family photos. The atmosphere is homey and casual and the routine is ingrained with the regulars.

“First guy in makes the coffee. Last guy out shuts the lights off,” Jark said.

Besides the coffee shop, Jark has helped keep the restaurant open for several years. He supports the Stratford Community Theater and also funds a memorial scholarship in his wife’s name.

“I’m the biggest property owner in Stratford. If you want to homestead in Stratford, see Lloyd Jark, he can hook you up,” Jark said.

Jark might joke about how far his reach goes in the small community, but residents don’t take what he’s done for granted.

“Lloyd is so community-minded. He’s always thinking of things for the betterment of the community. He’s done so much, it’s just hard to describe,” Bill Johnson said.

“Lloyd is committed to Stratford and making sure it stays vibrant and alive,” Darlyne Johnson said.

___

Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

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