By Jackie Stone
Killeen Daily Herald
Cleo Bay is very matter of fact about what he has accomplished in his almost 90 years, most of which were spent in Killeen.
To a host of others in the community, what Bay has accomplished in the community more than deserves to be singled out and recognized.
The Exchange Club of Killeen will honor Bay Saturday night by giving him the 54th annual Golden Deeds Award for commitment to the community and civic contributions.
In his nomination, Bay is noted for extending credit as a grocer to struggling families, for supporting higher education in the area, and for always being willing to provide a helping hand to any civic or military organizations that need it.
"I was surprised," Bay said of the honor. "As far as I'm concerned, to have been selected to have my name placed on the roll of previous recipients, because there's some wonderful people who have been honored by the club and I feel good, I feel very honored."
Bay returned from serving in World War II to become a local businessman in his hometown, and is still active with Cleo Bay Honda. He has also been a member of many community groups and boards, including one that brought Central Texas College to Killeen.
Bay was born on Cowhouse Creek in what is now Fort Hood. He met his wife of 65 years, Glennys, while he was stationed in Oregon and married her not knowing that two weeks later he would be serving as a tank commander in World War II. He earned a Bronze Star during his service.
When he returned to Killeen, Bay joined his father in the grocery business, owning Modern Foods and Minimax Food stores with his father and brothers in Killeen, Belton, Austin and Houston.
Ray Lott, of Lott, Vernon and Company, and his wife, Mary, have known Bay since they moved to Killeen in the 1950s. Mary Lott said Bay was one of her husband's first clients when Ray struck out on his own to start his own business as a certified public accountant.
"I think we literally lived on that with one or two other fees," Mary Lott said. "We were just a young married couple, and he let us charge groceries. I don't know whether we could have made it if we hadn't had his help."
Wallace Vernon, now retired as a certified public accountant, said he came to know Bay as a good business role model for younger men because if was always pleasant and ethical demeanor.
"Through the years as being an auditor and dealing with him on various civic boards and civic organizations, if there was ever a difficult situation that came up, he always would be the one to step forward and take care of things and do them in a very straightforward and ethical manner," Vernon said.
In 1968, Bay entered the automobile business in Killeen, opening Bay-Long Olds-GMC.
"I'd always had a desire to be into automobiles," he said. "I don't know any particular reason, except that I always had a love for automobiles."
Bay said some of his proudest accomplishments were serving as president of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, and working on the committee that helped bring Central Texas College to the area. Bay was on the founding college board.
The Golden Deeds Award will be presented to Bay at a ceremony at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center. Bay will be given a plaque and a "book" of his golden deeds, and his name will be added to the Exchange Club's book of winners over the years.
Contact Jackie Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7474. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcoveeditor.