Dan Starks was always brawny, strong and athletic.At age 14, Starks, was a football player, walking home from a church dance in his Rochester, N.Y., neighborhood with his sister and a friend. The teenagers were accosted by a vicious group.“We were brutally mugged. I found out then that it didn’t matter if you’re a big guy when there’s a gang with bats, chains, and knives,” Starks said. “I knew I needed to learn self-protection.” Connie Smigiel, Starks partner of 14 years, is from Jackson, Mich. A former advertising director for Creative Loafing, Smigiel was introduced to Starks by mutual friends. The two immediately hit it off, and have been together ever since.Smigiel has worked alongside Starks, bringing personal protection and safety and security related training to many in the area.Starks television series, “Don’t Be a Victim,” was nominated for an Emmy 11 times. He won once, and the Emmy is proudly displayed in his home.Starks had a column of the same name in The Charlotte Observer for many years, as well as Starks Reality Radio Show. He has been teaching people how to protect themselves and be aware of their surroundings for more than 25 years.“It only takes one time of not being careful for trouble to happen,” Starks said.Starks is president of the N.C. Crime Stoppers, is past president of the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni Association and teaches North Carolina concealed weapons classes. He and Smigiel also teach safety and awareness classes at the Siskey YMCA. On Jan. 13, the couple was recognized by the Knights of Malta, Federation of Autonomous Priories at a European Knighting Ceremony at the Duke Mansion.“The sword used in the knighting ceremony has been used thousands of years and is kept in Austria,” Starks said.Sir George Popper, the Lieutenant General of the Federation and Grand Collar of the Sovereign Order of Cyprus, brought the sword to the ceremony.“It’s a great honor to be included in this centuries-old and noble organization,” Smigiel said.Being knighted by this organization is tantamount to being given a lifetime achievement award for being dedicated to the safety and security of others. An international humanitarian association, the organization has been registered as a nonprofit in the State of New York since the 1960’s. The website is www.orderofcyprus.org. Starks and Smigiel live near the Arboretum.
Friday, Mar. 08, 2013
Couple honored for dedication to safety
Dan Starks and Connie Smigiel were honored earlier this year for their dedication to helping others remain safe.