Otis Milton "Milt" Stark was a wildflower expert and author, community activist, amateur botanist, and long-time resident of the Antelope Valley.
Milt's family moved from Texas to the Antelope Valley in 1923. Since that time, Milt has lived in Palmdale, Pearland, Leona Valley, and Lancaster. After graduating from Antelope Valley Joint Union High School in 1938, he continued his education and became a graduate of Antelope Valley College in 1940.
Milt began working for Lockheed and enlisted himself in the Army Air Corps in 1943. Following WWII, Milt obtained a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Southern California and became the director of juvenile work and probation camps for the Los Angeles County Probation Department. For nearly thirty years, Milt served areas from Lake Hughes to Big Rock Creek.
In 1968, Milt was appointed to the Westside School Board of Trustees where he served twelve years, including becoming president four times. He was also the president of the Antelope Valley Trustees Association for three years and due to his ongoing service to the community, the board of trustees named the building at 17th St. W and Avenue G the "O. Milton Stark Administrative Center."
A respected historian, Milt served on the board of the West Antelope Valley Historical Society for twenty-five years and edited two volumes on valley history. He also chaired the Antelope Valley State Parks Advisory Committee while maintaining his other civic roles.
In 1972, Milt began volunteering for the State Department of Parks and Recreation, along with the Sierra Club. In 2000, he was elected president of the Poppy Reserve. Meanwhile, the Arthur Ripley Desert Woodland Park awarded Milt the Medallion Award, the highest award allotted to volunteers.
If that wasn't enough, Milt had a lifelong interest in photography and had been taking photos of wildflowers since 1969. In 1991, Milt published his first book titled, "A Flower-Watcher's Guide to Spring-Blooming Wildflowers of the Antelope Valley." He later released a second version called, "A Flower-Watcher's Guide to Wildflowers of the Western Mojave Desert" (2000), which has become the definitive reference guide for wildflower enthusiasts.
In late 2016, Otis Milton Stark died at the age of ninety-five after a short illness. He's survived by his four children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
"Gurba, Norma H. Legendary Locals of the Antelope Valley. Arcadia, 2013.
Photos courtesy of MOAH Collections and The Antelope Valley Times"